NHL News + Notes for 6/23

The past week has been relatively quiet (minus yesterdays’ “big announcement” that everyone has known for months) in regards to NHL news. I expect things to pick up starting tomorrow so it will be the last quiet week till probably the middle of July. Hope everyone enjoyed it.

  • Let’s start with the biggest news – the NHL is officially expanding. Starting in 2017-18, the 31st team will be located in Las Vegas. I still think this is a dumb idea but what’s done is done so we’ll see how it works. It also means next June we will have an expansion draft. Each team can save 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and 1 goalie (or 8 skaters and 1 goalie) and will lose exactly one player. You can read all the rules here. For now (as in at the exact moment of this writing), the only players the Rangers are required to keep (unless they agree to waive their no-move clauses) are Henrik LundqvistDan Girardi and Marc Staal. The only players exempt? Brady Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich. Otherwise everyone is fair game. Predicting anything further right now would be foolish since we still don’t know who will even be on the team in 2016-17 so we’ll leave that for another day.
  • One person who won’t be on the Rangers but will need to be saved is Keith Yandle. Late last night he signed with the Florida Panthers – for 7 years at $6.35 million per year. The contract also includes a full no move clause for the first 6 years and a limited no trade clause for the 7th year (i.e. when he’s 37). Personally, I think it’s a bit much so am fine with the Rangers letting him go. I am surprised he signed with Florida but I would do that too if handed a contract like that. The good news is it means the Rangers get an additional 4th round pick in 2017 because he signed. Since I never wrote my predictions for him in a post when he was traded here, I’m going to write a new one now. That contract will be a compliance buyout in the next lockout. I would be shocked if it wasn’t.
  • Last night the NHL’s annual awards ceremony took place in Las Vegas. Only Ranger player who was a finalist was Mats Zuccarello (Masterton) and he didn’t win. I expected him to lose to Dupuis. Instead the writers decided the award is no longer the sob story award. We’ll see how long that lasts. Honestly, the only thing of note as a Rangers fan was this little tidbit:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsSeriously, who gave Ryan McDonagh a Norris trophy vote this year? And a third place one no less? Gave me a good laugh.

  • Guess we should get to some actual Rangers news. Once again, Rangers prospects will be heading to Traverse City in September for the annual prospect tournament run by the Detroit Red Wings. Maybe this year they will make a good showing.
  • In announcing the tournament, the Red Wings also announced their training camp will open on Friday, September 23rd so it’s probably safe to assume that’s when most camps will open. And yes, that is a week later than normal. You can thank the World Cup tournament for that. Also means tranining camp opens exactly three months from today. Expecting a lot to happen before that.

That’s all for now but with the draft tomorrow, I’m sure there will be other news very soon. And yes, I expect the Rangers to make a trade or two this weekend. And no, I won’t begin to guess with who or who goes. I just hope they don’t do anything they regret.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Trade Yandle To Florida

The inevitable happened. The Rangers traded Keith Yandle. Okay, they didn’t technically trade “him” but his rights. That part wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was the location:

Okay then. It’s an interesting play by the Panthers as they are not one of the first teams I would think he would go to. But why not give it a try and see if you can sign him. If they can’t, it cost them a 6th round pick. If they can, it’s that plus a 4th round pick and they have Yandle. No lose situation there, if you ask me. Just not sure I see him signing there.

As for the fact the Rangers traded him rather than re-signing him?

Look, I fully admit I have no connections and I won’t even pretend that I know everything about the NHL or the Rangers but in this case, I have to do this:

TOLD YOU SO!

Okay, I had to get that off my chest since I have been telling people from the moment that trade happened that Yandle would only be a Ranger for a year and a half. He, like Marty St. Louis before him and Eric Staal after him, was supposed to be the missing piece. The plan was for the Rangers to win the Cup in 2015 or 2016. It didn’t happen.

Honestly, I didn’t like the trade from day one because I knew there was no way the Rangers would be able to re-sign him so I looked at it as giving up a lot for a rental. (Yes the rental was 18 months instead of 6 but it was still a rental.) Back in January, when everyone was wondering if the Rangers would trade Yandle at the trade deadline, I wrote:

Does this mean the Rangers plan to lose him for nothing this summer? Yes it does. But this has been the agenda all along. The Rangers knew there was no way they were going to be able to re-sign Yandle this summer from the moment they got him. They were in win-now mode and had planned to win either last year or this year (or both) and thought he was the missing piece. Then they would let him cash in somewhere else.

And now it’s time for him to cash in. Will that be with the Panthers or another team? We’ll find out in the next 10 days. But it won’t be with the Rangers because it was never meant to be with the Rangers.

I understand the frustration by some fans as Yandle should have been a good fit for Vigneault’s system. But someone had to go to make room for both Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath, and while some fans hoped that would be certain other players, the Rangers don’t agree. Do I agree with their thinking? I’m half and half. But the Rangers are all in so rather than lament on who is still here, I’m going to say replacing Boyle and Yandle with McIlrath and Skjei is not only a step in the right direction but a win for the Rangers.

The question now is what else does the team have planned? Now that the first domino has fallen, I expect we’ll found out soon enough.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part I

This year really is different. The past four years I have done this, it has been mid to late June and I have been in denial that I am doing it after another lost season. This year? Early May and I’ve been sitting watching hockey every night since the Rangers were eliminated. I really can’t explain it.

Anyway, for those who aren’t familiar with how I do my year end reviews, I write a small paragraph on each player and then say if I would “keep or dump” them. Last year I got every player correct except one…and I still defend my decision to “keep” Talbot even though I knew it wasn’t realistic. This year I’m going to do things slightly differently as I have no idea who should stay or go nor who I would keep or move if I were running the team. So instead I am going to give the odds that each player is back. Yes it is completely a cop out on picking what changes should be made to the team this year. At least I admit it.

First up, as usual, goaltenders and defense!

Lundqvist-benchHenrik Lundqvist (G, 35-21-7-4, 2.48 GAA, .920 SV%) – There’s no way to sugar coat it – that goals against average is ugly. But it’s fitting considering the mess the Rangers were this year. I’m not going to sit here and discuss Lundqvists’ season. We all know it wasn’t his best. Am I giving up on him? Absolutely not. But here’s the thing, what are the Rangers plans this summer? If they are blowing up the team like some expect does Lundqvist want out? I’ve always said the only reason he will ever leave is if he asks to be moved. Is this the year that happens? I’m skeptical but it’s a lot more of a possibility than it ever has been in the past … 95% to return

Antti Raanta (G, 11-6-2-1, 2.24 GAA, .919 SV%) – I admit this one might have been different if written two weeks ago but not by much. I have been a fan of Raanta since he broke into the NHL with the Blackhawks and he was exactly what I expected to get when the Rangers traded for him last June. While he will need to play more next season, he is still the perfect veteran backup. Yes he had a little hitch in February that made many worry the Rangers would need to find a goaltender at the trade deadline, but he bounced back and will only get better the more he works with Benoit Allaire. And now that he’s signed a new contract, it’s pretty safe to say he’s staying … 99% to return (This should probably be 100% but crazier things have happened)

Last year I ended this post by saying “There will come a time the back end will be the difficult part to figure out on this team but it won’t be any time soon.” Apparently it was sooner than I expected…

Ryan McDonagh (D, 73 games played, 9-25-34, +26) – Remember when everyone thought McDonagh would be a perennial Norris trophy candidate? I’m not saying he had a bad year but his name and the word “Norris” were never in the same sentence this season. (And saying he was the Rangers best defenseman this year wasn’t exactly a compliment.) I happened to watch McDonagh closely this year since many believed his defense partners had been dragging him down in the past. What did I notice? A player who once again was trying to do too much and who in many cases was the one out of position because of it. McDonagh is a phenomenal defenseman but I’m still not convinced he can carry the weight of the C. The guy before him who he’s been compared to couldn’t. That said, he isn’t losing it anytime soon. As for his spot on the team, I don’t expect him gone until March 2019 so we’ll put him at … 95% to return

Dan Girardi (D, 74 games played, 2-15-17, +18) – Oh Dan. This one hurts. Sigh, here it goes. I look at that number of games played and think it’s a mistake. I think about all the missed coverage and hot potato passes and wonder where my favorite defenseman went. While I try to keep personal feelings out of my writing, it’s no secret I’m a fan of Girardi’s. I just don’t know who was wearing his jersey this year. I refuse to believe he went from a guy who many believed deserved the extension he got to the one who looked like he fell off a cliff this year. That change doesn’t happen overnight. But he clearly took a step back and mix that with injury issues from the start (I will fight to the death that he was behind from day one) and you have the season we witnessed. No one is more angry about it than Girardi himself. Maybe I’m delusional (or extremely hopeful) but I think he can bounce back from it. Will he be the player who earned a write in vote for the All Star game a few years ago? No way. But he isn’t this bad and I think the Rangers know that which is why I think they give him another chance. Again, maybe it’s my heart over my head speaking but I expect him in Rangers blue in October … 85% to return

Staal-Klein-Ramsey-toastMarc Staal (D, 77 games played, 2-13-15, +2) – Sigh again. I don’t know where to start with this one. The good news was Staal had a relatively healthy year in comparison to earlier in his career. The bad news? Basically everything else. After the season ended, I saw someone mention that Staal was brought down by Boyle most of the year. I never really thought about it that way but it is true that pairing never really worked. But while I would love to blame it on that, that’s not really being honest about the year Staal had. I don’t know what it was but all year something just seemed off. So what do the Rangers do? I do think his contract is slightly more movable but not because he is the better of the two longest tenured defensemen. More because if the Rangers could get Carolina or wherever Eric signs to want two Staals instead of one, I think Marc would be willing to go. But it won’t be easy which is why I still think it’s unlikely … 75% to return

Kevin Klein (D, 69 games played, 9-17-26, +16) – Last year I predicted that Klein would be traded at this past trade deadline. It’s not that I wanted him gone, I just didn’t expect him to stay. With how much the rest of the defense struggled, Klein quietly stayed behind the scenes. I really don’t know what to say about him. He isn’t the top pairing defenseman many fans want him to be but he’s a solid 4/5 on any team. Will he be here in September? His low cap hit would be a reason to keep him. It would also make him easy trade bait. This one really could go either way … 50% to return

Keith Yandle (D, 82 games played, 5-42-47, -4) – Let me start by saying plus/minus is a useless stat they should probably get rid of. That said, we can all agree Girardi and Staal were horrible this year and yet both ended up with a plus next to their name at the end of the season while Yandle was somehow a minus-4. I honestly have no idea how that is even possible. I continually say Yandle is lost in the defensive zone but that takes talent. Anyway, so Yandle. It’s no secret I’m not he’s biggest fan but he played much better this year than I expected him to. Do I expect him back? This one is complicated. Personally, I don’t and haven’t since the day he signed. (I’m on record saying I expect him to go to Arizona or Boston.) But a recent premonition is tilting me the other way. I can’t explain it but let’s just say I have started to accept the fact I may not have seen Yandle play his last game as a Ranger. How will it be done? Not sure. But I think the Rangers are trying to do it … 65% to return (it’s a lot higher than I would’ve put it at the start of the month)

Dan Boyle (D, 74 games played, 10-14-24, even) – Every signing is a gamble. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, you hope the contract is only a year or two. In this case it was. I have nothing against Boyle. He tried. It just didn’t work. It’s a shame he was a healthy scratch in what was probably his last NHL game but it was fitting considering how his time with the Rangers went. I wish him well in the future and really do wish this had worked better … 0% to return

McIlrath-YandleDylan McIlrath (D, 34 games played, 2-2-4, +7) – I said it all year but will say it again – when the six other defensemen on this list played to their capabilities, McIlrath was clearly number seven. Yes, most of them didn’t this year. But Vigneault kept hoping they would. I had no problem with the year McIlrath had. Would it have been nice to get him a few more games? Absolutely. Did I expect it at the start of the season? Not at all. This year was a stepping stone for him, a chance to learn before getting thrown into the fire. Next season he will be a regular. Will that be with the Rangers? I’m hoping so and honestly would be surprised if he wasn’t but nothing is guaranteed right now. I’m still thinking he’s back … 85% to return

 

I know everyone is saying the changes need to start on defense but you need replacements for these guys and it’s not as easy as if we were playing a video game. The six definitely will look different. (For one, Brady Skjei will be included.) We’ll just have to wait and see how different. Next up, I attempt to guess which forwards will be returning.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Contracts: UFAs, RFAs + NTCs

From the moment the final buzzer sounded to end game 5 last Saturday afternoon, the assumption amongst Rangers fans and media was simple – change was coming. No one is expecting the team that left the ice that afternoon to be anywhere close to the one stepping on the ice at MSG in October.

But the question becomes what can change. I will do my usual “keep or dump” in the coming weeks (although I might take a different approach this year) but let’s look at the Rangers contract situations.

Unrestricted Free Agents

The Rangers have five unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Dan Boyle won’t be returning. The assumption is he will be retiring, as that is what he hinted at after his blowup at Brooks, but there hasn’t been any confirmation yet. Also probably not returning? Eric Staal and Dominic Moore.

Staal was never expected to return but I don’t think that was a slip up. As for Moore, his story was great but I think we can all agree it’s time to move on.

That leaves defenseman Keith Yandle and forward Viktor Stalberg. (Goaltender Antti Raanta was re-signed earlier this week.)

Personally, I think there are better options than Stalberg out there but if Vigneault likes him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return. I just see him as a player similar to Benoit Pouliot, who used one good year to get a long term contract he already isn’t living up to. And then there’s Yandle.

“It’s been nothing but amazing,” Yandle said of his time with the Rangers. “The way they treat their players, the way you come to the rink every day … it’s a pleasure to come to the rink and I can definitely see myself playing here and it’s one of those things — I have to weigh my options.”

My belief on Yandle has always been that he wants to go back “home” – either Boston or Arizona. His piece in the Players Tribune a few weeks ago made me think he might want to stay. But his quotes at break up day made me think he’s intrigued by free agency. Is he closing the door to returning? I doubt it. Do the Rangers want to keep him? Possibly. Is the money/term going to work? That’s the million dollar question (no pun intended).

Restricted Free Agents

RFAs have typically been where the fun is when it comes to contracts. This years’ candidates for last player to receive a deal are forwards Chris KreiderJ.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes along with defenseman Dylan McIlrath.

At the start of the year, if you asked any Rangers fan who of the three forwards would probably end up as the odd man out, they would’ve instantly said Miller. Now? He’s probably the first to be signed. Not many players should feel safe right now but odds are pretty high Miller will be remaining in blue.

Personally, I wouldn’t give up on Kreider yet either. If he spoke on breakup day, he didn’t say much as I saw no quotes from him. But if the team plans to keep Vigneault, they can’t get rid of their fastest player. As for Hayes, Vigneault was asked if he was in the organizations plans going forward and responded:

We’ll see if that remains the case in the next few weeks.

That leaves McIlrath. While Vigneault said the back end is where they need to look to change, I’m not sure moving the rookie is what he was implying. I said all season that McIlrath was a clear #7 when the others were playing to their capabilities and would be a regular next year. We’ll see if I’m right.

No Trade + No Move Clauses

Here comes the fun. If the Rangers really want to make changes, they will need to touch their long term contracts and most of those have some type of move clause attached to them.

The top three candidates are Rick Nash (limited no trade clause), Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (both no move clauses).

Nash, when asked, replied:

“It’s hard not to worry about it. I love the city, I love the organization, but the realistic side to it is that you don’t know what’s going to happen over the summer.”

Most assume he’s the most logical to move. It would be a big shake up as well as free up a bunch of space. But while he didn’t score this year, he was a 42 goal scorer last season and most assume he’s closer to that then the 15 goal scorer we saw this year.

As for the two defensemen, that’s where it gets interesting. Girardi has four years remaining while Staal has five years. Both would need to approve any move except a buyout. (Since they have a no move, they can request to skip the waiver period needed before the buyout period but if I am understanding the CBA correctly, they can still be bought out.)

Many have mentioned buying out Girardi. If the Rangers choose to, this would be the cap hit over the next eight years:

Girardi-numbers

From a business standpoint, I would rather have the option of the player than that hit for that length of time. Yes they save money next year but they really hurt themselves the following years. Staal’s numbers are even worse which is probably why very few have mentioned that for him.

Other options to move? Derick Brassard who currently has a modified no trade clause (terms are unknown), Mats Zuccarello who has a full no trade clause or maybe Derek Stepan, who unfortunately for him isn’t old enough to have a trade clause. (Players cannot have a clause added to their contract until they are in their UFA years. It is believed Stepan has one for the end of his contract.)

Is the organization actually thinking of moving any of those players? Who knows. But it’s probably safe to assume anything is possible when your coach says the following:

“I think we’re at the stage now that we need to look at some changes,” Vigneault said days after the crash-and-burn, five-game first-round defeat to the Penguins. “For any NHL team, status quo is not possible and it is not what’s needed.

“We want to bring in different players to add to the dynamic. The core guys have been together for a while. Certainly it’s time to look at what we can do to improve.”

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Still No Clinching As Rangers Lose Another

For those who thought Thursdays game against Carolina was bad, tonight’s game against Buffalo might have been worse. Yes the Rangers actually played better tonight than they did two nights ago. But here’s my issue – tonight came at home and in response to their performance on Thursday. In my opinion, that makes it worse.

Because it is very rare I have no doubt in my mind that the team will be booed off the ice after a period and I was 100% positive that would happen when the first period ended. And it did. It happened when the third ended as well. The only reason it didn’t after the second period is because they were still announcing the late goal and the Garden was in shock at how bad the 30 seconds after it went.

I said there was no excuse for what happened Thursday. There is even less of an excuse for what I witnessed tonight. I honestly don’t even know how to put into words what I witnessed.

How a team who just needs two points, one win, to clinch a playoff spot and can’t find it in them to do it. Apparently they assume it will happen at some point so no need for any urgency to get it. Well that non-urgency probably cost them home ice in the first round. Because with only four games remaining, they will need a lot of help to overcome the three point gap between them and the Penguins.

But this is all well-known at this point so let’s talk about the disaster that occurred at MSG tonight.

The first period…didn’t go well. It especially didn’t go well for the pair of Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein. (Klein actually pulled a pretty impressive feat as he was on the ice for all seven goals scored tonight.) The best part? Vigneault realized things weren’t going well so changed the other two defense pairs (who had been fine) while leaving those two together. The result? They let in another goal to start the second period. I’ve defended Vigneault a lot this year because I’ve thought it ridiculous that people have turned on him. I don’t understand some of his moves recently. At least the captain realized he had an off night:

I really don’t know what else to write about the first period except to repeat that the team being booed off the ice was completely deserved. Normally I feel bad when a team is booed off the ice. Then I saw this quote after the game:

Anyone have a word that begins with “e” to describe throwing your season away? With a chance to clinch, energy and execution should not be issues.

The second period started with that early goal which led to the end of the night for Henrik Lundqvist. I was surprised Lundqvist stayed on the bench. I wasn’t surprised he seemed to be yelling at himself on the bench and no one went near him the remainder of the period. (All the players left a gap between him and the next guy on the bench, although Mats Zuccarello did try to tell him it was okay a few minutes after he was pulled.)

I’m not sure if the goalie change woke them up but the Rangers did get on the board two minutes later when Eric Staal found Kevin Hayes for the easy put home. Of course the Rangers couldn’t use that as momentum to get any closer.

With seven minutes remaining, Keith Yandle reminded me why I didn’t want him as he came out from behind Raanta and handed the puck to the Sabres. He then threw his hands out in disbelief when the Sabres scored two seconds later. I actually felt bad that Klein ended up on the ice for that one as that was all on Yandle. Of course it turned into the game winner.

The Rangers did manage to cut the deficit to two in the last minute of the period when a shot by Ryan McDonagh was deflected and ended up bouncing right in front of the net for J.T. Miller to put home. Was the shot and that overall shift by McDonagh a good one? Yes. But to be honest, it might have been his only good one of the game.

I guess the boys finally realized the situation they were in during the third period as they actually played a decent period, minus a full 5-on-3 that would be an insult to a power kill if I called it that.

Actually, let’s talk about that. The Rangers had gotten within one less than five minutes into the period when Derek Stepan deflected a Chris Kreider shot. Then with eight minutes remaining, the Sabres took two penalties on the same shift leading to a full two minute 5-on-3. The Rangers put out their first power play unit of Yandle, Stepan, Kreider, Brassard and Zuccarello. Those five stayed on the ice the entire two minutes and did nothing. Nothing. They somehow were credited with three shots but I have no idea how. Honestly, the only word I can think to use is disgrace. I don’t even think the Sabres had a good kill, the Rangers killed the two minutes all by themselves.

And I knew right there that was the game and it was. Somehow the Sabres didn’t get an empty net goal and the night ended with more boos as the Rangers failed to clinch yet again. I don’t get it. And there’s nothing else to say except they get another chance on Monday…

 

(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 Lose In 99 Seconds

I think every Rangers fan was happy when the new year came and we were all able to put the month of December behind us. Specifically that trend of losing a game in a very short amount of time. I guess the Rangers felt bad the Penguins didn’t get to see them during that so brought it back for one more night. At least it better only be one night.

Before the game, the Rangers got some good and bad news. The good news was Rick Nash was not only with the team in Pittsburgh but skated for the first time since February 2nd earlier in the day. Obviously he didn’t play but assuming no setbacks, we may see him sooner rather than later. The other good news? Jesper Fast was supposed to miss the trip with the flu. I guess he woke up feeling better this morning as he hopped on a plane and was able to play tonight. As for the bad news, unfortunately he somehow passed the flu to Marc Staal who missed tonight’s game. If there is one team I want Staal on the ice against, it’s the Penguins. Seeing what happened at the end of the second period explains why.

As for the game, the first period…happened. It wasn’t a bad period of hockey. It was actually a well-played period by both teams. But that doesn’t mean anything actually happened that is worth discussing.

Then came the second period. I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with Henrik Lundqvist. Six minutes into the period, he lost his cool. While trying to defend Hornqvist, Ryan McDonagh ran into Lundqvist. You can see the play here. (I love the new NHL site that only allows you to embed certain videos.)

Basically, the Rangers goalie thought his captain was pushed in and was annoyed that he was hurt and there was no call or whistle. (To me, he wasn’t pushed in. He collided on his own, which McDonagh admitted after the game.) I guess since screaming about it while the puck was out of the zone didn’t work, Lundqvist decided to throw the net off the moorings as the Penguins headed back up the ice. I mean throw. As you could see, he two-hand tossed that thing. I’m not sure what his thinking was but I knew instantly it was a penalty. I was right.

Fortunately for Lundqvist, Kessel took a penalty a minute later so they were able to kill the penalty (and their partial power play). After that was all over, Lundqvist was bumped into again, this time by Malkin. He again started screaming about it. Look, I love Lundqvist and will argue with anyone who says he isn’t a top goaltender. During the second period, he looked like the opposing captain did five years ago.

Things started to calm down after that and we had roughly five minutes of normal hockey. Then Crosby took a penalty. The Rangers power kill did nothing over the next two minutes but right after the penalty ended, Mats Zuccarello found Chris Kreider who put one past Fleury that the Penguins netminder definitely wanted back.

So with 3:10 to go in the middle frame, the Rangers had a 1-0 lead and everything looked great for the visitors. Then disaster struck.

It started 57 seconds later, when Crosby poked a shot past Lundqvist to tie the game. Initially no one was sure if the puck crossed the line but while all five Rangers players stood in the crease staring at the loose puck, another Penguin player jumped in and buried it so the Penguins would’ve had a goal no matter what. Review showed the initial shot went in but it was still horrible defense, particularly by Keith YandleDan Girardi and J.T. Miller. (Those were the three I saw standing in the crease but I’m sure Derick Brassard and Jesper Fast weren’t innocent either.)

That would’ve been fine if 21 seconds later those same five players didn’t let Malkin score. Why that same five was left on the ice, I have no idea. But they were and the Rangers went from leading 1-0 to being down 2-1 in less than two minutes.

But the period still wasn’t over as 35 seconds later, Yandle added to his past two shifts by taking an incredibly stupid interference penalty. It took the Penguins 43 seconds to make it 3-1. I’m actually surprised it took that long.

Basically that was the game. Three goals in 1:39. I thought we moved past this, Rangers. I thought we realized that allowing teams to score that many goals in that short of a time span was bad and we were going to leave that in whatever the month of December was. Apparently not.

The third period was basically a formality. The only news being that Henrik Lundqvist didn’t come out for the period. The fact he wasn’t on the bench led the broadcast and writers to speculate a possible injury. That said, I wouldn’t have been surprised if after the game they said it was a mental one and that they felt it best to just let him cool down in the locker room. (Between the screaming early in the period and then the quick goals, I’m guessing he wasn’t a pleasant person to be around.) Instead they announced he had neck spasms and was receiving treatment. Thanks again, captain! (Side note: It, as the others, was a complete accident and I’m sure McDonagh will feel horrible if he misses time. That said, Vigneault at the moment is saying he doesn’t believe it’s serious.)

And now the Rangers get to forget that happened and head to Washington…where their fate could be much, much worse. Although knowing this team, they will somehow shutout the Caps tomorrow night.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)