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)


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)

Klein Plays Hero As Rangers Sweep Ducks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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)

Special Teams The Issue In Rangers Loss

With the all-star break over, the Rangers have 33 games left before the playoffs. That means they have 33 opportunities to drive fans crazy. Since they have been doing that all season, it should have come as no surprise they returned with the “crazy” that drives fans to the ledge.

And why are fans driven to the ledge? Because this team reiterates over and over again how important special teams are. And they put out the special teams we witnessed tonight. They were special, alright.

After a week off, I was expecting the Rangers to start sloppy. They somehow started even sloppier than I expected. (Half way through the period, they played a good 10 to 15 seconds with only four skaters on the ice.) But the sloppiness looked like it wouldn’t be the worst part when within the first three minutes Jesper Fast and Marc Staal got hit by shots…by their own teammates. Both players immediately headed to the bench but fortunately were okay.

I can’t say the same for the Rangers power kill coming out of the break. The Devils do have a decent penalty kill but you would think it was the best in the league with how little the Rangers were able to create during the man advantage.

But the Rangers seemed to find their legs as the period went on and managed to get a few chances. (I don’t think their chances were as good as Sam and Joe felt they were but they were chances.) Then with six and a half minutes remaining in the period, Fast chipped the puck out of the defensive zone right as Derick Brassard and J.T. Miller broke out on a 2-on-1. Brassard waited and passed the puck perfectly on the tape of Miller for the easy tap in and the 1-0 lead.

The Rangers got a few more chances after that but with time winding down, it looked like the Devils had life. Then, with less than 10 seconds to go in the period, Derek Stepan felt the need to hook David Schlemko right in front of Cory Schneider. I comment about how a lot of Rangers players are known for taking stupid penalties. That might have been one of the dumbest I have seen all year. The hook was bad (and blatant) to begin with but to do it in front of the opposing goalie with seconds to go in the period makes absolutely no sense to me at all. I can’t even call it lazy, it was just plain stupid.

And the Devils made him pay. Honestly it took longer into the second period than I expected, especially considering the Devils had gotten a shot in the 5.8 seconds of power play time they had at the end of the first period.

Halfway through the second period, the Rangers were given their second power kill. This one actually managed to set up but it still got as many shots as the first one did – none. Less than a minute later, the Devils went right back to the penalty box. Maybe that was their strategy. Can’t say I blame them if it was. The third power kill actually managed a few shots on net but still came up empty.

Since that one got actual shots on net, the Devils decided to stop the parade to the box. The result was nothing else happening for the rest of the second period.

The third was the opposite. It started early as the Miller got his second of the game just two minutes into the period off a shot that Schneider probably should have had. The good feelings lasted exactly 1:07, as that’s how long it took for the Devils to tie it. From that moment on, it was all Devils.

Six minutes later, the Rangers took their second penalty of the game as Oscar Lindberg went off for interference. I never thought the day would come but I think the Rangers penalty kill officially looks worse than their power kill, and their power kill looks atrocious. I miss the days the Rangers could penalty kill. I know there are a lot of people who say the Rangers miss Carl Hagelin. Hate to break it to them, but Hagelin was in the box half the time they had to kill penalties so that isn’t the issue. The coaching staff has a new game plan for the penalty kill and it just plain isn’t working. The sooner they realize this, the sooner the Rangers might have at least one special team working again.

I would say the Rangers tried for the equalizer but I don’t think there was a single person watching who thought they were ever close to getting it. And they didn’t. The worst part is they may have lost Kevin Klein in the process. Klein went down hard with three minutes to go in the game. He got up (which at first I wasn’t expecting) but he was clearly in pain. Looked like another hand injury. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow.

The part that bothers me most is listening to MSG announcers talk about these opponents who are beating the Rangers:

They aren’t the most skilled team but they just go out and play.

They give their all every shift.

Give “team X” credit for getting the most out of the players they have.

That used to be the Rangers. That was their bread and butter. Now? Now, I don’t even know what they are trying to do. They aren’t the most skilled team in the league yet it’s almost as if they go out on the ice thinking it every night. Confidence is great but this…there’s no reason I should ever say the New Jersey Devils were the better team on the ice. And they were tonight.

The good news is they get two more shots at them before the end of the month. Or maybe that’s the bad news considering how tonight went. But first up is a Minnesota Wild team that is crashing rapidly. Hopefully no one tells the Rangers and they come out and get the same two points that the Islanders did against them tonight.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Family On Display At Rangers Fan Forum

As a Rangers seasons’ subscriber, I get one perk other than the ability to go to every game each year (something that I appreciate, especially come playoff time). Season subscribers get one event with the players. We have an option of the “Kids Day” event where a five or six players hang out and play games with all the kids in attendance or the “Fan Forum” where five players sit on stage and informally talk to the fans about a bunch of topics. As I’m not a kid and don’t have any, I obviously choose the latter.

This years’ event was held at Cipriani’s Wall Street, an interesting location if you ask me. The restaurant is beautiful but not exactly the best set up for a forum like this. At least it wasn’t in the middle of Times Square again.

While I look forward to this event each year, I was even more excited this year due to the players in attendance – Kevin KleinKevin HayesKeith YandleDerek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. I specifically wanted to see the last two together as we know their friendship off the ice. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more banter between them but getting Stepan at this event for the first time in his six seasons was definitely worth the wait.

Let me start off with the one negative (other than setup) for this years’ event – Alyonka Larionov was one of the hosts again. I truly do like Alyonka and I’m sure she knows the sport better than any of us ever will. But some people just aren’t good at running a forum. It’s not a knock on her as I know I could never do it. I just wish the Rangers would realize she’s bad at it. You know it’s bad when she walked on stage and there was a low groan and mumbling throughout the room. This year she had Sam Rosen with her. Unfortunately Sam let her do the bulk of the hosting, even as the players tried not to roll their eyes at times.

But enough with the negative as I truly love this event and this years’ was no different. You are probably wondering why I put “family” in the title. That’s because everything seemed revolve around that.

The night started off with the players being asked what they did on their off day. Derek Stepan bitterly told us he spent two hours on line at the post office. Sam took the bait and asked why. The bitterness turned into a smile when he admitted his son needed his first passport. He was then asked how fatherhood has changed him. With a straight face he replied “I’ve matured…” (to which the other four snickered). He then pointed at his head and said he’s lost some hair which brought a lot of laughs from the audience. I guess he figured he would beat everyone to the punch on that as he eagerly pointed out he had no hair whenever he got the chance. Later in the evening McDonagh took an opportunity to point out his “full head of hair” as he motioned to his friend. Stepan just shook his head.

I could probably write 5,000 words on the night so to avoid that, I’ll point out highlights for each player.

First, we learned a couple of things about some guys not in attendance. According to Klein, Mats Zuccarello likes to sleep a lot. Klein also mentioned that J.T. Miller was easily the best golfer on the team. And, while this wasn’t new news, all five of the players quickly replied Dan Girardi when asked who had the most pregame rituals in the room.

Has anyone noticed that all Rangers players where a helmet during warmups? Yandle informed us that is Glen Sather’s rule while relaying a story of how on his first day he went to go out without one and McDonagh quickly told him to get his helmet. Sather gets a big plus in my book for this.

And we got some nicknames. Jayson Megna is “Liquid Hot” (which we had heard when he first came up), Dominic Moore is the “Professor”, Oscar Lindberg is “Oscar the Grouch”, Rick Nash is the “Slim Reaper” (“a goalies worse nightmare” per either Klein or Yandle, can’t remember which said it) and Marc Staal is now “Staalzingis” for the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis.

Now onto those in attendance.

Kevin Klein

Klein was relatively quiet on the night, other than attempting to tell of Girardi’s superstitions. He was asked about coming to New York after being in Nashville and reiterated a number of times how great the Rangers treat their players. At one point he motioned to his two captains sitting next to him and said “you don’t want to start here and go somewhere else…”. We know the Rangers do a lot for their players but seeing the reaction from Klein and Yandle when discussing the difference between New York and Nashville/Phoenix definitely confirms it.

He did point out that New York has “great plastic surgeons” when discussing his ear injury from last year and replied “I enjoyed my childhood” when the question of what you would tell your younger self was posed. But otherwise the quiet stay at home defenseman was just that.

Kevin Hayes and Keith Yandle

I have to put these two together because almost everything involving one also involved the other. They called each other “family” and it was clear early on that Yandle takes care of Hayes. At one point, Yandle was asked about “his son”, referring to Hayes as I believe Yandle has two daughters. Speaking of which, Hayes apparently lost a game of Candyland to the two of them. Yandle was quick to point out that they are two and four to which Hayes replied that the two year old was the biggest cheater he’s met. The other three just shook their heads.

I was expecting Hayes to be one of those players I questioned why was at an event like this but he was surprisingly open. He admitted to not having silverware or plates in his apartment all last year, to which Yandle shook his head, and apparently has to have Starbucks before games. When asked who his favorite player was he replied “It’s funny cause I play with his brother but it’s actually Eric Staal. I’m not sure if Marc knows that though cause I’ve never met him.” I really hope a meeting took place last night with the team in Carolina.

Obviously the two were asked about the Patriots and Hayes joked he might have an injury on Sunday since their game was the same time as the Rangers game. (Stepan then asked Sam if he was working that game and Sam replied “No! We have a game in Ottawa!”. All five players just shook their heads at him.)

As for Yandle, the one fact that seemed to get a lot of attention was him admitting his favorite shows were “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant”. Listening to Hayes explain watching TV with him reminded me of a few years ago when Girardi told the story of being forced to watch “Toddlers and Tiaras” with Ryan Callahan.

We also know he has a lot of nicknames for the team. The latest one? “New York Pants on the Ground”. Apparently one of the first things the Rangers do when they come into the locker room is take all of their equipment out of their lockers and place it on the floor. Yandle was not used to this and was quite surprised to see 19 pairs of hockey pants sitting on the floor when he arrived for his first game.

Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh

These two didn’t have as much together but there was still a few things so I’m going to link them.

My favorite moment was when the players were asked about their favorite memory from playing at MSG. McDonagh mentioned his first goal and the reaction from the Rangers fans when it happened. Stepan added that it was a pretty important goal against the Devils as it was the last game of the season and the team needed to win to get into the playoffs. He was right but I loved that Stepan knew the details of McDonagh’s first NHL goal.

The two also lit up at any mention of Wisconsin. So Sam asked how two Minnesota boys end up with a rival college. McDonagh said he fell in love with the campus when visiting there and knew that’s where he wanted to go. As for Stepan, he admitted that it was the only offer he got so when they asked if he wanted to play on a full scholarship, “that offer didn’t sit on the table long”. (He apparently really wanted to be a Gopher but they had too many recruits so couldn’t take him.) And when Yandle and Hayes admitted they never had cheese curds, the two looked appalled. (Klein played in Milwaukee so he knew about them.)

On separate notes, McDonagh was quiet as I expected. I know he will say the captaincy hasn’t changed him but since he got the C, he has been very reserved. It’s a shame cause in the beginning it looked like he had a great personality. We did learn that his official nickname is “Truck” or “Trucker” as I don’t think the other four referred to him as anything else the entire night.

Stepan, had a few moments. He did talk about his son a little more than I expected (especially considering it took forever for him to mention his name or even that it was a boy). Apparently the passport was needed because he might be spending the all star break in the Caribbean with the Girardi’s.

We learned his new favorite show is “New Girl” and that he would tell his younger self to wear less hats. Alyonka asked if that would’ve helped and Stepan said no, then told the crowd how every male in his family was bald so he was screwed from the start. He was asked about his OT winner last year and repeated that he kind of blacked out in the moment. He did say that about 20 minutes later his first thought was how did Derick Brassard get to him so quickly as he almost beat the guys on the ice to him. If you look at the pictures, he’s right.


While I’m sure there were other moments, those were the ones that stuck out in a night full of laughs. It’s great that some of the fans get to witness this each year. I just wish there was a way for everyone to as it’s the one time the players really come off as just like the rest of us. They say they are paid to be kids for an extra ten to twenty years. Nights like this we get to see how true that is. While I readily admit I wished the Rangers did more for their season subscribers and fans in general, I am forever grateful to get to take part in an event like this each year.


(Photo: Melissa Andus. You can see more photos, specifically closeups of each of the players, from the event here.)