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:


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)

Rangers Can’t Find Offense In 3-1 Loss

This series has been strange. Typically I can easily recap a playoff game. For the second time in three games, I can’t.

I can easily write about the third period and how the Rangers seemed to drift through the final twenty minutes as if a goal would just miraculously appear for the home team. I’m not sure the Penguins played much better but they did manage to stifle any offense the Rangers attempted to muster. (To be fair, there wasn’t a lot in the final frame.)

And then there was the game winner. As I watched Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle collide in the defense zone, I had no words. You expect miscommunication like that from two guys who haven’t really played together, not two guys who were paired for 19 playoff games last year. But they collided, Matt Cullen said thank you and even though there was plenty of time, no one had a feeling the home team would get the equalizer. And they didn’t.

I guess I’ll try to do this one backwards as that was basically the third period. In the middle frame, you could almost see where this was headed. The Rangers didn’t play a poor second period, but having only 13 shots through two periods against a rookie goaltender returning from injury and having had only one practice in almost two weeks was nothing short of pathetic.

The good news is they did get on the board first. (Well officially, but more on that in a moment.) Just 22 seconds into the period, Chris Kreider rubbed Hornqvist along the boards and was called for boarding. He questioned it, the fans questioned it but to the box he went. (To be honest, from my vantage point, it looked like a penalty that is called when officials are actually calling penalties but it was on my side of the ice so I didn’t have the best look.)

Just 17 seconds into the penalty, we had a goal…from Rick Nash. No really, Nash scored. Watch:


That was some shot and got the building alive. Surprisingly the Rangers were able to kill off the rest of the penalty after that. Not surprisingly, they weren’t able to build any momentum off of it.

The Rangers did have two power kills over the first half of the period but weren’t able to do anything with them. Then with one minute remaining, Marc Staal lost Carl Hagelin and took him down to the side of the Rangers net. Am I surprised Staal lost Hagelin? Not in the least and neither should anyone else who has watched the Rangers for years. The hook, as they called it, was a little light though and many believed the ex-Ranger took a little bit of a dive. Again, I just saw him go down so I’m guessing the official saw the same thing I did.

When you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned and the Rangers did as there was a goal 18 seconds in. This time it didn’t go to the team in the penalty box and we had a tie game.

But what about the first period?

Well neither team really came out flying but both had some chances. Then halfway through the period, Marc Staal took his first penalty of the game. With time winding down, Conor Sheary high-sticked Dominic Moore and drew blood leading to 4-on-4 and then an extended power play for the home team. (It was honestly the best thing Moore did all game. I usually don’t like to call out individual poor performances but Moore didn’t have a great game tonight.)

Shortly into the power play, Chris Kreider scored. He actually missed on his original shot but somehow found the rebound and buried it behind Murray to give the home team an early lead. Or so we all thought. Immediately Mike Sullivan was at the edge of his bench calling for the officials and I knew we were in trouble. The Penguins were challenging that the play was offside. It was and we were back to 0-0 and the Rangers proceeded to have over three minutes of power kill time.

Side note: I understand why these challenges were put in place and while I do want to get the calls right, I’m not sure these plays are what the league intended the rule to be. (It was the right call.) That said, the part that gets me is how many goals we’ve seen called back due to minute offside plays. How many past goals wouldn’t have been goals if this rule was in place before this season? And how many of these goals will still be goals when they change the rule next year?

Anyway, the Rangers killed the power play and the rest of the period which led to a scoreless game after one.

And now back to the end and a couple of stats that caught my eye:

17 shots. That’s how many pucks the Rangers put on rookie goaltender Matt Murray. I could probably write 1,000 words on why that is not good but let’s just say, that was not good.

12:56. That was the amount of ice time Marc Staal received, least amongst defensemen. I understand he hasn’t been great in the series and was having another iffy game but that’s ridiculous. Somehow Crosby was still invisible most of the night.

71. The number of hits in this game with the Rangers once again having the edge, 41-30. It’s no secret these two teams hate each other but if this series somehow goes the distance, the Capitals will be saying thank you.

2-1. That’s the hole the Rangers now face. Is it insurmountable? No. And that’s what they said after the game. They didn’t play poorly tonight, at least not in the sense of what we’ve seen from them this year. But they need to play better. They need to get that playoff intensity and play with it every night. We saw them have it game two. Here’s to hoping they find it in game four.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Lundqvist Hurt As Rangers Drop Game 1

There are games, especially in the playoffs, where I know exactly what I’m going to write as soon as the game ends. It’s been almost 12 hours since the final horn and I still have no idea what to think about last nights’ game one.

Seeing Jeff Zatkoff come onto the ice for warmups with Tristan Jarry as the backup both excited and scared me. The Rangers should have been able to take full advantage of that but we all know how the Rangers play against backups and backups to the backup. Surprisingly, they tried. And these didn’t look like typical Rangers shots where everyone knew they weren’t going in. But, because the Rangers have no luck against backups, Zatkoff saved everything. Then disaster struck.

And this is where I don’t know how to judge this game. Antti Raanta was not the reason the Rangers lost game one. But losing Henrik Lundqvist is never a good thing. And once again, he was taken out by friendly fire.

I have nicknamed Ryan McDonagh “Captain Murder” because he (accidentally) hurt two of his own teammates. So I guess Marc Staal is now “Assistant Captain Murder”? I don’t know, I just know that the injury looked really bad and I’m just glad he was able to get up and attempt to stay in the game. Although I think we can all agree he shouldn’t have.

The first goal, to me, looked like miscommunication. I don’t know if Lundqvist couldn’t see it or was afraid to try and leave the net cause of the eye issue but Dan Girardi didn’t seem to expect what Lundqvist did. That led to a scramble and a few seconds later what felt like a back-breaking goal.

But it wasn’t as the Rangers didn’t wilt in the second period, which was a pleasant surprise to see. Of course things are never easy so again with time winding down, a flubbed point shot led to a breakaway by the Penguins captain and Raanta had no chance. (I would say he was the only one you wouldn’t want in that situation but with the Penguins, I can probably list a few others.) That was probably the back breaker.

And then our old friend Carl Hagelin tried to help us out. He really tried as early in the third period, he decided to swing his stick at the face of Kevin Hayes and in doing so, drew blood. (I’ve always joked Swedish blood brings the Rangers luck because in past playoff series, when Hagelin has drawn a double minor, the Rangers always score on the ensuing power play so just hoped the opposite worked as well.) At the same time that happened, Ian Cole felt the need to cross check Eric Staal in front of the net. Somehow, although after seeing the other calls in the game I have no idea how, the referees caught both and the Rangers had a full two minute 5-on-3 plus an additional two minutes of 5-on-4.

(Side note: The first two calls of the game against Viktor Stalberg were atrocious. The first Penguins penalty might have been worse. There is no way that wasn’t a make up call as I still have no idea what they called Eric Fehr for.)

Anyway, back to the power play. That was the game. And by some miracle, the Rangers scored on the 5-on-3 when Dan Boyle found a wide open Derek Stepan to get the Rangers on the board. They still had 2:58 of power play time remaining at that point. Get one more and we have a game. Instead a complete brain fart by Miller, Boyle, Yandle, Nash and Eric Staal led to a shorthanded goal against and the game was over. (Honestly, calling it a brain fart is putting it nicely. Even Vigneault commented after the game how bad the play was.)

I can sit here and say the team pushed to get back in the game. They didn’t not try but almost everyone knew it was over. I say almost everyone as Derek Stepan tried to will his team to victory by getting his second of the game with nine minutes remaining. But there was only so much Stepan could do and game one went to the Penguins.

Am I worried? I’m worried about Lundqvist. I’m not sure the Rangers have a chance in this series but they will have even less of one if he is out. The only positive I see now? In the past six series between these two teams, the team that won game one as won the series. That has to change at some point, right? And considering since 2012 the Rangers are 2-2 when losing game one of a series, now is as good a time as any for that to happen.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Third Times A Charm As Rangers Finally Clinch

A week ago, I looked at the Rangers remaining schedule and said nothing short of six points would be acceptable in the three games vs Carolina, Buffalo and Columbus. They managed two points. At least they got that, and in doing so finally got that “checkmark” next to their name in the standings.

Of course it can never be all good news when it comes to this team. Late in the first period, while on the penalty kill, Ryan McDonagh blocked a shot by Brandon Dubinsky…with his hand. I have no idea what McDonagh was thinking leaving his hand exposed the way he did but the puck clearly hit it clean. He somehow played the rest of the period but didn’t return for the final 40 minutes. Of course the Rangers are only saying “upper body injury” and that “he’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow”. I understand it’s the time of year where injuries aren’t disclosed but the puck hit his right hand above the thumb (or possibly between the thumb and pointer finger). We all saw it. Just tell us if it’s broken or not. My guess, it is. We’ll see if they admit it on Tuesday or just say he’s not playing against Tampa and is “day to day”.

As for the rest of the game, I guess the Rangers finally got the message that their last two first periods weren’t acceptable. (Although apparently Vigneault didn’t have a problem with Saturdays performance.) But the boys came out flying and were able to take a 1-0 lead as Chris Kreider buried his own rebound for his 20th of the season just six minutes into the game. Assists went to Derek Stepan…and Henrik Lundqvist. Funny part is Lundqvist almost had his second assist of the period a few minutes later but Korpisalo made the save. Guess he wanted to make sure they won after his last two performances.

Five minutes into the second period, Korpisalo also did this:


Dan Boyle looked just as surprised as Sam and Joe sounded that it went in. My favorite part was the look on Eric Staal’s face. I think he was trying not to laugh. Can’t blame him as it was a bad goal.

Of course the Rangers never make things easy for themselves as Marc Staal took a penalty with less than eight minutes to go in the period. (To be fair, it was his one blemish on the night as tonight was easily one of Staals’ best games of the season.) Somehow the Rangers killed that with basically three defenseman (Keith Yandle saw only clean-up duty at the very end) but then let in a goal 17 seconds after it ended to make it a 2-1 game.

Less than four minutes later, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello came down on a 2-on-1. Kreider started the rush and then passed to Zuccarello. Of course the Norwegian tried to pass it back (even though he had a shot). Fortunately it hit Columbus defenseman Ryan Murray and bounced back to him where he elected to shoot it and regain the two goal lead. Basically, the two would have tried to pass the puck until they were behind the net but due to a fortunate bounce ended up with a goal instead.

So twenty minutes to keep a two goal lead. Any Rangers fan who says they were confident is lying. Surprisingly the Rangers still had their foot on the gas for the first halfway of the period. Then Nick Foligno got his second goal of the game off a lucky bounce with a little over nine minutes remaining.

I won’t say the Rangers retreated into a shell but Columbus definitely dominated the remainder of the game. When Zuccarello took a penalty with roughly two minutes remaining, most assumed overtime was on the way. Instead, Derek Stepan found the empty net (for his, and the teams’, third shorthanded goal of the season) and the Rangers finally clinched the playoff spot they should’ve had a week ago.

Was it a masterpiece? Far from it. Was it better than the past six periods the Rangers have played? I will say yes, which is a good sign. Now they need to do it against an actual playoff team. They’ll get their first shot in less than 24 hours when the Lightning make their first visit to MSG since last May. There should be no shortage of motivation for this one as I’m sure both teams will remember the last time they were on that ice. I know I will. I better hear the Rangers goal song tomorrow 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 Continue Not To Lose After Loss

Here’s a crazy stat for you – the last ten times the Rangers have suffered a regulation loss, they won their next game. It is the first time in franchise history they have done that. Maybe the “find a way” and “resilient” Rangers are around this season after all. Or maybe they just like to make me shake my head after I make a comment like “Although knowing this team, they will somehow shutout the Caps tomorrow night.” in my recap the night before. I was close.

The good news in regards to the roster was Marc Staal was able to play after missing the night before with the flu. Considering he flew to Washington separately as to not get his teammates sick and played only 14:33, maybe he should’ve skipped this game as well. Fortunately it didn’t end up hurting them. However, Henrik Lundqvist was not, leading to the call-up of Marcus Hellberg and Antti Raanta in net. He is reportedly still day-to-day.

Now onto the game. I probably should just talk about “the goal” as I’m pretty sure no one cares about the rest of the night but we’ll briefly go over the first period. The Rangers played well. Apparently first periods are an issue for the Caps but it’s still nice to see the Rangers take advantage of that.

Less than six minutes into the period, Jesper Fast found a rebound of a Dan Girardi shot to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. It’s amazing what happens when two forwards actually go to the front of the net. (Derek Stepan was there as well and I actually thought he got first swipe at the puck but apparently it never touched his stick.)

Two minutes later, Marc Staal took a penalty. Somehow the Rangers killed it. A minute after that J.T. Miller and Jay Beagle were given coincidental minors four roughing. (Miller didn’t like that Beagle hit Raanta after whistle.) The reaction from everyone was that it was the worst 4-on-4 they have ever seen since the Rangers spent the first minute basically killing the clock. I’m just going to assume that was intentional and say it was a good game plan. There was no reason for the Rangers to allow the Caps to use the extra open ice.

With less than five minutes to go, the Rangers got their first power play. After Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello both hit the post, Keith Yandle finally blasted one from the point to double the visitors lead. They would take that lead into the second. The dreaded second.

Was it as bad as other second periods they’ve played recently? No. But they really do need to work on these middle frames.

The Rangers managed to keep their lead for the first half of the period. Then “the goal”. I can sit here and be adamant the puck never went in. MSG showed a million replays and not one showed the puck crossing the goal line. But the review took forever and the longer it went, the more I worried. Sure enough, after what was easily over five real-time minutes, the referee pointed at center ice and the Caps were back in the game.

I can tell you the initial shot never went in. It got to the goal line where Kevin Klein swiped it out of harms way. What happened after that? I have no idea. There was a huge scramble and the puck was…somewhere. MSG didn’t have a single replay that showed where.

Honestly, everyone watching the game (fans, media) just wanted video that showed it was in. The purpose of the review is to get it right. If it was in, it was in. But we kept being given replays that never showed where the puck was. If you go to the recap on the NHL website right now, there is still no video of the goal. I’ve never seen a goal video not posted.

Finally late this morning, a video appeared:

Sigh. Why couldn’t you just show that last night? There would’ve been no controversy if we (fans, media) were shown that video. In this day and age, I don’t understand why it took over 12 hours to make that video available.

For some reason Vigneault then challenged the goal for goalie interference. I have no idea why other than to spite the referees as there was no way it was being overturned. I was right. And after all that, I fully expected the game to be tied in a matter of moments as the Rangers were clearly frustrated and that never goes well.

But they almost got out of the period with a lead. Then Tanner Glass took a penalty. They were doing great until they decided to make a shorthanded rush up the ice with three Rangers players going in deep. When you do that, there has to be a shot on net. There wasn’t, the puck went the other way and the three deep mixed with an awful change of the fourth guy led to an easy tying goal.

So it came down to the third period. Win a period, win a game. Just 17 seconds into the period, Derek Stepan did this:


I love that it was so early in the period that Sam and Joe weren’t even talking about the current play when it happened. Somehow, after what felt like the longest 19:43 in history, that ended up being the game winning goal. It honestly felt like when the Rangers have a one goal lead in the third period of a playoff game and the clock just seems to stop. Of course when asked after the game how long the third period felt, Antti Raanta said “twenty minutes”. Players can joke when they win.

At the end of the day, the Rangers needed a split of that back-to-back and got it. I expected it the other way but it’s the same two points no matter which night they got it. Next up, a probable playoff preview at MSG late Sunday afternoon against the Islanders. That should be a fun one. And by fun, I mean harder to watch than the third period last night.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)