Rangers Lose Isles + Penguins In One Sweep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Photo: Melissa Andus)


Stepan Leads Rangers Past Jackets, Talbot For McDonald

I know it’s a week early but I feel like I just witnessed a playoff game. And I don’t care what position the Blue Jackets are in. I was sure before tonight that it was due to injuries but now I’m convinced. If they stay healthy next year, they will be a problem for the entire league.

And I know they had nothing to play for tonight but you couldn’t tell. They looked like this game meant everything. Fortunately the home team showed up with a similar effort giving the 18,000 fans as MSG tonight quite a hockey game. Sure I would’ve liked the outcome to be decided a little earlier but it was a fitting end to a great hockey game.

Before the game was everyone’s favorite ceremony – the presentation of the Steven McDonald award. I honestly think this is the first year in a while that everyone was in agreement on the winner, proven by the ovation Cam Talbot received after being announced to receive the award.


But my favorite part of the ceremony isn’t seeing who wins, it’s watching and listening to Steven McDonald. The man is such an inspiration and to be able to come out each year to make sure he is there when the award is presented is truly incredible. He also always has some great words for the boys. This year it was simple – we want a parade in June. I’m trying not to get my hopes up but I’m getting to the point that I will be severely disappointed if we don’t. I also really loved that he mentioned Brandon Dubinsky being a past winner. I’m sure that made him smile.

I can sit and talk about that all post but it was a busy game so let’s get to it.

Just five and a half minutes in, Kevin Hayes came down the ice against Justin Falk. Yes, that Justin Falk. Yes, I screamed “It’s Justin Falk, shoot the damn puck!”. Hayes waited and then attempted to shoot but instead flubbed the shot. Fortunately Marty St. Louis was trailing and put in the rebound to give the Rangers the lead.

Three minutes later, the Rangers got into some penalty trouble allowing Columbus a chance to get back in the game after taking back to back penalties. I’m pretty sure the Blue Jackets didn’t have a shot in those four minutes. I’m almost okay with how bad their power play is if the penalty kill stays that good. (They get more chances down a man than up a man anyway.)

But with a little over two minutes remaining in the period, a bad defensive play by Ryan McDonagh led to Columbus tying the game. Unfortunately Tanner Glass had a wide open opportunity right before that he whiffed on leading to the puck going the other way. But McDonagh had to play Calvert better than he did.

The teams went to intermission tied and I just hoped the Rangers would actually play the second period. It took just 36 seconds for them to regain the lead as Chris Kreider got the puck to Derek Stepan who found a pinching Dan Girardi with one of his perfect cross ice passes for the goal. It really was a great play.

Eight minutes later, the Rangers got their first power play. It was actually a power play as it did everything but score. Of course because it didn’t score, Goloubef came out of the box and in on Henrik Lundqvist all alone but Lundqvist made the save. And we were worried if he would have enough time to get his game back. Didn’t even take a week.

The Blue Jackets would take another penalty a minute after their first ended. That one…wouldn’t go as well. That one was the definition of a power kill. Lundqvist also had to make a shorthanded breakaway save, which he fortunately did. A minute after that penalty ended, instead of taking another one, the Blue Jackets tied the game on another bad defensive play by the Rangers. Notice a pattern here? That was the one negative tonight. Any time the Rangers got caught in their zone, Columbus made them pay.

The teams would once again head to intermission tied and I had no idea what to expect from the third period.

Rangers would get another power kill five minutes into the third. I honestly have no idea how one power play can look so good and every one after that could look the exact opposite. A little over a minute after it ended, the Blue Jackets would head up the ice and make a great play to take their first lead of the night. The fact it was Dubinsky who got the goal made a lot of people think it would end up being the game winner.

And it looked like it would be as while the Rangers tried to find the equalizer, Bobrovsky wasn’t letting anything past him. It wasn’t as if the Rangers didn’t have chances. I remember a bunch that looked close to being the one only to be stopped by the reigning Vezina winner. With 55 seconds to go, we all believed it was over as Bobrovsky absolutely robbed Dan Girardi of his second goal of the game. (I don’t know if he’s ever had a two-goal game but he came very close tonight.)

Then, with the clock winding down, the Rangers finally found the goal they were looking for. Chris Kreider must be watching his linemates and alternate captains, as he made a cross-crease pass to Derek Stepan that both would’ve been proud of. It was perfect, on the tape and allowed Stepan to just tap it into the wide open net to tie the game.


And to overtime we went. Both teams had chances with Lundqvist making another save that elicited “Henrik, Henrik” chants and Bobrovsky causing fans to throw their heads back as much as the home team was. Then with time winding down, it was Stepan again as he forced a turnover in the Columbus zone and got the puck to the point. Keith Yandle took a shot with the rebound bouncing into the crease. Kreider stopped the Blue Jackets from getting a hold of it and Stepan swooped in, waited and put it through Bobrovsky’s legs for the game winner. This team just finds a way to win, every time.

One note about overtime as we wonder how far some of the young guys have come this year? Kevin Hayes being on the ice was no surprise. Kreider out with Stepan was a little surprising. J.T. Miller getting a shift with Rick Nash made my jaw drop. So glad to see the kids finally getting rewarded. And they’ve both earned it.

With the win, the Rangers have 51 wins and 107 points. Tomorrow they can do the following when they head to Newark:

  • Tie the franchise win record which is currently 52 wins.
  • One point gets them the Eastern Conference title.
  • Two points, no matter how they get them, gets them the President’s Trophy.

The Rangers can clinch the President’s Trophy in game 80. No big deal. But no wonder they are the favorites right now. I’ve said it all month and I’ll say it again, I just hope this continues for another two and a half months.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Lightning Strikes As Rangers Weather Hurricane

As I watched the first few minutes of this game, I was taken back to March 11th when I was sitting in PNC Arena watching these same two teams “play” hockey. It wasn’t pretty then and it wasn’t pretty tonight as I prepared myself for what looked to be a long night at MSG.

I don’t know what happened but something clicked to the boys in blue. Sure it helped that the Hurricanes looked like they were already planning their first trip to the golf course but the Rangers suddenly had moments where they realized they were the better team on the ice. And while it was far from pretty or a 60-minute effort, they did enough to secure two points. And at this point in the season, that’s all that matters.

One quick lineup note as yesterday the Rangers called up Jesper Fast to give the team a little more offense. Watching him tonight, I’m not sure if it was nerves or he isn’t ready but he always looked a step behind. (Although that’s impressive when you have Richards as your linemate.) I will be interested to see if he gets another chance against Buffalo on Thursday or if Carcillo is back in. Honestly not sure which move I would make.

The evening started on a high note with NYC police officer Steven McDonald making his annual visit. I honestly believe the fans like seeing him more than hearing who wins the award. I love how quiet the building gets knowing he always has some great words of wisdom. This year he talked about how there are no easy victories and that no one knows that better than the Rangers and their fans. (That might be the understatement of the year.) He then suggested the team remember what it means to perform above and beyond for the next two months and hopefully the Cup will be ours. One year he will get to see it again.

After that his son said the award went to a “small man” and the Zuccarello chants were in full force. Last year I was stemming after the winner was announced. This year, I couldn’t agree more with the decision.

Of course the Rangers can never ride the waive a pre-game ceremony brings as they started out as flat as they did Saturday night. It cost them a little over three minutes in as Dwyer was left wide open to give the Canes the lead. I wish I could say that woke the team up but they really didn’t look much better for most of the period.

Then with 4:25 remaining in the period, the fourth line drew a power play right after stepping on the ice. I considered it a double loss as it meant the fourth line lost their shift and we had to watch what I expected to be the Rangers power kill. Nine seconds later we had a tie game as Richards had his first of the evening. It was a great shot so I will take nothing away from him for that. But I think the goal would’ve happened in five seconds if he had shot the puck as soon as he got it. Instead he played with it for a few seconds and Cam Ward, who isn’t having a good year, gave him an opening and he took it. That finally gave the team some life.

The Canes got chances after the goal but at least the boys looked like they cared about the game. Zuccarello almost gave the Rangers the lead late in the period but he whiffed on a shot from the side of the net that should’ve been an easy tap in. Instead the puck rolled near the goal line and was swatted out by a Carolina defender allowing the teams to go to intermission tied at one.

But the Rangers came out in the second wanting to take over the game and just fifty seconds in they did as Zuccarello made a beautiful pass to Pouliot for his 14th of the season. I will be completely honest and admit I wanted Zuccarello to shoot when he got the puck. But I give the little guy credit as while he may have scored, Pouliot had a wide open net and he was able to find him.

The teams traded chances for the next thirteen minutes. Then Jeff Skinner decided to tempt fate and take the Canes second penalty of the night. The Rangers set up again and while it took 32 seconds, Richards rifled another one, this time from the point, for his 20th of the season. I don’t know what got into Richards tonight but that puck had eyes. I’m actually surprised he didn’t get the hat trick, although he definitely tried.

Four and a half minutes into the third, the Rangers put the game away as St. Louis fed Stepan for an easy tap in he didn’t miss, giving St. Louis three assists on the evening (he assisted on all goals except the one by Pouliot) and his first multi-point game as a Ranger. It only took 18 games.

The Rangers did have a power kill halfway through the third and honestly most of the third period looked like a power kill but fortunately for them, the Canes had given up so the three goal lead was enough. The good news was that not only did the Rangers not take a penalty all night (okay, didn’t get called for one all night as they got away with a few) but Richards and St. Louis were noticeable for the first time in weeks. If they keep that up, it could only mean good things for the Rangers going forward. That said, not to put a damper on a good night, but if the boys played the way most of them did tonight against a team that showed even a little effort, there might have been a different outcome.

But a win is a win and the Rangers are now two points closer to securing home ice in the first round. Another two points (either gained by them or lost by I believe only Columbus at this point), will secure a non-wild card seed. In my opinion, that’s more important than home ice as the Rangers do not want to face Boston in the first round. Then again, if they play like they did for most of tonight it won’t matter who they play against. I don’t mean that in a good way.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Ryan Callahan Gives “Extra Effort” As Rangers Win

One of these guys had a great game tonight. The other, not so much. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

One of these guys had a great game tonight. The other, not so much. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

In what was a more or a less must win game, the Rangers came out and did something surprising – they actually won. Convincingly too. Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy all of it. Why was that? Cause I was pissed at the Rangers fan base.

Before the game, the Rangers presented the annual Steven McDonald award. I love listening to him speak and tonight was no different as he asked that we dedicate the rest of the season to Martin Richard, the eight year old Bruins fan who died in the bombings on Monday. Then he told the Rangers to make that one extra play to make this season memorable. All was well.

Then his son took the mic and said Ryan Callahan won the award again. Are you serious Rangers fans? Do you even watch the games? Honestly I want someone to look me in the eye with a straight face and tell me Callahan deserved it this year. I love him. I do. But he didn’t deserve it this year. I know he’s playing injured but I don’t care. There are guys who have shown more effort, who were just plain better. I was honestly fuming till the end of the first period. I’m still pissed but knowing Tortorella said Stepan deserved it makes me feel a little bit better.

Okay, rant over. But I haven’t forgiven you guys for this. As for the game, the captain finally was himself so if winning that award woke him up, I guess I can accept it. But only cause we need him so it was nice of him to help out in the first period as he finally looked like the Callahan I know and love.

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