Monday, March 30, 2015

Lost Weekend - Rangers fall to Caps 5-2

Okay, not good.  The Rangers have lost two in a row in regulation for first time since January.  They let up 5 goals this time – Talbot – and the Caps beat them 5-2 on an afternoon game on no days rest.

Maybe we’re slumping at the wrong time.  Maybe we’re looking ahead to the playoffs after clinching.

Whatever it is – the president’s trophy is fading from view – not that it was a useful goal anyway.  Being the front runner is emotionally and physically exhausting and takes away energy you need for the playoffs.  The Stanley cup finals are NEVER a context between the top points teams in the East vs. West.  They playoffs are their own animal – most series don’t go 7 – and home ice for some odd reason – is never the advantage it should be.

We didn’t help Cam enough – and we didn't shoot enough.  13 shots total in periods 2 and 3.  You’re not going to beat a lot of teams that way.

We did score twice though – on consecutive shots in the 1st period.  By Hayes and Brassard. 

What Did We Learn?  We are in a slump. 

Assist “Sisters”:   Assists for McDonagh and Zuccarello.  That’s it.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  I will say yes.  We were 0-5 and Ovechkin was 1-4.  You reverse that stat and we’re tied (minus the empty netter).

Where Do We Stand?  We’re still first in the Metro, six points and a game at hand up on the Pengiuns with 7 to play.  And a point behind Montreal with a game at hand for top of the East.  The way it looks now – it’s us and the Canadiens racing for the right to play the number 8 seed – which right now is Boston.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Tuesday in Winnipeg against the J-E-T-S. 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  This never happened when Skapski was on the team…

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lundqvist Returns – Rangers Fall 4-2 to Bruins

Okay so – we don’t like the Bruins. 

The long-awaited return of Henrik Lundqvist to the Rangers starting lineup was Saturday in what my cousins used to call Boss-town.  There was some bad luck – some rust – some bad goal-judging in Toronto – and, well, at 5:53 of the 2nd period it was 4-0 Boston. 

But we like to look on the bright side here at Blueshirt-Brothers so we’ll say this – for the rest of the game the King shut the Bruins out.  Of course – they only took 3 shots at Hank the third period.

An odd note – Tukka Rask took himself out of the game ten seconds into the second period with what the Bruins eventually called “dehydration”.  Maybe that’s the flu. 

We did get – finally – Nash’s 40th goal of the season after Hank stopped a breakaway and Nash got a nice feed for the tap in as he streaked past Charra.

And at 19:47 of the third – Matt Hunwick made it 4-2 for our final score.

What Did We Learn?  That even the King can get a little rust in his crown.

Assist “Sisters”:   Assists for J.T. Miller, Kreider, Stepan, and Yandle.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No.  We had no powerplays and Boston was 0-1 on theirs.

Where Do We Stand?  It was fun while it lasted.  The President can keep his lousy trophy.  We now trail Montreal, Nashville, and Anaheim.  On the bright side – in the Metro – the Islanders are now in third.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Back down I-95 for a game at home verses the hated Washington Capitals – the guys that broke Klein’s arm.  If you’re Vigneault do you use Talbot or Hank?  I’m guessing Talbot.   

Non-Sequitur of the day:  I was rooting Notre Dame – and they almost pulled it off. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rangers Clinch Playoffs - Beat Ottawa and Hambuglar 5-1

What a night!  The Rangers may have broken the hottest team in hockey, humiliating the (formerly) red hot Ottawa Senators 5-2 on their home ice – lighting up the NHL’s hottest goaltender (the Hamburgler) for 5 goals on 17 shots – and best of all – clinching the playoffs with 101 points!

The Senators had been 14-0-1 in Matthew Hammond’s incredible rookie run.  But the Rangers came to town and changed all that.  By early in the second period – the embarrassed Senators had to sit the man the nicknamed “the Hamburglar” because the Rangers had lit him up for 4 goals in 17 shots.

The first goal was beautiful.  Derek Stepan didn’t have a direct passing lane to Chris Kreider – so he banked an outlet pass off the end boards that Kreider caught in full stride and beat Hammond short side for the 1-0 lead.

17 seconds later it was 1-1, thanks in part to a puck that bounced past Yandle, but we like to focus on positives here.

A few minutes later, Boyle followed the rush in the offensive zone – took the wide open feed – and buried it for the 2-1 lead at 5:20.

And then – oin the final minute – Stepan’s shot hit Hammond in the chest and popped up and over him.  It may have been heading in anyway – but Kreider swooped in behind the Senator’s goalie and buried the one-footer and at 19:00 it was 3-1.

That was already more goals than Hammond had let up in his pro career.  And the imaginary man at the floodgates was thinking about opening them.

Early in the second – Kevin Hayes found an accelerating Mats Zuccarello who fired the puck past Hammond yet again for the Rangers 4th goal in 17 shots.  At this point the Hamburglar was cooked (Editor – Really?) and Ottawa gave the rookie his first benching of his young career.

But the Rangers weren’t done.  The middle of the 2nd period turned into a Rangers penalty fest – with Rick Nash serving two separate two minute penalties in a 4 and a half minute span.  Tanner Glass soon joined Ricky in the box after a slashing penalty and it was 5 on 3.  The Rangers did a great job defending that, and when Glass eventually followed Nash out of the penalty box – Stepan found him for an off man rush that Tanner burried to break a long scoring drought (and net him the Broadway hat)
It was 5-1 and the evening was over as far as competitive hockey was concerned.

The third period was another Ranger penalty-fest – resulting with us killing off another three powerplays and emerging with the 5-1 victory.

Cam Talbot was again great in net – this time with Henrik Lundqvist serving as the backup.  Cam Stopped 24 of 24 shots for a .958 save percentage – which will win you a lot of hockey games.  The Rangers dominated the Senators – limited them to just 4 shots in the second and 9 in the third – despite all the powerplays and Ottawa attempting to get back in the game.  Great win.

There was a scary moment when Dan Girardi had to leave the ice with an injury – but late reports is that it was just a gash requiring stitches. 

What Did We Learn?  That the Rangers refuse to lose two in a row.

Assist “Sisters”:   A lot:  2 each for Stepan and Hayes.  Singles for Kreider (to go with his 2 goals), Boyle and Zuccarello, (to go with their single goals), Yandle and Nash.  

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  The Rangers had no powerplays – but stopped all six of Ottawa’s.  So it was a big factor.

Where Do We Stand?  It’s great.  First of all – at 101 points we lead the league in points – and we are the first team in the NHL to CLINCH A PLAYOFF SPOT.  8 points up on the Islanders. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Saturday afternoon in Boston.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Skapski was sent down to the AHL.  We’ll miss you, red.  Replacing him as the Rangers backup netminder is some guy named Lundqvist (yes I checked the spelling).  We’ll see if this Swedish fellow can help the team.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Greatness Returns – Rangers Top Ducks 7-2 to reclaim NHL’s top honors

Honestly I don’t understand.  All these years of watching the Rangers play has not prepared me for such… such goodness.  Just when the Rangers seemed to be winning ugly – when they had forgotten how to score – when their impressive run seemed to be headed for an extended slump, what do they do?

On zero days rest – without their best goalie, their 2nd best scorer and their top scoring defenseman – they humiliate the West’s top team – the Anaheim Ducks – 7-2.

That’s seven to two.  A blowout where the Ducks yanked one goalie after three goals and may have thought about yanking his replacement after another four.  It was a remarkable moment in an increasingly remarkable season.  It was fun and cool.

And of course this all happened as we were being (typically) out face-offed and out-shot by what was the best team in hockey.

In the first period, on the game’s second minute, the Rangers dominated – looking like they were on the powerplay.  The puck got behind Andersen and Kreider was quick with the stick, getting behind the Duck’s netminder and cashing in one of the shortest shots you’re ever likely to see in an NHL game.

The Ducks struck back quickly – but the Rangers weren’t done yet.

At 5:43 the Rangers got two things they’ve been missing for far too long – a Stepan Goal and a Power Play goal.  It was a blast from point and we led 2-1 – a lead we would never relinquish.

Five minutes Hagelin got credited for a goal when a spin-a-rama bounced in off his skate for the 3-1 lead.  That was 3 goals on 7 shots and ended Andersen’s evening.

The Ducks quacked one more time to make it 3-2 after one.  But the Rangers added two more in the 2nd.  The first by J.T. Miller and then Stepan stole the puck and fired his 2nd of the night – unassisted – and it was 5-2.

In the third Derek Brassard and Jesper Fast got it to the 7-2 final.  Great game all around,  Cam was great again stopping 32 of 34 shots.

What Did We Learn?  That the Rangers can still score.

Assist “Sisters”:   Too many to mention!

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We finally got a powerplay goal

Where Do We Stand?  On top.  Of everyone.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Tuesday night at home to the Kings

Non-Sequitur of the day:  My oldest son’s 21st birthday today!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rangers win ugly – but beat Carolina in Shootout

At the end of the night its 2 points and we’ll take it.  The Rangers played a good second period in Carolina, Cam Talbot played a good game period, and Zuccarello got the game winner in the shootout (and this sentence ends with a period).

The historical streak of (was it 8?) consecutive games giving up one goal or less came to an end as the Hurricane’s dominated the third period (like they had the first) and scored to tie the game and send it to Overtime.  You can’t blame Cam Talbot, who once again stood tall in goal and did more than give the Rangers a chance to win – he won the game by not letting up more than the 2 goals.

The second period is where the Rangers did all their best work – offensively and defensively.  They outshot the Hurricane 14-5 and scored twice. 

At 3:39 it was J. T. Miller, skating with Brassard and Zuc.  Zuccarello, who heard his name called by the fans even though the Rangers were away, made a perfect pass through traffic to J. T. as he streaked alone to the net.  Miller intended to knock the puck to his forehand, but instead tipped the puck right past Khudobin for the tying goal.  As J. T. tried to position his stick for the forehand shot that never came – it faked out the Hurricane goaltender while the puck slipped past him.

And later it was Jesper Fast, who had scoring chances all night, doing the full 360 spin-a-rama between the circles and zipping the puck over Khudobin’s right shoulder for the 2-1 lead.

After the Hurricane’s tied it in the third, and a scoreless O.T., we were on to the shootout, where Cam had been simply awful in earlier tries this season.  But we‘ve been watching the Ranger backup net minder grow into an up and coming star before our eyes and this shootout was a much different than any we’d seen Cam in before.  He was simply perfect, stopping all three Carolina attempts. 

And for the Rangers – Mats Zuccarello faked (deked?) with his backhand, pulled it back to his forehand and slid the puck around Khudobin’s pad for the game winner.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that seasons evolve.  .And right now the Rangers are winning with goaltending and blocked shots (24 tonight).

Assist "sisters" of the game: Kevin Hayes, Brassard, and Zuccarello (big one)

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Thankfully no – we were (once again) 0 for 2 on the PP, while Carolina scored once in two tries.  It almost cost us one and will eventually if we can’t figure out how to score with the extra skater.

Where Do We Stand?  It’s good.  First place in the Metro, somehow 5 points above the Islanders with 3 games at hand.  14 points above 9th place Ottawa (who are just 1 point behind 8th place Boston).  Montreal has 2 points on us for the East, but have played 3 more times.  Same thing for Anaheim over in the west (who we play tomorrow)

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  No rest.  We scoot home to take on the league leading Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  I had Hampton winning the National Championship – so my bracket is kind of busted.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blackhawks deal Rangers rare home loss 1-0

Huh?  We lost?  Shutout by Scott Darling?  It was our first loss at home since January and our 2nd regulation loss overall in 19 games.  

And damn it - we almost won.  Boyle slammed a 3 on 2 opportunity off the cross bar and the rebound started a Chicago rush that ended with a lucky bounce to ex-ranger Brad Richards who made a big time patient play to beat Cam Talbot for the game winner.  Chicago downed us 1-0.  We actually scored in this game - but the refs blew a fast whistle and the goal was waved off.  

Still - for an 8th straight game the Rangers let up one goal or less - an all time Ranger record.  Lundqvist never did this.  Giacomin never did this.  Davidson and Vanbiesbrouck neither (Gump Worsley?) .  It is Cam (and Skapski) who have put together this remarkable streak.  

Tough loss.  

What Did We Learn?  We learned once again that winning the faceoff battle (which we did 37-26) is – at least for this team this year – a meaningless stat)

Uh, A Little Help?  Nope.  Shut out – so no assists.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We were 0 for 2 and our PK was 2-2.  But one goal would have meant everything.

Where Do We Stand?  Still number 1 in the league.  Three other teams have 95 points – but we’ve played less games.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Rest and practice.  Then to Carolina on Saturday 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Someone send me a bracket.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rangers Find A Way - Beat Panthers 2-1

Over the years I’ve watched when the Rangers played really good teams so I know what really good teams look like.  And now, somehow, the Rangers loom like a really good team.

What they did last night against the Florida Panthers, winning 2-1, is one of those things that really good teams do.  They found a way to win a game they were outplayed.

And they were totally outplayed – particularly in the 2nd period – but a Florida Panthers team in 9th place in the East and desperate for points.  Florida launched 98 attempts at the Ranger goal. 

And how did they win?  There were two big things the Rangers did that this year’s team had never done before. 

The first was Cam Talbot.  Cam has had shutouts before – and this wasn’t one of those.  But you can argue this was his best game as a Ranger.  Cam looked like Lundqvist.  There’s no other way to put it.  He was magnificent in goal – keeping the Rangers not only in the game – but ahead in the game despite the barrage of 39 Florida shots. 

And the other factor was amazing.  The Rangers found a way to block 36 shots.  This is more blocks than any game since the NHL started counting this stat ten years ago.  This is more blocks than any game we played under John Tortorella – the coaching king of the blocked shot.  It’s just not something that this year’s Rangers do – except that they did it last night because they needed to. 

They needed just two goals to win last night and they got them.  The first was a fabulous James Sheppard tip in off a Hunwick slapshot from the point.  Thank you Glen Sather.  Hunwick is a great 7th defenseman who was playing because of Klein’s injury.  And Sheppard was part of the Yandel deal.  Sheppard made a great pass to Hunwick to set up the shot – if you could get an assist on your own goal Sheppard would have one. 

And then in the third it was Hunwick’s slapshot again – this time beating Dan Ellis all by himself. 

It wasn’t much – 2 goals - but this year’s Rangers found a way to win with it.

On piece of bad news – Marty St. Louis appeared to hurt his knee.  But Vigneault said later it didn’t appear to be serious and that we’ll know more in a day or two.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that for one night at least Cam can be Hank.  And that the Rangers can block shots when they need to. 

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists for Fast, Hunwick, and Sheppard.  A night for the new and recently added Rangers.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We were 0 for 2 and our PK was 2-2.  A wash.

Where Do We Stand?  Still number 1 in the league.  At the top!  95 points.  5 up on the Islanders with 3 at hand.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Blackhawks at home on Wednesday.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Please hockey gods – make Marty St. Louis okay.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Can we play Buffalo every night? Rangers beat Sabres 2-0

If you want to look at this by purely from a statistical standpoint – Henrik Lundqvist has been good this year – Cam Talbot has been better – and Mackenzie Skapski has been better still.  The Ranger rookie goalie has now played 119 minutes and 46 seconds of shutout hockey – defeating the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 to keep the Rangers’ on top of the Metro, the East, and the NHL.

The kid stopped all 20 shots that came his way – several of them quality saves.  Of course the Rangers helped by rallying around the young netminder in his 2nd ever NHL game – limiting a not-so-good Buffalo team to just 20 shots.

The contest was scoreless midway through the third period when Keith Yandle got his first goal as a Ranger on a hard shot from the point that was aided greatly by a Chris Kreider screen on Lindback. 

From there the Rangers held the lead.  There was a brilliant sequence with 5 minutes to go.  Zadorov was whistled for a delayed penalty – a hook against Kreider – while the Rangers kept possession of the puck.  They sent Skapski to the bench to get an extra skater on – knowing that the whistle would blow if the Sabres got the puck.  But here’s the cool part – instead of attacking right away - they deliberately delayed the action – keeping the puck away from Buffalo as time ticked off the clock.  It was more than 45 seconds before the Sabres could make a touch at 15:33.  And then the Rangers had the two minute powerplay.  When that ended there was less than 2 and a half minutes left.

The play that put the game away came in the final minute with the Sabre goalie on the bench.  Marty St. Louis made a great play – intercepting a cross ice pass in the neutral zone – and then shooting the puck from mid-ice into the empty net to put the game away with a 2-0 lead with 33 seconds to go. 

And so the Rangers roll on – once again topping the entire league.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Skapski can play well enough to beat Buffalo.

Uh, A Little Help?  There was just one assist tonight – a big one by Chris Kreider.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Another fail on the power play at 0 of r3.  But the penalty kill was a perfect 3-3

Where Do We Stand?  At the top!  43-17-7 for 93 points puts us in first overall.  We lead the Islanders by 3 points and 9th place Florida by 18 points with 15 games left to play. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  The Rangers travel due south from Buffalo to Florida to take on the Panthers Sunday.  At least Cam is rested. 

Non Sequitor of the Day:  Washington has fallen to 8th place in the East.   Wouldn't it be great if they could fall one more slot?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rangers beat Caps – Now Lead the NHL (but Klein is hurt)

Just take a look at those standings.  That’s not the division – that’s not the conference – that’s the whole NHL.  And right at the top sits our New York Rangers, winners of 3 straight, 8-1-1 in their last ten, now – the number one team in the NHL.

Honestly – I’d rather be the team chasing than the one chased – because I think trying to stay number one is emotionally exhausting and the reward – one possible game 7 home game – is not worth all that expended energy.  But Vigneault has his team playing like champions right now and we will gladly take it as far as we can.  Of course, there are 6 other teams within 2 points of us – but it’s a great moment in time and it deserves a long look and acknowledgement. 

Last night – the Rangers – on zero days rest – without Henrik Lundqvist - on the road – facing a rested and ready Washington Capitals team – once again found a way to win.  The unstoppable Alex Ovechkin managed to score one goal – on the powerplay – and extend his lead over Rick Nash as the NHL’s top scorer – but the Rangers won the game – 3-1 with speed, tenacity, and dominance in all three zones. 

The defense extended to all 6 men on the ice.  The Forwards, the blueliners, and of course the suddenly dominant Cam Talbot – who will cause and interesting dilemma for Vigneault when Lundqvist recovers.  At this point – can you really sit Cam again for weeks at a time?  I think he’s earned at least a game a week at this point – which could cause trouble as Hank needs to work himself back into shape. 

There was a time not that long ago when the Rangers and Capitals were slugging it out for 7th place in the East and 3rd place in the Metro, and Lundqvist was our everyday goaltended.  But now – our best player is sidelined with a strained blood vessel in his neck and with our backup goaltender starting the Rangers are up nine points on Washington and surging.

The bad news is Kevin Klein.  He blocked an Ovechkin shot with 46 seconds remaining and headed straight to the locker room.  The Rangers reported that he had x-rays on his left arm.  Crap!  Let’s hope he’s okay.  Kevin is a huge part of our success this season.

Cam Talbot has allowed one or fewer goals in 4 straight road games.  And that, believe it or not, is an all time Ranger record.  Last night Cam saved 0.966 percent of the shots that came his way.   Holtby played well – stopping 0.906 – but the Rangers were just better.

Hagelin got the first goal – a short range rebound put-back that came after a flurry of Ranger shots and rebounds.  After Ovechkin tied it on the powerplay, J.T. Miller put the Rangers ahead to stay later in the first period with off a defensive zone turnover by the Caps that Hayes grabbed and made the perfect cross ice pass to Hags streaking in to Holtby’s right.  Miller beat the Capital’s goalie and it was 2-1.

And that’s how it stayed until late in the third when the Rangers broke it open.  With less than 3 minutes to go – Chris Kreider intercepted a cross ice pass and started streaking toward the Cap’s goal on a semi-breakaway.  Marty St. Louis kept pace with him on his left and when Kreider passed it, Marty tipped it by Holtby from point blank range. 

The Rangers had their 3-1 win and, for one moment at least – the rest of the league is looking up at them.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Rangers are the best team in hockey today (very good) – and that Kevin Klein might be injured (very bad).

Uh, A Little Help?  Two huge assists for Kevin Hayes.  And singles for Kreider and Boyle.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No.  We were 0 for 3 and caps were 1 for 3.

Where Do We Stand?  At the top!  19 Points above 9th place with 16 games left to play. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Some much needed rest before back to baclk games this weekend – starting with Saturday in Buffalo.  (A night for Skapski anyone?)

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Please hockey gods – make Kevin Klein okay.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Ricochet" Nash's 39th downs the Islanders 2-1

The Islanders did play the night before while the Rangers rested – but after losing three in a row to the Islanders earlier this season we will take this one and happily exit the Nassau Coliseum – maybe for the last time ever.

The Rangers look better than I can ever remember them looking before.  They’ve been clamping down on defense – helping Cam Talbot who has responded by playing like a champion.  If this is how the Rangers look without their best player – Henrik Lundqvist – on the bench – well, I’m starting to dream of a special playoff run.

There were only two Ranger goals – and that was all they needed.  The first – to tie the game at 1-1 – was a tremendous play by Kevin Hayes.  After Zuccarello’s brilliant pass found Kevin with some time and space in the offensive zone, the Ranger rookie deked the Islander defenseman off his skates and out of the play, and did the hockey equivalent of the turn-around jump shot – whipping the puck in a semi circle as he approached from the right but beat Halak from the left. 

And the game winner was Nash’s 39th.  He basically threw the puck toward the net from the blue line – and it ricocheted off an Islander skate and into the net.  Good things happen when you attack - and Nash deserves a little help from the Hockey gods now and then.  

And with the Ranger’s relentless forecheck, puck movement and defense – that was all they needed.  Huge win for a team that looks to be in top form.  We were outshot 30-22 but Cam stopped all but one for a 0.967 save percentage.  Talbot has been huge since Hank went down. 

What Did We Learn?  For one night at least – the Rangers are able to clamp down on the Islanders and stop them from scoring.

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  The big assist is Mats Zuccarello’s – he got the puck to Hayes at the perfect time and place.  Brassard, Staal and Nash also had assists. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We stopped the Islanders on their 4 extra-man opportunities – but we also failed on 4 powerplays.  So a wash.

Where Do We Stand?  It’s getting better all the time. One point behind the Islanders for first place in the Metro with 4 big games at hand.  2 points behind Montreal with two games at hand for first in the East. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  No rest as we head to Washington to take on the Capitals – who we somehow lead by 7 points now.

Non-Sequitur of the day:  We lost the face off battle – again – this time 32-23.  So maybe that is a meaningless stat.  Oh –and the Philadelphia Eagles appear to be insane. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cam shuts out Chicago 1-0

Wow.  The post-trade deadline rangers are something to see.  Last night in Chicago they fought for more than 60 minutes – shutting out the Brad Richards/Dan Carcillo Blackhawks and beating them in OT 1-0 on a Derek Brassard blast from the left circle just 32 seconds into overtime. 

Cam Talbot was magnificent for the 2nd straight game stopping all 29 shots he faced and beating a red hot Corey Crawford on the road.  In fact it‘s been more than 5 periods since the red hot Talbot has surrendered an even strength goal. 

The Rangers just kept coming and rolled 4 lines with no skater getting less than 10:31 time on the ice in the contest.  And after two tough road opponents that have needed 3 of a possible 4 points. 

What Did We Learn?  We learned that Cam Talbot can – at least at time – look every bit like a 1st team goalie on a top NHL contender.   

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  There was one – by Captain Ryan McDonagh – and that was all we needed.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Yes and no.  We were 0-2 on the powerplay – but our Penalty Kill kept Chicago from scoring in 4 powerplay attemptsand in a 1-0 OT shutout – that was the difference between winning and losing.    

Where Do We Stand?  Get this - we are now 1 point behind the Islanders with 3 games at hand.  And we’re just 3 points behind the conference leading Canadiens with 2 games at hand.  We’re 15 points up on 9th place Florida (who will soon be passed by Ottawa).

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  A night off then it’s off to Long Island to face the Islanders Tuesday. 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  If we sprang forward on the clock this weekend – why do I feel like falling back to bed?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rangers lose to Detroit in OT - Regain 1st Place

For nearly two hours the score stood at 1-1.  The Rangers had the better of the play – and hit two posts but couldn’t score.  Cam Talbot was standing tall – making save after save in an almost Hank-like manner. 

Both teams scored in the first – the Red Wings more or less kicking the puck into our net and then Girardi getting the equalizer on the powerplay. 

And then – some of the most thrilling scoreless hockey you are ever likely to see.  It’s all been like playoff hockey these days – but this felt like Stanley Cup Finals playoff hockey.  Both teams all over each other – end to end action – great plays on both sides.  And the Rangers had the better of it but could not cash in.  Howard was amazing in goal – and Cam matched him save for save.

But at the end - the referees took over the game.  They sent Abdelkader off for hooking and Brassard off for slashing at 17:56.  And then - the killer.  At 19:13 Derek Stepan got called for holding when it was clearly Nyquist who was holding Step’s arm to try and get the call.
So the terrible stage was set.  Two minutes of 4 on 3.  A death sentence. 

But the first hurdle was the remaining 47 seconds in regulation.  If the Rangers could survive that – they’d get a point no matter what happened in overtime.  And with determination, gritty play, and some timely Cam Talbot saves – they got to the regulation buzzer still tied and got the point that put them in first place.

On to overtime where there were still 1:13 of 4 on 3 man advantage.  The Rangers couldn’t possibly kill it all off – but they tried.  And they made it through 1:09.  But then, after Cam made his 29th and final save of the day there was a mad scramble in from and Zidlicky, I his first game as a Red Wing, found the puck and tipped it up and over Talbot.

But there was one last heroic attempt to keep the game tied.  Dan Girardi reached his stick behind Cam and swung at the puck, hitting it in mid air and keeping it out of the net momentarily.  But it hit the back of Cam’s legs and popped into the net.

2-1 Detroit.  Rough loss but we played very well and Cam, saving .935 deserved to win.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Red Wings are pretty tough at home and that Cam Talbot looks more and more like a number one goalie every day.

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  Just Nash and Brassard.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  We scored on the powerplay – and Detroit's game winner was also on the powerplay.  

Where Do We Stand?  Ah, yes, the good news!  Your New York Rangers are once again 1st place in the Metro at 39-17-7, tied with the Islanders but with two games at hand. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Gmae 2 of the tough road trip finds our boys in Chicago Sunday night to take on the Blackhawks..

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Happy Purim, yo!

Dave Pucks out – thanks!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rangers Beat the Best - stopping Nashville 4-1 to reclaim 1st Place!

With the trade deadline jitters behind them – the Rangers resumed their season with joy and determination.  Joy that Mats Zuccarello was still on the team.  And determination to go for a Stanley Cup that Ranger Management clearly think they have a real shot at.  Otherwise they would never have given up possible future star Anthony Duclair and first and second round draft picks for Keith Yandel – offensive defenseman, two time all star and the NHL’s leading point scorer on the powerplay.
So the time is now and the Rangers know it and reacted well to it.  They took on the top point team in hockey and pretty much outplayed them for 60 minutes, outshooting them 40 to 26 and beating them 4-1 with Cam Talbot in goal. 

Marc Staal got the scoring started in the first – grabbing a pass probably meant for Nash and finishing for the 1-0 lead.  The Ranger limited Nashville to 6 shots in the first and Cam handled them all.  On to the 2nd:

Zuccarello from the right corner made a perfect pass through traffic to a wide open Chris Kreider streaking to the net.  He beat Pekka Rinne (that’s two sets of double letters) and it was 2-0.  The Predators did get one back at 15:24 and we went to the third up 2-1.
In third it was Moore (and we no longer have to explain its Dominic – John Moore is no more) pouncing on a rebound off a Girardi blast and sweeping the puck toward the net.  Rinne got a stick on it – but it trickled through in slow motion and we were 3-1.  And the final goal was an empty netter by Rick Nash for the 4-1 win.

Yandle, who woke up in Arizona and found himself in a Ranger uniform the same day, played nearly 20 minutes and looked good despite the -1 plus-minus.  He moved the puck well and provided some organization and skill to our power play.  He was paired at different times with Klein and Boyle. 

What Did We Learn?  This is a defensive six that is the best the Rangers have ever had and maybe the best in the league.  I mean, if Staal is now a number 5 defenseman – is anyone else’s number 5 even remotely close to his skill level?  And so, without overworking anyone – we were able to put high quality defensive pairings out there for a full 60 minutes and keep a great tram like Nashville from really testing our back up goaltender.  There’s lots of hockey left to play – but the results so far are very encouraging.

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  A pair for the revitalized Mats Zuccarello – who gave up at least some possible personal gain to remain a Ranger.  And a pair for Brassard.  Single assists for:  Girardi, Glass, and Klein.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  Yes and no.  We were -0-1 on the powerplay – but our aggressive Penalty Kill kept the Predators from scoring in three attempts.    

Where Do We Stand?  It’s good.  It’s very good.  39-17-6.  84 points.  FIRST PLACE in the Metro – tied with the Islanders with 2 games at hand.  8-1-1 in our last 10.    3 points up on the Penguins.  And a full 15 points up on the 9th place Panthers with 20 games to play.

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Wednesday we go to Detroit to take on the Redwings. 

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Do you think Ranger analyst Dave Maloney was involved when Sather pulled off the trade with his brother Don Maloney – the Coyote’s GM?