Friday, February 27, 2015

First Place!

Will you look at that?  Take a long look at the Metro Division standings because your New York Rangers are sitting at the top of it.  It was a long climb – it may not last long- but it is what it is – a great moment in a great Ranger season.

And how did we get here? It’s a long and happy story – but the latest reason is that we overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 in regulation.

Cam (9-1-2 since Hank went down) was again in net.and let in another early goal to put us down 1-0 in the game’s first minute.  But at 8:11 Chris Kreider on the power play took a tremendous feed pass from the rising Kevin Hayes and beat Mike Smith (that’s a Hockey Goalie name – sounds like witness protection)  to tie the game at one.

But your Rangers could not leave well enough alone.  The usually unflappable Martin St;. Louis was called for a tripping penalty and then Kevin Klein passed the puck to a fan instead of one of his teammates and was called for a Delay-O-Game sandwich. 

Five on Three?  Well, what’s the worst that could happen?  Uh, that would be a pair of goals for the Coyotes which is what they got – both by Sam Gagner and the Rangers were in a bigger hole now – down 3-1 after one.

But this Rangers team has shown they can score and come back and as we know – goals can forgive all sins.

In the second period – ladies and gents – its Lee Stempniak – deflecting a John Moore snap shot and we’re only down 3-2.  And then – once again – on the power play – Chris Kreider made the pla of the game – pouncing on a loose puck – taking the puck end to end for the breakaway – and then buring his own rebound off the initial Smith save to tie the game at 3.

On to the 3rd period!  Mike Smith lost his stick and Kevin Hayes did a semi spin-a-rama which Smith was able to save.  But the defenseman covering Lee Stempniak tripped over Smith’s stick befind the goal and Lee found himself alone in front.  His initial shot hit Smith’s pads but Lee tried again with the backhand and at with 2;14 left the Rangers had fought back to a 4-3 lead.

But we never do things the easy way and Marty St. Louis was called for hooking at 18:39.  The Coyotes pulled Smith for a 6 on 4.  It was a fast and furious finish – with Captain Ryan McDonagh flopping on the ice like a second goalie – but in the end the Rangers won and thanks to tiebreakers – we are in first place.

Arizona won the faceoff battle 43-25 and once again this stat seems to mean nothing.  We were outshot 40-38.  Cam stopped 37 of those for a .925 save percentage.

What Did We Learn?
We learned that a guy named Lee Stempniak is apparently a contributing part of this hockey team

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  Two for Hayes.  One each for Moore and Zuccarello, 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We were 2 of 3.  They were 2 of 5.  So I don’t know.

Where Do We Stand?  First place, dude!

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Down the pike to Philly on Saturday.

Non-Sequitur of the day: It is definitely White and Gold - not Black and Blue - okay?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No Lundqvist? No Nash? No Problem – Rangers beat Flames 1-0

It started out ominously.  Rick Nash, the Rangers star forward who has been a real pain in the neck to opponents all season – was unable to play because of a pain in the neck of his own.  They’re calling it day-to-day and let’s hope it is NOTHING like Henrik Lundqvist’s pain in the neck that has resulted in an extended absence.

So the Ranger took to the home ice last night without their TWO best players against a Calgary Flame team desperately trying to get into the playoffs.

Vigneault replaced Nash on the top line with 3rd line center rookie Kevin Hayes.  And he backfilled the third line center position with Hartford rookie Oscar Lindberg.

If you like stoppages – this was the game for you.  Icing.  Offsides.  This contest had them all and as a result - pretty much no offensive flow for either team.   There were – get this – 65 faceoffs with the Rangers winning almost half of them.  Of course – if you think the Rangers can’t win faceoffs – that would lead opponents to not care if they ice the puck – but hopefully this won’t be an ongoing thing we have to face.

And once again Vigneault looked like the best coach on hockey – his bold move putting Hayes at a left wing position he had never really played in college paid off with Hayes’ 5th goal in 8 games – and what turned out to be the game winner.  Brassard stole the puck in the Flame’s zone and passed it to an open Hayes in the right circle.  Hayes launched a nasty-quick shot that beat the otherwise stellar Karri Ramo (double letters in his first name) for the game’s only tally.

From there it was the Cam Talbot show as Hank’s replacement upped his post-Henrik record to an amazing 8-1-2 (that is 18 of a possible 22 points).  Cam was aided by the Ranger defense and the 65 stoppages and had to make just 21 saves to win the game.  It was Talbot’s 4th shutout of the season. 

What Did We Learn?  Good question.  We learned the Hayes may be a rising star, that Cam can still shut guys out, that Lindberg was not bad as a third line center, that J. T. Miller was in his first NHL fight, and that Vigneault is a great hockey coach. 

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  Just Brassard’s – with the steal and pass that led to our only goal.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Why yes.  The Rangers killed off both Flames’ powerplay and, incredibly, were not shorthanded the entire game!

Where Do We Stand?  Can you believe it?  37-16-6. (8-1-2 post Hank).  Do we even have to look down anymore?  We have 80 points – 15 up on 9th place Florida.  3 points up on Pittsburgh.  4 points up on Washington.  Looking up – still 2 points back of the Islanders with 3 games at hand.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Thursday it's Arizona at MSG.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Keith Olberman suspended again.  I like the guy – but sometimes he’s his own “worst person in the world”

Thanks – Dave Pucks out.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rangers get and lose a 3 goal lead - Beat Columbus 4-3 in Shootout

The Rangers had a 3-0 lead over Columbus.  A goal by Hayes and then a pair by the suddenly hot Marty St. Louis (including one impossible angle where he banked it off the goalie) and things were looking good.

But these are the Rangers – and specifically the post-Lundqvist Rangers and so by 15:41 of the third the dreaded three goal lead was a 3-3 tie.
The Rangers managed just one shot in the third period and we were headed to overtime.

The extra period was wild - with 9 shots on goal – six by the Rangers but no goals.  So – for the 2nd Cam game in a row – we were headed to the dreaded (that rhymed) shootout.
On Thursday – the Rangers and Cam did so badly in the shootout that it only took 2 rounds to finish the game.

This time the Rangers were determined to do better.

Marty St. Louis fluttered one between  McElhinney’s arm and leg.  And I’m going to name that a “Baby Hat Trick” (two regulation goals plus one in the shootout)

J.T Miller hit the post and Ryan Johansen tried to become the 4th consecutive player to score on Cam Talbot in the shootout. 

But the Blue Jacket I call Mark “L’testtube” beat Cam and it was 1-1.

Then J.T Miller hit the post.

And so Ryan Johansen tried to become the 4th consecutive player to score on Cam Talbot in the shootout.  He beat Cam and Sam Rosen called it a goal – but the crossbar saved us and it was 1-1 after two rounds.

Then Rick Nash tried something everyone else tries – but for Rick it worked.  A simple move to the forehand and a snap shot and the Rangers were up 2-1.

With the Garden fans on their feet cheering on Talbot, Cam Atkinson advanced (yes it was Cam on Cam).  Talbot got aggressive, tried a poke check and  somehow came away with his first real shootout save in 5 tries and the Rangers somehow pulled out another win. 

Uh, A Little Help?  Two assists for Stepan and singles for Staal, McDonagh and Hagelin.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Why do you keep asking about this?  Rangers were 0-4 on the power play but 3 for 3 on the kill.  If we’d scored on one of the those 4 attempts we could have put the game away.

Where Do We Stand?  It’s an amazing 36-16-6.  (7-1-2 in our last 10).  That puts us at 78 points, just 2 points back of the Islanders for first place with a full three games at hand.  Looking down we are 14 points up on the Panthers – who themselves only lead the streaking Flyers by a point.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Tuesday night its Calgary at MSG.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Some nice moments for ex-Rangers Asimov and Dubinsky. 

Enjoy this season, Ranger fans, this is a special one.  Dave Pucks out and thanks for reading

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Skapski Era Begins? Rangers win 3-1

Mackenzie Skapski – the 20 year Old Hartford Whaler was called up to the Rangers when Henrik Lundqvist went out with his vascular injury.  And Friday night he got his Ranger debut.  14 seconds later it was 1-0 Buffalo and it wasn’t Mackenzie’s fault in the least.

"And the home of the....GOAL!".  At least it felt that quick.

Matt Moulson was parked in front - unguarded – he got the puck and well – welcome to the NHL kid!

But, from there Skapski’s save percentage begin climbing in leaps and bounds.  It rocketed up of 0.000 to 0.500.  and the  to 0.667.  Then 0.750.  Then .800. And then more complicated numbers that Dave Pucks can’t figure out in his head. 

But by the end it was 0.960, tying him, hilariously, for the lead among all NHL goalies. 
The Rangers, meanwhile, rallied around the kid and won 3-1 against a Sabre team that has only won 3 of their last 10. 

I’ll say it again – I think Vigneault is a GREAT hockey coach.  The back-to-back wasn’t just a convenient way to work in Skapski and give Cam a rest – it was a wake-up call to the Ranger’s that they have to play a little defense if they want to consistently win hockey games. And it gave Cam a little down time after giving up 9 goals in two games.  Just what the hockey doctors ordered.

And for one game anyway – they appeared to do just that – limiting Buffalo to 25 shots (while taking 43 of their own).  This was a rare game where the Rangers won the face off battle and the hockey game – and it seemed for long stretches that the Sabre simply could not get the puck.

Hagelin scored the first Ranger goal on a breakaway and it was 1-1 after one.

In the 2nd period’s first minute, Brassard found Rick Nash alone in the right circle and Ricky netted number 37, continuing one of the best Ranger seasons we’ve seen from anyone in a long time.

And 7 minutes Nash broke in on Michal Neuvirth, skated past him to the left side and launched a tough angle shot.  Neuvirth made the initial save but let up a costly rebound to the advancing Mats Zuccarello.  The Norwegian Nuisance smacked the puck and we were 3-1.

The third period was scoreless and you have your win. 
Uh, A Little Help?  Two assists by Brassard, and one each for JT Miller, Staal, Boyle, and Nash. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  The Rangers squandered an extended 5 on 3 – but in the end we were 0-4 and the Sabre were 0-3 so no harm done.

Where Do We Stand?  It’s 34-16-6

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  It’s 35-16-6.  2nd place in the Metro. 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  We are two weeks into our three week Hank injury evaluation.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Happened? Rangers Lose 5-4 in the Shootout to the Canucks.

Returning home from an amazing road trip featuring 22 goals in 4 games and a 4 game win streak the Rangers proudly took to their home ice to take on the Vancouver Canucks

The Rangers had a 1-0 lead.  They lost it.

They had a 2-1 lead.  They lost that.  In fact they trailed 3-2 in the third. 

But then they struck back for a pair and lead 4-3.  Their third lead of the night.

They lost that too and then lost in the Shootout.

I guess – if you’re going to lose – that’s a good way.  Lots of goals and excitement.  And you get 1 of a possible 2 points.  So the nights not a total loss

Also interesting was the fact that we did as badly as you can possible do in the shootout.  Both Zuccarello and Stepan decided to shoot into Ryan Miller’s pads while Cam didn’t stop either shot that came his way.  It was so bad that they stopped the shootout after two rounds because it was already over. 

The best moment for me was when the Garden began chanting “Talbot, Talbot, Talbot”.  But it was short lived.  Cam’s save percentage was 0.857 tonight and I think it’s safe to say this was a game Henrik Lundqvist would have found a way to win.

And of course – we won the faceoff battle 32-29, proving yet again that face off wins is an incredibly overrated stat.   

On the bright side – great to see goals by

 Marty St. Louis (a great backhand to forehand move around the defenseman. 
·         Rick Nash on a Brassard fueled breakaway.  That 37!
·         Hagelin on a nice deflection, and
·         Stepan on a perfect pass from St Louis from behind the end line.  (that was two goals by the no-longer-slumping Stepan line)

But sloppy defense and, well, four goals wasn’t enough.  Oh well.

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  Well, okay.  2 for Girardi and one each for Brassard, Stepan, St. Louis, Zuccarello AND Hagelin.  You know this loss really felt like a win.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  I think new can say yes this time.  Rangers were 0-3, Canucks were 1 for 1.  So yeah – we lost the game right there.   

Where Do We Stand?  It’s 34-16-6 and I would have totally signed up for that if it was offered to me at the start of the season.  The shootout loss gets us to 74 points – good for 2nd in the metro.  We’re 5 points back of the Islanders with three games at hand.  The Caps are tied with us in point but also played three more.  And, in the feel good story of the day – the Penguins have dropped to 4th place.  Also we are 12 points up on the 9th place Panthers. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  It’s off to Buffalo for a game tomorrow night.  This is the downside of games-at-hand.  They come in bunches with less rest.

Non-Sequitur of the day:   The Rangers are somehow third in the league in offensive goals scored per game.  If we ever get Hank back we will be unstoppable.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Best Win Of The Season - Rangers Storm Back To Beat Islanders 6-5

Boys and Girls – that was the best Ranger victory of the season – one of the best hockey games I’ve seen in years – and proof-positive that this team is a 100% legit contender to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.  

Fighting a first place Islander team that has had their number this year – without their best player Henrik Lundqvist in goal – trailing all night – your New York Rangers rose from the dead not once, but twice to overcome three two goal deficits to tie the Nassau Nemeses and then exploding for the game winner late in the third to defeat the stunned Islanders 6-5 on their own Long Island Ice.

Make no mistake – this team can score.  We are now talking 22 goals in 4 games.  That’s two 6’s and two 5’s.  Vigneault has built this group – a unit that was supposed to not have the talent to compete for the cup – into a team that can fire the puck through the neutral zone – flood into the opponent’s zone with speed – move the puck – generate chances – and score, score and score again.

You pal Dave Pucks has been watching the Blue Shirts since that meant squinting at a ten once black & white TV at Jean Ratelle – and I have NEVER seen a Ranger team that could score like this.  You have three dangerous lines now – all of which can light the lamp.  To put this another way – you get six goals – and folks – you can take your chances.

This was a hockey game that not only seemed like a playoff game – it almost felt like an entire playoff series.  11 goals.  Sam Rosen at 14:20 of the 2nd actually called it, saying “this could be a 6-5 game”.

It only took the Islanders 11 seconds to take the lead as Tavares, the Islanders best player, intercepted Talbot’s attempted pass from behind the net and John shot the puck cleanly into the net before Cam could get back to the crease.   Nielson added the Islanders 2nd goal at 11:46 and it was a two goal lead.

It was the captain, Ryan McDonagh, who got the Rangers started in the right direction.   The Ranger defenseman took a long Halak rebound and rifled it in from the right circle to cut the lead to 2-1.

On to the second period, where at 1:20 Johnny Boychuk beat Cam with slap shot from the blue line and it was 3-1.  But in the period’s 4th minute the Rangers rose up and changed this hockey game:

First - Dan Boyle passes the puck to Derek Stepan and the Ranger center delivers the puck 
to Chris Kreider who crossed the blue line and just flat-out beak Halak with a long wrister that clanged off the post and in.  The goal shook the islanders and ignited the Rangers – who scored again just 23 seconds later.

This time it was the captain’s 2nd of the night.  J. T. Miller slide the puck near the blue line to Ryan – who shot it through traffic and past the rocked Islander goalie to, incredibly, tie the contest at 3-3.

But – to the Islander’s credit – they regrouped and then regained the momentum after a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty by the Rangers.  We fought off the extra man attack for the full 2 minutes – but in thr seconds afterwards – Ryan Strome beat an exhausted Rangers defense and Cam Talbot – and the Islanders had regained the lead escaping the third period up 4-3.

So –on to a third period that would feature 4 more goals and the game’s only lead change.
For the third time – the Islanders scored the first goal of a period.  The Rangers had put on sustained pressure for three minutes but the Islander defense held.  Then a costly turnover by Dan Boyle gave our opponents a 3 on 1 break – which they cashed in to rebuild a two goal lead, 5-3 with 3:43 gone in the third.

But if this game was over – someone forget to tell the New York Rangers.  It was the Stepan line that got things started.  Chris Kreider came flying up the right side of the ice and brilliantly shoveled a no-look backwards pass to the trailing Derek Stepan – surprising everyone on the ice – possibly including Derek himself.  Stepan took the puck and fired a quick from the right circle that beat Halak and at 6:25 of the third the deficit was cut to one once again at 5-4. 

The Rangers had regained the momentum and were coming at the Islanders in waves now. 

And less than two minutes later – magic happened: 

Chris Kreider stole the puck in the neutral zone and Derek Stepan collected in and somehow the Rangers stayed onside (or did they) as the three forwards entered the Islanders zone together.  Stepan broke in on Halak and cleverly backhanded a pass across the ice tot the waiting Martin St. Louis.  The diminutive aging superstar was locked and loaded and ripped the puck at Halak who was trying to get his body into position.  But Marty – who had not scored in a month – could not have picked a better moment to bury this chance and tie the game, incredibly, at 5-5 at 8:02 of the third. 

And just like that – we had a tie hockey game.  With the lines jumbled on a long shift in the Islander’s zone, Brassard cut across the middle inside the blue line and headed left before rifling a cross ice pass to his right.  It came first to St. Louis who looked like a baseball hotter taking his m=homerun cut at a fast ball.  But the puck was by him before he could connect.  Halak had to react to Marty’s big swing and so was not fully prepared at the puck continued right to the stick of onrushing defenseman Kevin Klein.  Klein – who is having a career year – launched one of his patented fast and heavy shots and Halak could not handle it.

And when the ice chips had cleared it was – for the first time – the Rangers had taken a lead.  It was 6-5 and 15:28 and the Rangers and Talbot had their first lead to protect.   
They did some great work keeping the puck in the Islander end – but in the game’s final half minute they did attack the Rangers and Cam’s left post was called on to make a key save.  Shortly after that the final horn sounded and your New York Rangers had somehow scrambled back against a first place club to get their first win of the season against the Islanders and overcome a series of deficits to beat their rivals 6-5.

What a game.  And what a comeback by a gritty Ranger team.  Make no mistake – these guys can fly around the ice and score goals.  And when you can do that – you’re never out of a hockey game.  11 goals, 85 shots (42 by the Rangers). 

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  Oh yeah we got that:   2 for Stepan and one each for Girardi, Kreider, Boyle, Miller, Stempniak, Klein, Boyle and St. Louis.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No.  Officially we were 0-2 and and ne Islanders 0-3 with the man advantage. 

Where Do We Stand?  Oh baby – it’s 34-16-5. Looking down – the perennial 9th place Florida Panthers are now 13 points behind us.  And looking up, the news is, well, looking up.  We just passed Pittsburgh for 2nd place – we both have 73 points but the Rangers hold the game-at-hand.  And against the first place Islanders we are only 2 points back with two games at hand. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Home finally on Thursday to Vancouver.

So trap in folks – the Rangers are gunning for first place.  Thanks for reading – Dave Pucks out. 


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hank Who? Rangers win Vigneault’s 500th!

4-1-1.  That’s the Rangers’ record now since Henrik went down.  And tonight against the Arizona Coyotes the Rangers did several things really well:

Cam Talbot had his first truly dominant game since Hank went down with the vascular injury.  In the last three Cam’s save percentage was under 0.900 each time and the Rangers won by outscoring their opponents.  But tonight against Arizona, Cam was a stellar 0.971, stopping all but one of the 35 shots that came his way – including a penalty shot.

With the game 0-0 in the 2nd, the Stepan Line finally broke through for a goal in that period’s first minute.  Kevin Klein lifted the puck out of the Ranger zone perfectly to center Derek Stepan who got it on the stick of Chris Kreider wheo was breaking to the net.  Chris was able to beat the defense, cross in front of Mike Smith, and backhand the puck into the net 
for a 1-0 lead. 

Of course the Rangers gave one back for the 1-1- tie and that’s how we headed into the third.   And it was the NHL’s top scorer Rick Nash who put the Rangers ahead to stay.  Rick, alone on the right side, rifled the perfect shot upstairs for his 35th past Smith off the inside post for the 2-1 lead.

And then – rising rookie Kevin Hayes for the 2nd time in two games – took the puck the length of the ice to score.  Kevin on the penalty kill intercepted a shot between the circles and started up ice.  Hayes built up a head of steam, waited out a diving stickless defenseman, drove in on Smith and put the puck at a nearly impossible angle up and over the goalie’s shoulder for the 3-1 lead.  It was the first shorthanded goal of Hayes’ career.

The next goal started as a 3-on-2 break that the Rangers couldn’t quite finish.  The puck got behind Smith but not in the net and sat still on the ice for several long seconds.  Derek Stepan found it first and whacked at it to get the puck to Marc Staal who was trailing on the play.  Staal got the full wind up and buried the puck for a 4-1 lead.  On the replay it looks like Mart St. Louis has his stick up in celebration before the puck is shot in by Staal.  Can Marty see the future?  We may never know.

And there was yet another Ranger goal.  At 17:48 Lee Stempniak cashed in on a scramble in the crease and the Rangers had their 5-1 win.  You got to hand it to coach Vigneault – he has these Rangers flying and he collected a well-deserved 500th win as a head coach.  This is shaping up to be on of the best Ranger seasons in years.  And we have 16 goals in the last three games.  

Uh, A Little Help?  Another big assist night:  Two each for Stepan and Klein.  Single assists for St. Louis (finally), Hayes, Girardi, Brassard, and D. Moore. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No penalties called on the Coyotes and the Rangers killed off all three penalties – so special teams was a big part of the win.

Where Do We Stand?  32-16-5. Looking down – the perennial 9th place Florida Panthers are now 12 points behind us and fading.  And we hold a 3 point lead and game at hand against the Capitals.  Looking up, the Penguins are just one point ahead at us and have played one more game.  And the Islanders won again so they stay 4 points up on us although they have played two more games. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  The road trip rolls out to Long Island for a Monday night showdown with the hated Islanders.  The Nassau Nuisances have bested ous\r Rangers all three times they’ve met this year.  And that is the entire reason they occupy first place in the metro instead of us.   

Non Sequitur of the day.  This game concluded the “Dad’s Road Trip” the Rangers have been enjoying with their fathers.  It’s a great tradition that the nasty John Tortorella suspended but Vigneault has wisely reinstated.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Another Game, Another Nine Goals - Rangers win 6-3

The Post-Lundqvist Rangers rolled into Colorado to see how they would fare against the Avalanche.  (And why would a team name themselves after a natural disaster?  I mean, there are people walking around who have had loved ones lose their lives in avalanches.  What do those people think when they see this hockey teams name?)  (Editor – I think you’re getting off topic here.  Can you get back to the game?)  (Dave Pucks – sorry Ed, you’re right)

With Hank out a minimum of three weeks with a vascular issue, it’s all about Cam right now.  Vigneault has said that Talbot gives the rangers a chance to win every night.  But I think that also means he gives them a chance to lose….

The other sub-plot is the absence of the St. Louis – Stepan – Kreider line from the scorer’s sheet.  It’s been more than a month since Marty St. Louis netted a puck and this line - with our top center – seems to be doing nothing these days.  It’s been Hayes’ line (with J.T. Miller and Hagelin that has risen up to take their place as the Rangers  2nd best line.  Thank goodness for that or the Rangers would be in deep trouble.

Last night was another nine goal special.  The Rangers led 1-0 after one, 3-1 after two and then – the third period.  Colorado fought back to tie and then the Rangers exploded for three more goals and a 6-3 win.

Tonight the Rangers scored first.  At 16:30 of the first period the Rangers caught Colorado napping on a line change and attacked.  Hayes got the puck to Dan Boyle who was streaking towards the net.  Varlamov has been a thorn in the Ranger’s side for years – but Dan Boyle just deked and deked again and make the Colorado Goaltender look foolish.  (Editor – would you say Boyle made a monkey out of Semyon – which c sounds a little like simian?)  (Dave Pucks – no, sir, I would not).  Anyway – the Rangers lead 1-0 after one.

In the second it was Hayes unassisted who took the puck end to end in an impressive display for the rookie.  And then another goal the resurgent Mats Zuccarello with assists by Nash and Brassard.

On to the third where the Rangers lost their way and their lead before getting it all back.  I’ll skip the bad news – but the Hayes line scored again – this time by Hagelin.  And then – Rick Nash – falling down did the hockey equivalent of a hook shot to make it 5-3.  Add an empty netter by McDonagh and you have your 6-3 final.

Talbot was almost at 0.900 but not quite (0.897).    Rangers now 32-16-5, still in third but now 10 points above the 9th place team.  They’ll play Arizona on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rangers score 5 – need them all to beat Leafs 5-4

Well, it’s a win.  Talbot’s 2nd victory in the (hopefully temporary) post-Lundqvist era was maybe his worst game of the year.  With his family in attendance in Toronto – Cam let up 4 goals, including two shots from 40 feet or more.

The Maple Leafs are not a good team – but they do have a winning record at home.  They’re the kind of club that attacks all the time – and for good reason – they don’t play defense very well.  They let up more than 3 goals a game and are 25th in the NHL in defense. 

So the Rangers attacked and – as we’ve said before – goals can cover up a whole lot of other problems.  The Rangers got five last night and needed the all – and a goal post – to hold off a Toronto team that kept digging their way back into the game.

Things started off well enough.  In the game’s third minute Dan Boyle saw an opening and charged the net.  Brassard saw him from behind the Toronto net and game him a perfect pass right in front of the net that Boyle netted for the early lead.

And then at 10:37 Brassard intercepted the puck in the offensive zone – got it to Nash – who fed Zuccarello in front for the first of three 2 goal leads.

But the Leafs scored before the first period ended and the Rangers carried the 2-1 lead into the 2nd.

Staal carried the puck right to the Toronto net – slid it across to Hayes – who put the Rangers up 3-1.  But just 20 seconds later it was 3-2.

And there’s more.  Mid way through the 2nd – with the Leafs on the powerplay – the Rangers scored again.  They really dominated the action – it actually looked like the Rangers had the extra skater for much of the penalty time.  And to cap it off – Dominic Moore (whose family was also in attendance) did the hockey equivalent of the turn around three point jump shot.  His spin-a-rama from 40+ feet away beat James Reimer cleanly and and the Rangers had a 4-2 lead going into the third.

The 2 goal lead held up all of 20 seconds of the third.  And then at 6:46 an unassisted goal by Dan Winnick and the Leafs had fought from deficits of 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2 for the 4-4 tie.
 And so it was the Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello line that bailed them out again.  Dominic Moore scooted on the puck down the right side – and promptly tripped over his own skates.  But Nash dashed over – gained possession - and fed Zuccarello all along between the circles.  The little Norwegian shot the puck just inside the right post – and the Rangers were back on top 5-4. 

In the final five minutes Toronto put on several rushes – and did hit a post on Talbot as mentioned earlier.  To Talbot’s credit – he made all the saves he needed to at the end and showed some ingenuity in clearing the puck twice on his own when the opportunity arose.  The 5-4 win was worse than Leaf goaltender Reimer deserved.  He was actually brilliant for much of the game.

Missing in action once again was Marty St. Louis who teamed with Stepan and Kreider had no goals – no assists – and a minus 1.  It’s been a month since Marty scored and there is real cause for concern now for the unrestricted free agent less than a month from the trade deadline.

By the numbers Talbot’s save percentage was 0.882 – another sub .900 game. 

Uh, A Little Help?  You want assists?  We got plenty.  Three for the unselfish Nash, who despite his 30+ goal season is happy to pass the puck.  If he ends up igniting Zuccarello – it’s great news for the Rangers.  2 assists each for Brassard and Staal.  Single assists for Klein, Moore, and Hagelin. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No – Toronto was 1-2 on their powerplay – but we scored a shorty so a wash there.  Our powerplay was 0-2

Where Do We Stand?  31-16-5.  Looking down – the perennial 9th place Florida Panthers also won so we remain 8 points up on the line-of-death.  Looking up – we leapfrog the Caps into 3rd place in the east.  And we’re one point behind Pittsburgh for 2nd and 4 behind the Islanders for 1st (with 2 games at hand). 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  The road trip continues Thursday night in Denver. 

Non Sequitur of the day:  Goalies with double letters in their names: 

Pekka Rinne
Tuukka Rask
Antti Nieme

Dave Pucks out – thanks for listening.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

No Hanks! Rangers start flat - rally to tie - and fall in OT 3-2 to Dallas

And this was supposed to be the game where the Rangers – back at home and facing a weaker opponent – righted the ship and gave Cam Talbot his first victory during Hanks Extremely Injured Neck Interlude Era (can we call it HEINIE?).  I’ll think of a better name.
I was at this game in section 222 and I have to say the Rangers and the fans seemed to be sleepwalking through much of this contest.  The Rangers had trouble getting started – not getting their first official shot on goal until 12:55 of the first period.

It took a 5-3 to get Dallas on the board in the 2nd but score they did and the Rangers had to fight their way uphill the rest of the night.
But then Kevin Hayes swooped in toward the Stars net and fed the perfect pass to Karl Hagelin for the simple tip in and a tie score.  At 15:27 of the 2nd we were tied 1-1.

But the Rangers couldn’t get out of the 2nd with the tie score.  Hayes turned the puck over just past the blue line in the Dallas zone and the Stars broke out quickly.  Eric Cole’s shot from between the circles appeared headed 5-hole and appeared to be stopped as Talbot slapped the pads together.  But the puck trickled through and the Rangers 2nd intermission saw them trailing 2-1.  I don’t want to say that Hank would have had that one but… well I guess I am saying it. 

And that’s how the score stayed though most of the third.  But then – with the Ranger on the powerplay from a delay-of-game penalty - but time running out on the penalty – Vigneault made the bold move of pulling Cam for an empty net 6-on-4.  The strategy paid off as Zuccarello’s shot from the top of the right circle left a big rebound that Chris Kreider pounced and on beat Kari Lehtonin at 18:40 for a 2-2 tie, a point, and overtime.

In the end – we lost in OT – but the tying goal was some consolation for a team that was playing hockey in Nashville Tennessee less than 24 hours before they were underway at this home game in New York.

Coach Vigneault looked angry and embarrassed at the loss – and I wonder if some of that bad feeling was projected at Dan Boyle who was covering – or trying to cover – Ales Hemsky as he launched the winning shot.

In the end we only let up three shots in the 3rd period and overtime – but could not find a way to win.  And Cam Talbot's save percentage of 0.880 was below 0.900 for his 2nd straight start.  

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists for Klein, Zuccarello, and Hayes. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No - both teams were 1 for 3 with the extra skater. 

Where Do We Stand?  Looking down – Florida also lost in OT so we remain 8 points up on the line-of-death.  Looking up – the Caps lost in regulation so we are 1 point out of third in the Metro with 3 games at hand.  And we’re still only 4 points out of first with 2 games at hand on the Islanders. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  The Cam Talbot show goes back on the road for a 4 game stretch starting Tuesday night in Toronto. 

Non Sequitur of the day:  During the Ranger powerplay the guy in front of me at the Garden made me laugh and feel nostalgic at the same by yelling “Shoot the puck, Barry” – a reference to Barry Beck – a long ago Ranger.  Nice job, guy-in-front-of-me. 

 Pave Pucks out and thanks for reading!

Living In A Post Lundqvist World – Rangers Fall 3-2 to Nashville

We’re all waiting to see if the Rangers can compete without Henrik Lundqvist – because Hank is out of the lineup with what apparently is an injury to one of the major arteries in his neck. 

But – this contest was not a fair comparison because it was (1) against the NHL’s top point team and (2) the Rangers were without Derek Stepan – their best center – who was out with flu like symptoms.  And if you remember when Stepan was out earlier this season (and I’m sure you do because you’re good like that), the Rangers couldn't beat anyone then either, even with Hank in the line up.

What I’m saying is that the Rangers could have easily lost to Nashville on the road with Hank if they didn't have Stepan.  So don’t panic – okay?  (Editor – but you’ll tell us when we can start panicking, right?)  (Dave Pucks – yes I will)

The Rangers played hard and well for much of the contest, outshooting Nashville 32-23, and (astonishingly) winning the face off battle 41-23. 

The amazing Mr. Nash got the Rangers the lead early in the 2nd period – on the power play – when he muscled his way to the front of the net – received a great pass from Brassard – had his first point-blank attempt turned back by Pekka Rinne and then calmly found the rebound and slammed it home.  It was the Ramgers only lead of the afternoon and it held up until late in the 2nd when tragedy struck

The Predators has one-two-three shots at the Ranger net without our heroes able to clear,  Cam saved the first two – but the third – a rifle shot by Josi from inside the right circle that Cam could not handle at 18:39.

And it got worse. A sequence that featured Karl Hagelin deciding to waste time by a pointless check without his stick instead of retrieving it – Nashville capitalized with a Shea Weber goal ay 19:20.  So the Rangers, 90 seconds from taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room, ended the second period trailing 2-1.

To our credit – without Hank or Steps the Rangers did mount a comeback. 

Early in the third, unrestricted free agent Mats Zuccarello made a great pass to Ryan McDonagh near the blue line on the right side.  Ryan deked the defenseman, moved into the lect circle and shot into traffic past everyone for a 2-2 tie.

I would have signed up of OT right there – and for 11 minutes it looked like it could happen, but at 12:46 Mike Ribiero netted his career 700th. Girardi went down to block it but missed – and two more players screened Talbot who could not come up with the puck. 

The Rangers mounted several more chances but could not convert and in the end fell 3-2.  Hagelin was -2 on the night and I’m wondering if he’s a healthy scratch Sunday.

Uh, A Little Help?  2 assists for Brassard, one for Zuccarello, Hayes and McDonagh. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  A definite No.  Rangers scored on the PP and stopped the Predators on their only extra skater.

Where Do We Stand?  Let’s assess the damage.  Rangers are 30-16-4.  The tumble out of third place in the Metro to the Capitals who have two more points – but who give up three games at hand to NY.  If you’re looking up, we’re only 4 points out of first to the Penguins – also with three full games at hand.  But if you’re looking down – we are still 8 point ahead of Florida and the line-of-death in 9th place.  We’re 7th overall in the east.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Quick turnaround – we’re home at 5pm Sunday to the Dallas Stars.  Interesting test for Cam – we’ll be pulling for him.

Non Sequitur of the day:  So can we just stop talking about face-off win percentage already?  The Rangers have been wining games and losing face-offs all year.  Yesterday they dominate the face-off battle 41-23 (that's 64%) and still lose the hockey game.  So maybe it's just not that important of a stat, okay? 

Dave Pucks will be there this afternoon in section 222.  Can we get a chat of “Tal-bot” going?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rangers Surge On – Beat Bruins 3-2

First of all – great hockey game.  The Bruins came in red hot at 10-1-1 and the Rangers were without Henrik Lundqvist in goal because of a medical issue related to the puck that hit him in the throat two games ago (he’s day to day).  So it was Cam Talbot and a resurgent Rangers on home ice against Boss-Town.

The game delivered as advertised.  Closely contested – with huge hits – fast skating – and great plays by both teams in all three zones.

The Rangers struck first – in the first – by NHL leading scorer Rick Nash.  Nash received the puck streaking up the left side, passed the Bruin defense heading into their zone and calmly crossed in from of Tuukka Rask and backhanded the puck into the net for a 1-0 Ranger lead.

But Boston fought back for a pair of goals (Lucic and Bergeron) and led 2-1 after the first, despite only getting 6 shots on Talbot, who’s save percentage was 0.667 after one.

In the second, the Rangers dug deep and kept the pressure on.  Zuccarello (please Glen – can we keep him?) muscled the puck to Kreider who made the perfect pass to Brassard streaking up the middle toward the net.  Derek slammed it past Rask from the slot and we were tied at 2.

Then with 3 minutes and change raining in period 2 –the Rangers regained the lead.  Nash carried the puck toward the Bruin goal for the left side and drew the Boston defense (and Rask’s attention) to him.  And instead of trying to extend his league-leading goal total –Rick gave up a good shot to give Stepan a great one – sliding the Ranger top center the puck in perfect position on the right side.  Stepan wristed it home at 16:56 and the Rangers had regained the lead 3-2.

From there it was on to a third period that had up-tempo action – great plays at both ends of the ice – and no goals.  In the end Talbot raised his save percentage to 0.900 and stopped the final 15 shots that came his way.  Then Rangers played tough, smart, and fast against a great and hot Bruins team to limit the opponent’s chances, and capitalize on their own.  Great night, great game, and Talbot fills in admirably for the King.

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists for defenseman Girardi (who played a good physical game) and Klein.  And assists for unrestricted free agents St. Louis and Zuccarello – and of course an assist on the game winner for Rick Nash

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game? You keep asking me that.  Both teams were 0-2 with the extra skater.  But the interference call against Boston drawn by Brassard at 13:24 of the third was a great momentum killer for Boston.

Where Do We Stand?  We are a wonderful 30-15-4.  That puts us 1 point behind the slumping Islanders with a game at hand.  As along as the Islanders don’t play us – they seem to struggle.  And were just 2 points back of the new first place penguins – with 2 games at hand.  The Caps are two points behind us and have played two more games.  And the line-of-death is a full ten points beneath us – currently the Florida Panthers. 

What Will Happen Next?  One for the road – on Saturday against Nashville and then quickly home for a Sunday matchup with Dallas (and Dave Pucks will be there).

Non Sequitur of the day:  Skapski!  With Hank unavailable – the Rangers dressed Hartford Goaltender Mackenzie Skapski in Ranger blue for the first time ever.  The redhead was clearly happy to be on bench with the big kids.