Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part II

Last week I tackled the Rangers goaltending and defense. If you missed it, you can read it here. Now it’s time for the fun part. Since this is going to get long, we’re going to get straight to it!

Derick Brassard (C, 80 games played, 27-31-58, +12) – As I mentioned in the first part of these reviews, plus/minus is a useless stat. That said, I have no idea how Brassard was a plus-12. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. There been a lot of talk of moving one of the Rangers top centers. If the team were to find and be able to get a true #1 center, Brassard might be the one to go. But those players don’t grow on trees so my guess is the Rangers will stick with the 1A/1B they currently have. Which means another year of cringing every time Brassard is forced to play outside the offensive zone … 75% to return

Jesper Fast (RW, 79 games played, 10-20-30, +9) – There are not a lot of players that are basically guaranteed to return. The moment the Rangers confirmed Vigneault was staying, I felt comfortable saying Fast would be back too. Fans joke about coaches having pets they refuse to take out of the lineup. Fast isn’t one of those but Vigneault absolutely loves him and why not? He is a perfect bottom six forward who doesn’t look out of place when put in the top six. All season, all we heard was how everyone wanted to play with Fast as he made his linemates better. It was obvious too. And I will take 30 points from him every year if I could … 95% to return

Tanner Glass (LW, 57 games played, 4-3-7, -3) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t hate Tanner Glass. He also was the least of the problems on the fourth line as he was extremely solid from the moment he returned from an early season stint in Hartford. Was he a player driving the offense every time he was on the ice? No, but he’s never been that in his career. Was he a liability on the ice? Honestly most of the top six were more of a liability on any given night. He has one year remaining so things could get interesting. Would someone trade for him? Maybe. Would the Rangers think about buying him out? It’s possible. But Vigneault likes him and since the rest of the fourth line might be gone, he could remain as the extra forward. Basically Glass is one of the reasons I’m not doing a straight “keep or dump” this year … 50% to return

HayesKevin Hayes (C, 79 games played, 14-22-36, +4) – Every year there is one player that I just don’t know what to write. This year, that is Hayes. He drives me absolutely crazy and I probably wouldn’t be upset if the Rangers decided to move on from this experiment. But I see the talent. It’s there. There’s a reason he was a first round draft pick. And I keep reminding myself that Kreider and Miller needed a few kicks before they figured it out so maybe Hayes is taking the same route. But he is so damn frustrating to watch. … 75% to return

Chris Kreider (LW, 79 games played, 21-22-43, +10) – Oh Christopher. I feel like I start his this way every year but it’s fitting. Funny part is I’ve seen everyone saying what a bad year he had and then look at his numbers (which are almost identical to Miller’s). Do the Rangers need more from the power forward? Absolutely. But his year wasn’t as horrible as everyone thinks it was. Personally, I wouldn’t give up on him. Yes his new contract will look bad to start. But if he finally puts it together, it should look like a steal in no time. And I still think he will put it together … 85% to return

Oscar Lindberg (C, 68 games played, 13-15-28, +12) – Lindberg had an interesting rookie season. He came flying out of the gates with 4 goals in his first 3 games. Everyone knew he couldn’t keep up that pace and he didn’t, although he was solid until the end of the year. There was a lot of questions over the last month when Lindberg appeared to be a healthy scratch for an extended period of time. Then the hip injury came out. There still hasn’t been any word of when he sustained the injury but I’m going to guess his play later in the year had something to do with it. Either way, it complicates his status for next year. While he is a young player who the Rangers probably want to keep, he may be a good chip to add into a big deal or help get draft picks back. I wouldn’t rush to trade him as he definitely showed a lot of promise in a bottom six role but changes are being made and this might be an easy one to do … 65% to return

J.T. Miller (C, 82 games played, 22-21-43, +10) – Raise your hand if you thought J.T. Miller would be a must sign at the start of year? Heck, raise your hand if you thought he would make it past the trade deadline? Give the 23 year old credit – he took a “show me” contract last summer and earned the raise he will absolutely get this year. His 16.30% shooting percentage (22 goals on 135 shots) was best on the team and he tied for first with 5 game winning goals. Is he perfect? Not even close, especially in the defensive zone. But he got rid of those blind passes through the center of the ice so you can see he’s learning. And he will continue to learn in NY … 90% to return

Dominic Moore (C, 80 games played, 6-9-15, -2) – All year I heard how his linemates were bringing Moore down. There’s only one problem with that – he played with plenty of guys and they all did fine when moved off his line. So maybe they weren’t the problem. Look I have nothing against Moore. It was a great story for him to come back and he really is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. The last two seasons he was more than serviceable in his role. But if we’re being honest, he had a really bad season this year. And because of it I think it’s safe to say his time in New York is up … 5% to return

Nash-BrassardRick Nash (LW, 60 games played, 15-21-36, +8) – Where to begin. Let’s start with the obvious – this was an injury plagued year for Nash. He missed a lot of games and had trouble coming back when he did return. Truth of the matter is, the Rangers need more from him. They know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. To sit and say the year was a failure, though, wouldn’t be accurate. Think of how bad the penalty kill was in January and February. Who was missing at that time? I get it. The Rangers aren’t paying him for his defense. But to ignore how good he is on that side of the puck would be ignorant. He’s very good defensively. But the Rangers need offense which is why, for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make it to opening night next year. Although I do laugh at the fact I predicted this exact situation before the trade was even made … 55% to return

Eric Staal (C, as a Ranger: 20 games played, 3-3-6, +1) – Two years ago, everyone said give Marty St. Louis some time to adjust to a trade from the only home he’s really known. He was horrible that season after the trade (1-7-8 in 19 games) but had another year so everyone forgot. Same thing happened with Keith Yandle last year (2-9-11 in 21 games). But because Staal was only here for this season, everyone can’t believe how bad he was. These players need time to adjust. Staal never got the chance. Do I regret the trade? I wasn’t really for it the day it happened but I accepted it. Is it the worst trade the Rangers have made? Not even close. They tried, it didn’t work, move on. At least they didn’t give up another 1st round pick … 5% to return (I highly doubt he’s returning but it’s not impossible.)

StalbergViktor Stalberg (LW, 75 games played, 9-11-20, +6) – Sometimes you have to admit when you are wrong. Stalberg surprised me this year. While he definitely had some bad streaks, he had more good games than bad ones. I guess whatever Vigneault said to him in regards to this being his last shot finally sunk in. But while he was good, he wasn’t irreplaceable. Would I be upset if the Rangers kept him? No, assuming it’s a short term, cheap contract. His speed does help in both the bottom six and on the penalty kill. Will Stalberg be able to take this year and cash in elsewhere (similiar to Benoit Pouliot a few years ago)? Absolutely. And if that’s what he wants to do, I will wish that team as much luck as I wished Edmonton … 65% to return

Derek Stepan (C, 72 games played, 22-31-53, +5) – The best news regarding Stepan right now is that this isn’t a contract summer. There has been talk of possibly moving the young center but personally, I think that is one of the dumbest moves the Rangers could make. Yes he could get them a ton in a trade. But he wouldn’t get his replacement. I understand the Rangers need a true #1 center and Stepan isn’t that. (Although to be fair, at almost 47% he ended the year with his highest faceoff percentage in his career so there’s hope on that front.) But he does everything. And don’t forget how much he was missed during that month he was out. His defensive game did seem to take a step back but so did everyone this year. I’m not ignoring five years of fantastic play because of one below average season. I’m going with my gut and saying Rangers will do same thing … 90% to return

Mats Zuccarello (LW, 81 games played, 26-35-61, +2) – Going into the season, everyone was worried we might not see our favorite Norwegian on the ice again. Zuccarello had other plans, having a career year after a life threatening injury. But he’s very similar to his best friend when on the ice. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. (Yes I literally copied and pasted those same four sentences.) Honestly, no one can complain about what Zuccarello did this year so while there are only a few definites this summer, Zuccarello staying is probably one of them … 95% to return

 

If these percentages are accurate then yes, I realize there won’t be enough changes if the team really is in a new era. But there are reasons to keep almost every player on this roster and I’m sure the Rangers management realizes this which is why I’m really intrigued to see what they do. It’s going to be an interesting three months, that’s for sure.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

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Oscar Lindberg Undergoes Hip Surgery

Didn’t I say no Rangers players would need surgery this summer unless there were some random injuries being hidden? Well come on down Oscar Lindberg as apparently, once again, that was the case. Earlier today the Rangers announced this:

That sounds…painful. It probably is better to get both done at once but I’m guessing the next few weeks won’t be fun for Lindberg.

While recovery times are always an estimate, it’s probably safe to say he won’t be in camp or ready to start the season. Hopefully he will be ready by early November, which will not only ensure he isn’t too far behind but will also give him time to get his legs under him before the games really count. (Although after this season, I think it’s clear every game really counts.)

It is also safe to question if those games he missed at the end of the season and in the playoffs really were healthy scratches. I know he was put in for the final game but I’m going to guess he wasn’t 100% which is why that was the only game he played down the stretch. He showed he could play if necessary in that final game but it makes a lot more sense why he was kept out as long as he was when others weren’t performing.

This is yet another why I refused to question the coaching staff in regards to roster decisions. Were Vigneault’s choices perfect? Far from it. But fans need to stop assuming they know why certain decisions were made. Going forward when it seems there is no reason for a player to be a healthy scratch, I’m going on the basis he isn’t and the team just doesn’t want to reveal the injury (especially if this happens at the end of the season).

Get well soon, Oscar!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Sleepwalk To Game 82 Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Kreider Ready To Return, Who Sits For Rangers?

It looks like the Rangers will be a healthy team for their match up against the Bruins tomorrow night. (Oddly enough, this stretch started with a game against the Bruins. That better not happen again.) The good news in that is that Alain Vigneault has all of his players available to play. The bad news? He needs to pick one to sit each night.

While the defense is a separate issue, for the moment I’m going to focus on up front. Right now, the Rangers have 13 forwards on the roster – Derick Brassard, Jesper Fast, Tanner Glass, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, Jayson Megna, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Viktor Stalberg, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello.

Let’s shorten the list – Brassard, Miller, Nash, Stepan and Zuccarello aren’t sitting. I feel pretty confident in saying Kreider and Moore aren’t either. That leaves six options. Let’s take them one by one.

Tanner Glass – Everyone’s favorite whipping boy has been fine since he returned from Hartford. In fact, he’s played his role well enough that fans haven’t bothered to complain about him as much as they did before he was sent down. That could partially be because they finally excepted he’s playing or could be because he has given them nothing to complain about. Anyway, with the opponents the Rangers have coming up (Bruins, Islanders, Flyers) plus the fact he hasn’t done anything stupid enough to deserve to be taken out, I would be shocked if he sits any time soon.

Jayson Megna – For lack of a better way of saying it, it looks like Vigneault has a new toy. He’s intrigued by Megna and wants to see what he can do. And because of that, the kid will get to play. To be honest, I expect him out of the top six by next weekend but maybe he proves he belongs there. If I’m right and that happens, it will only be a matter of time before he’s in the rotation to sit. But for now, he’s playing.

That leaves us with four players and fans honestly shouldn’t be surprised when any one of them sits.

Viktor Stalberg – I’m going to be honest on this one, I wasn’t a fan of the Stalberg signing from the start. I’ve watched him on previous teams and it’s always the same thing. The talent is there and you see it occasionally. He just can’t show it consistently. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to take until January for us to be discussing this with him. I also don’t expect him to be on my year end “keep or dump” lists. That said, his line with Moore and Glass has been working recently so until that stops (or he makes enough bone-headed passes), he’s probably staying in the line up. Personally, he’s the one I would sit.

Kevin Hayes – Oh, Kevin Hayes. I see so much talent. And then I see so much rookie. The comparison I make with him is to Michael Del Zotto. Hear me out. Del Zotto used to think he could do whatever he wanted on the ice because he was able to do that while in juniors. Hayes is the same way. He was able to get away with anything he wanted in college because he was better than a lot of the players he was playing against. It doesn’t work that way in the NHL. The sooner Hayes accepts that, the sooner he gets off this list. But Vigneault already scratched him for two games so now he is going to be given a chance to prove he learned from it. I’d say he gets a few more games until he potentially finds himself as the odd man out again.

Jesper Fast – Fast is what he is. When he was playing in the top six, everyone asked why. Now he’s where he belongs. So why is he on this list? Last week while watching a game I said to someone “remember when Fast could penalty kill?”. Their response? “Remember when Fast could play defense?”. Simply put, the sophomore slump is hitting the Swedish forward hard. Last year, he was one of the teams’ best defensive forwards. This year, I cringe when I see him on the ice against the oppositions’ top players. I’m not giving up hope on him and hope the Rangers aren’t either. But until he begins playing like he did last year on a regular basis, he might not come out of the lineup but he will be on this list.

Oscar Lindberg – As the lone rookie of the forwards, Lindberg finds himself in a tough spot. Rookies are going to make mistakes. There isn’t a single one who doesn’t. But if everyone around them isn’t making mistakes, then they find themselves “having to watch a game from above so they can learn”. The good part for Lindberg is there are definitely others making mistakes. The bad part is no one has made enough to be a permanent scratch so he’s going to be part of the rotation.

Lindberg came out of the gate flying. It lasted a month, I believe, and then he looked like a rookie. That is not a bad thing. But the past few weeks I’ve had one of two reactions to Lindberg – I either forgot he was playing because I never saw him on the ice or I wish I had forgotten he was playing because I noticed him for all the wrong reasons. While defenseman are supposed to be invisible, forwards aren’t so neither is a good sign for Lindberg. And while yesterday may have been one of his better games, he’s the easiest one to take out so that Kreider can come in.

I know some will ask why Chris Kreider automatically gets to come into the lineup. The answer? He is supposed to be the teams’ second best scorer behind Rick Nash. As with the defense, Vigneault feels he needs to play his way out of this slump. He looked better before the injury (perhaps because his center was back) so he is going to get the chance to play. If this continues, well his agent won’t be too happy this summer, let’s just say that. Personally, I don’t expect it to continue. I expect him to be back on a line with Derek Stepan sooner rather than later and for those two to finally pick up where they left off last year.

So what does this all mean? Well as most have probably seen, Lindberg appears to be the odd man out tomorrow. Is it fair? No. Am I surprised? No I’m not. Someone has to sit. It isn’t going to be Kreider so until the Megna and/or Stalberg experiments end, fans probably won’t like who it is. (Side note: I have nothing against Megna. But until someone on the current roster is moved, I’m not sure how he has a permanent spot in the lineup.)

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Comings + Goings For Rangers Before Game Vs Jets

The Rangers got some good injury updates before their game in Winnipeg against the Jets. First, the big news:

Welcome back, Derek Stepan!

It’s not a secret the Rangers have missed their first line center as they went 3-5-2 since he was injured. He will probably be playing with Chris Kreider so here’s to hoping that helps wake up the slumping winger. As for who is out, Vigneault said a couple of guys have bumps and bruises so one would be taken out. Looks like the lucky party is Oscar Lindberg. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vigneault just wanted to rest him as the rookie has been off the past few games. (UPDATE: I was right as after game they announced he was a healthy scratch. Not sure anyone could argue it wasn’t deserved.)

In other injury news, Vigneault gave an update on Antti Raanta saying the goaltender was feeling better and is day-to-day. The thing with head injuries is you just never know. While the Rangers clearly need their backup, I’m just hoping they wait until he is fully recovered.

As for the defense, Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi are still out. Klein was placed on IR retroactive to November 30th (meaning he can play whenever he’s ready) because the Rangers needed a roster spot. And why was that?

The big discussion last night was how would the team replace Raanta without any cap space. The solution?

I had a feeling no matter what Brady Skjei was headed down in the next 24 hours so as to be in Hartford when the roster freeze came into place. While it was clear he needs a little more seasoning, the main reasons he was sent down was his cap hit ($925k) and the fact he played five games in seven days after last night. Since Klein and Girardi aren’t ready, the Rangers needed another defenseman so up comes Chris Summers at $600k. That extra space allowed the team to bring up Magnus Hellberg ($625k) to back up Lundqvist. You know the saying “every penny counts”? Well they really do for the Rangers right now.

The good news is the team should be getting almost all of their regulars back by the Christmas break. Here’s to hoping no one else goes down any time soon. Oh and that a full roster gets the boys back in the win column on a regular basis.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Need 21 Seconds To Beat Avs

Most games have a feel to them. After sitting through three periods, you know if you just watched a good or a bad game. The Rangers didn’t play bad tonight. In fact, they played a pretty solid game. But for some reason, I can’t say it was a good overall game. I guess it was a good road game for the boys in blue.

Before we get to the game, one lineup change to mention as Rick Nash tweaked his back in practice yesterday and missed the game tonight. The team doesn’t seem overly concerned so I’m not either. It’s November. If he has a tweak, let him rest for a couple of days rather than allowing it to linger all season. Nash out meant that Emerson Etem would get another chance and this time a big one as he slipped into Nash’s spot on a line with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. I can’t say I noticed him much during the game so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

The defense stayed the same as Dylan McIlrath got another game. Vigneault admitted he spoke to Dan Boyle and said with his age that he would probably rest him at times when the Rangers have a condensed schedule. I’m sure that was a fun conversation. Boyle is expected back tomorrow so this will just be a rotation for a little while.

Now onto the game.

The first period…happened. It wasn’t a bad period by any means for the Rangers. There just wasn’t a lot to talk about either. Kevin Hayes took a dumb penalty a little less than seven minutes into the period which helped give the Avalanche the lead but otherwise the visitors looked like the better team for most of the period. They just couldn’t find the equalizer.

It looked like the second period was going to be the opposite as the Avalanche came out flying. But it didn’t last and the Rangers once again looked like the better team as the home team proceeded to ice the puck more than the Rangers did versus the Caps in the second period the other night.

Twelve minutes into the period, the Rangers got their first power play of the game. And yes, I’m calling it a power play because it actually looked competent. Oh and they scored on it too as Mats Zuccarello made a beautiful pass to Derek Stepan who rifled it so hard the puck was in and out before anyone could blink. If that wasn’t enough, exactly 21 seconds later, Oscar Lindberg did this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020197-274-ingame-h

I still have no idea how that puck got in the net but the rookie is making quite a name for himself.

Of course, the Rangers can’t have all good things as less than a minute later, Chris Kreider took a stupid retaliation penalty. (Duchene tripped him so he turned around and tripped him back.) My first reaction when watching it was to scream at my TV “I thought the dumb was out of your game Kreider!”. I guess it still appears occasionally. Fortunately the Rangers killed it.

They also killed off a penalty to Lindberg at the end of the period. I would say they killed off an Avalanche penalty to start the third period but that power play wasn’t horrible. They shouldn’t have had the power play though as Dominic Moore definitely helped that call. He needs to be careful as that wasn’t the first time he’s done that. At some point he will stop getting calls if he keeps it up.

Somehow, as the period went on the Avalanche, after playing last night in Arizona, found their legs and pressured the Rangers in their zone. Then with a little over five minutes remaining, Kevin Klein put the puck over the glass. The Rangers seem to like doing that this year. I can think of at least three times late in the third in a tied or one goal game they have done it so far this season.

Fortunately the Rangers managed to kill it. Unfortunately Klein wasn’t done with his dumb plays as he and Marc Staal tried to kill time by passing the puck back and forth in the defensive zone. The Avalanche weren’t pleased but from a Rangers perspective, that play was fine. Unfortunately once he decided to actually move the puck, he iced it. The next shift wasn’t pretty for the visitors but they got out of it and shortly afterwards took the 2-1 victory. (I’m going to ignore the hilarious over passing to avoid getting the empty net goal.)

Next up the Rangers get no rest as they went straight to Arizona after the game for a match with the Coyotes tomorrow night. My guess is Nash will remain out of the lineup for one more game but that hasn’t been made official yet. Boyle is supposed to come back in but McIlrath was solid so we’ll see what happens there. Either way the boys now have a four game winning streak and have points in eight straight games. Not bad for a team we all can agree hasn’t hit their stride yet.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Ride First Period To Third Straight Win

Three games, six points. Rangers fan really shouldn’t complain.

Yet there I was at MSG wondering why it looked like the team was trying to lose the game late in the second and throughout the third period. On my way home I remembered it’s the start of the season and the boys were on the second half of a back-to-back and three in four days. Now it makes a little more sense. I just hope it was more that it was early in the season because the team has a lot of back-to-backs this year.

With it being the home opener, the Rangers had their usual pregame festivities. This time we got an actual blue carpet that most of the guys ran down. The ones who didn’t? Rick Nash stopped and signed for anyone who asked. Dylan McIlrath and Emerson Etem stopped for a few pictures and autographs. Dominic Moore and Antti Raanta snuck in through the garage which made everyone do a double take when they were talking to Kevin Weekes and Alyonka Larionov. Oh and Henrik Lundqvist was never seen. Everyone else tried to run down the line as quickly as they possibly could. I get they have their routines and don’t want to ruin them but I’ve honestly never seen some of them move that fast.

Then came pregame in the building. Everyone was talking up the “incredible” lights show we were going to see on the ice. It was nice but there wasn’t anything spectacular about it. It is about time the Rangers figured out how to do that. I did like how they showed each player on the ice during intros. I also liked that everyone on the roster got to skate on the ice. It made for a great team picture (shown above).

Next came the game. There was one lineup change as Tanner Glass replaced Jesper Fast. Before the game, Vigneault hinted that players were banged up. Afterwards he admitted he wanted a physical presence in the lineup tonight. I’m not sure if it worked or the Blue Jackets just decided to play hockey but there wasn’t nearly as much hitting as their was last night.

While the Rangers weathered the storm in Columbus, the Blue Jackets weren’t able to do the same in New York. Just 1:20 into the period, the Blue Jackets turned over the puck to Kevin Hayes right in front of Bobrovsky. Hayes was unable to score but Oscar Lindberg found the rebound and buried it for his third goal of the season. (This is because I questioned if he should make the team, isn’t it? Okay, I give. The hype was warranted. I still don’t expect this streak to continue but no question he belongs in the lineup.)

Four minutes later, J.T. Miller made yet another perfect pass across the crease trying to find Lindberg. He did, as the puck hit Lindberg’s skate and went straight in the net. They reviewed it but if they had called this one a “distinct kicking motion”, I think there would’ve been a riot at MSG. There was no kick in sight.

Thirty seconds later, Dominic Moore got into the action with a perfect redirection of a Jarret Stoll pass. Moore was psyched and just six minutes into the game, the building was jumping and the Rangers had a 3-0 lead.

At that point, I really wondered if Bobrovsky would come out. He didn’t and thirty second later, Dan Boyle took what is beginning to seem like his dumb penalty of the night. All I could think was “please let’s not look back as this being the turning point in the game”. I am 95% positive the Blue Jackets scored during that power play. Unfortunately there was no way to prove it because the puck got stuck in Henrik Lundqvist’s equipment which led to some funny moments. (Lundqvist had no clue where it was so he just had to stick his hand everywhere and try to rattle as much as he could until he found it. Yes it was as funny as it sounds.)

All that action and we weren’t even halfway through the first period. Roughly around the halfway mark, Kevin Hayes got hit by Jack Johnson and gingerly made his way to the bench. I didn’t see the hit but did see Hayes dangle with the puck, then go down and have trouble getting off the ice. I honestly thought he twisted his knee or ankle with how he moved. But it was a hit and he headed to the locker room for a bit. Fortunately he returned before the end of the period.

With less than three minutes remaining in the period and the Rangers killing another dumb penalty, this time by Moore, Rick Nash got a shorthanded breakaway and was hooked before he could get a shot off. The referees didn’t hesitate to call a penalty shot. As he got ready to take the shot, you could see he was nervous so I wasn’t expecting it to go well. It didn’t and the score remained 3-0 with the fans giving the team a standing ovation as the buzzer sounded a few minutes later.

Then came the second period. I remember two things about the second period and they both happened in the last 90 seconds. First came “the save”:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=843818

That’s what I’m calling that from now on as I’m sure it will be discussed all year. I still have no idea how he stopped that other than the Hockey Gods decided the Rangers deserved to win this game. Miller said it best:

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About 25 seconds later, Brandon Saad took a penalty. It took the Rangers eight seconds to run the play they had set off the face-off and push the lead to 4-0. The puck made it’s way back to Keith Yandle who passed to Dan Boyle who found Derick Brassard for the goal. It was beautiful. It also made me wonder how the same players can do a play like that one night and then have dreadful power kills the next.

As the third period began, I just hoped they weren’t planning to fall into a defensive trap for 20 minutes. The Blue Jackets did try to make a change as McElhinney replaced Bobrovsky. It didn’t work as 90 seconds into the period, Chris Kreider found Derek Stepan and it was 5-0. Then the defensive trap started.

I don’t think they attempted it intentionally, I think they really just ran out of gas. Three minutes later, the shutout was over as a misplay by Lundqvist ended with the rest of the team watching as the Blue Jackets put the puck in the net. (I honestly blame all six Rangers on the ice for that goal.)

Four minutes later, Scott Hartnell did what Scott Hartnell does and ran Lindberg by the Columbus bench. Viktor Stalberg didn’t like it and jumped him. After the scrum, the Rangers somehow ended up with a power play which they effectively used to kill the clock. Then the referees decided every penalty the Blue Jackets took wasn’t a penalty but anything the Rangers did was. Let me be clear, the two penalties called on the Rangers were penalties. The referees just missed a few blatant ones against the visitors.

First it was Stoll for tripping. I have no idea what Ryan McDonagh was doing in the crease during the penalty kill but he had a perfect view of Jenner’s goal. And he didn’t like it so he ran his mouth and was then escorted to the penalty box. (I’m assuming that’s what he did as he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.) Fortunately the Rangers somehow killed that and the remaining four minutes of the period to take the 5-2 victory.

The last time the Rangers won their home opener? 2009. Is it too early to say that maybe this year will be something special? Either way, the boys have six out of a possible six points to start the season. Next up is two days off before the red-hot Jets come into town. After that, it’s a trip to Montreal for the Canadiens opener. I’m assuming at least one of those games will be a loss but for now, I’m going to enjoy this little streak they are on.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)