What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Keep checking out the main page of the site for my Sean Avery “Ice Capades” book review. I hope to have it up by Monday morning.
Today, I’ll be looking at the Rangers 2-1 overtime thriller, over the best team in the NHL, in the Tampa Bay Lightning. This will be a different blog than usual, as I attended this game. I’ll be focusing more on the experience and being a guest at the Amalie Arena. Of course, as usual, I’ll also have my thoughts on the game.
I’m currently writing this blog from my friends house in Tampa, so this may not be as wordy as usual, which I’m sure is good news to some! Let’s get right into it, because as always, I feel like Willy Wonka at the end of “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”, “So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you!”
I gotta say, just being in Tampa these last two days and pre-gaming around the various bars here before this game, Tampa is definitely MSG South. Everywhere you went, you saw Ranger jerseys. And really, to wear a Ranger jersey yesterday, that’s dedication, because it was nearly 90 degrees out!
While some people made the trip, to this game, from NY like Tommy & I, many fans here are former New Yorkers, who have left the overpriced cesspool that NY has become, for a better life. I know I have said it on this blog before, but if I could ever find a job making what I make now down here, I would move to Tampa in a heartbeat. Not only is Tampa an affordable & beautiful town, with a lot to offer, it’s also on the rise, as there is construction all over the place. (Sadly, not union construction.) There’s also the “no-state income tax” thing too, which is a nice little perk, I would say!
Going into this game against the best team in the NHL, I was nervous. After all, the Rangers barely squeaked by the Vegas Golden Knights, in their last tilt. As recapped in my last blog, if the Rangers lost to the Knights on Tuesday, it would’ve been a kick to the nuts. Speaking of my last blog and kicks to the nuts, here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them: (What a segueway!)
NYR/VGK 10/31 Review: Rangers Sweat Out a Win Against An Expansion Team on The Second Night of a Back-to-Back; Defeat a Fourth String Goalie Making His First Ever Start, AV Looks To Live Another Day, Special Teams Show Up, $28 Tix, Latest NYR Rumors & More From A Win You Can’t Get Too Excited About
NYR/MTL 10/28 Review: The Consistently Inconsistent Rangers Brutally Embarrassed in Poutine Land by the Worst Team in the East, How Much Longer Will We Have To Wait for a Full Rebuild, The Atrocious Defense & Much More, Live From Montreal with Plenty of Pictures To Boot
NYR/ARI 10/26 Review: King Pavelec & The Rangers Win the Derek Stepan Cup; Leave The New York Arizona Coyotes Howling in Tears, “They Aren’t Booing Him, They’re Saying BOO!”, The 1000 Game Virgin Rick Nash, AV Lives For Another Day, Why This Win Doesn’t Change Anything, Montreal & More From M$G
NYR/SJS 10/23 Review: PURE ANGER, as Henrik Lundqvist & The Rangers Get Sharknado’d, Season Falling Apart, AV May Need To Start Chewing Gum At Home, Time for the Rangers to Get Ruff, Powerless Play, Ticket Prices Continue To Drop & More From the Absolute Worst Loss of the 2017-2018 NY Ranger Season
NYR/NSH 10/21 Review: The Rangers Break Nearly Every Bad Trend To Gain Their Second Win of the Season, Major NYR Record Snapped, Cheap Tix, What This Win Means, Looking Ahead & Much More From a Matinee at M$G
When JT Miller scored the game winning goal in OT on Thursday night, in Tampa, the Rangers put together their first two game win streak of the season. Granted, it’s nothing to brag about, especially after 14 games played, but it’s a step in the right direction. While you can’t really get too nuts about the win on Tuesday against a fourth string goalie, beating Tampa, on the road, is something you can be happy about. If you’re into the cliches of “this was a win to build on”, then you have every right to repeat that mantra.
That said (there’s one) just keep in mind, there’s another game on Saturday night, against the lowly Florida Panthers. A loss in that game would kill the good vibes from this win over the Bolts. However, before jumping ahead and looking at the Panthers, let me share some of my pics from my trip to the Amalie.
I know sometimes when things are fresh, we tend to overrate them a bit, but I really can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed my time at Amalie. Bolt fans don’t know how good they have it with their team and arena.
Speaking of the Lightning, from talking with other people and just talking to my friends who moved down here, while college football remains king, the Bolts have surpassed the Bucs & the Rays in popularity. It probably helps that the Bolts are good and without a doubt, their recent playoff runs created more fans. While I haven’t hit every NHL arena in the league, I have hit more than half of them, and in my experiences, the Amalie provided the best fan experience and sight lines, out of all the arenas I’ve been to.
Here’s a few more pictures, before I talk about the actual play on the ice itself:
To me, last night’s 2-1 win was the best win of the season. Unfortunately, while there aren’t many wins to choose from when I say that, when you go into the best team in the league’s house, and play an excellent 60 minutes of hockey, nothing is better.
Here’s the official boxscore from ESPN.com, followed by my thoughts:
1st Period Summary
||Chris Kreider (4)
Assists: Mika Zibanejad, Brady Skjei
||Kevin Shattenkirk: 2 Minutes for Holding|
||Mats Zuccarello: 2 Minutes for Slashing|
||Victor Hedman: 2 Minutes for Roughing|
2nd Period Summary
||Yanni Gourde (3) (Shorthanded)
Assists: Victor Hedman, Brayden Point
||Steven Kampfer: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
||Ryan Callahan: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
||Vladislav Namestnikov: 2 Minutes for Cross checking|
3rd Period Summary
|No scoring this period||1||1|
||Alex Killorn: 2 Minutes for Slashing|
||J.T. Brown: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
||Steven Kampfer: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
||Ryan McDonagh: 2 Minutes for Roughing|
||J.T. Miller (3)
Assists: Kevin Shattenkirk, Henrik Lundqvist
Going into this game, I was fearing the worst and hoping the best. At the very least, for the money paid, all the free booze and food would make it worth it. The fact that the Rangers won their best game of the season, man, it doesn’t get better than that.
It’s funny, ever since I sold my wrestling promotion, thus freeing up time to attend Ranger road games, I’ve attended at least one game a season, on the road, that was somewhat an omen for things to come. With this win, over this Bolts team, I don’t know if this win is that, as only time will tell, but if you’re an optimist, you have to be feeling good with what you saw last night.
Before the game, AV tinkered with his defensive pairs, yet again. This time, Brendan Smith, you know, the guy making $17.4M for 4 years, was scratched. In his place was Nick Holden. AV also kept Kampfer dressed, which somewhat surprised me. I thought for sure, after the tongue-lashing Lundqvist gave Kampfer in the Vegas game, that Kampfer would’ve been sent to the press box. However, Kampfer made AV’s decision pay off, as for the first time all season, we saw fire, grit and a willingness to get dirty. By the time the game was over, Kampfer, the recipient of two fighting majors, left some marks on the face of both Ryan Callahan and that disgusting piece of shit, J.T. Brown. (Sorry, I have no sympathy for any athlete who disrespects the flag. Protest on your own time.)
For the first time all season, the Rangers played a complete 60 minutes. Everyone on the team contributed. Lundqvist had a “vintage” game, although he wasn’t called on to produce too much, as the Rangers did a good job of limiting quality chances. There was a play in the third period, where it looked like Alex Killorn had a potential game winning goal, but it would be waved off for goalie interference. To me, the goal looked good, but I’m going by what I saw live and the video replay on the scoreboard. I will tell you, when that goal was disallowed, the Amalie wasn’t happy. However, Lundqvist, who has been rattled and who has caved in these situations, was able to keep his cool & play his game.
While Dan Girardi’s return to MSG will have more impact (it happens at the end of March), it was fun watching Dan Girardi tonight. As I’ve always said, I wish the Rangers bought out Staal instead of Girardi.
No NHL defense is perfect. The forwards in this league and the way the rules are designed, no defense is exempt from having lapses here and there. While both defenses were solid for the majority of the game, both teams would give up odd man rushes and breakaways. With Girardi on the ice, this game reminded me of a Rangers/Islanders game, from seasons ago, where the Rangers beat the Islanders, 1-0, in the Coliseum, after Dan Girardi scored the game winning goal in OT. In that game, both Henrik Lundqvist and Evgeni Nabokov played lights out & one-upped each other with amazing save after save.
In tonight’s 2-1 OT victory over the Bolts, the Rangers & Lightning really shined at net. I thought that Bolts goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, was the best player on the ice. He finished with 33 saves on 35 shots and not many of his saves were pedestrian. Lundqvist, who finished with 27 saves on 28 shots, also came up big. In one of the rare games for the Rangers this season, not only did they play a complete 60 minutes, they also won a battle where goaltending was at its most supreme.
You really can’t say enough about the Rangers and the game they played tonight. If anything, it shows you that they are capable of beating anyone if they play to their potential. While I’m not saying this team is winning the Cup (it’s debatable if they even make the playoffs), the Rangers need to play this type of game every night.
During the course of the season, there will be times where the team will be in a fog. However, they showed us tonight that when they need to “get up” for a game, they can. As paying customers & fans, this is what we want to see on a regular basis. These first period funks, early goals allowed, late goals allowed and these long stretches of time with no offense, need to be eradicated from their game. Coming out hungry and looking to be world beaters, should be the norm. The fact that the Rangers had this effort, against this tough Lightning team, makes hopes even greater. If the Rangers can play like this against a Stanley Cup favorite team, there is no excuse to be losing to the Colorado’s of the league.
While I’m not doing a normal review, and recapping the game period-by-period, here’s what stood out to me, from my seat in the stands:
- While the Rangers PP did not deliver, the penalty kill stopped Tampa’s tremendous powerplay, going 2-2 on the night. Stamkos is just lethal on the Tampa PP and has emulated Alex Ovechkin, from the office known as the red dot.
- Both teams played well defensively, but it was the Rangers who got the lucky breaks in this game. It was Chris Kreider scored a goal, late into the first period. That’s a goal that Lundqvist has been giving up all season. Instead, it was the Rangers who made just one more extra play on their odd-man rushes.
- Kreider’s goal, the result of a 3 on 1 rush, was the lone odd-man rush goal. The Rangers had plenty of opportunities to add more, but Vasilevskiy was superb. The Rangers must convert on more of these chances.
- Mats Zuccarello, channeling his inner Sean Avery meets Theo Fleury, did a great job of playing hard and getting Tampa off their game. If there was any a game this season, where Zuccarello looked like he was truly worthy of the “A” on his sweater, this was the game.
- Grabner had a weird little game. He had many chances to score in this game (one goal was taken away due to a high stick), but he couldn’t finish. Grabner was converting on the majority of his chances last season, but hasn’t found the goal scorers touch this season.
- Shattenkirk, who has been as advertised all season (Great on the PP and will make your ass-clench defensively) took another silly penalty in this game. He needs to limit his penalties.
- While the penalty kill, as previously mentioned, was strong, the PP, after having a 2-3 third period on Tuesday night, left much to be desired in this game. The Rangers PP even led to the lone Tampa goal, as Yanni Gourde scored a short handed goal, evening up the score at 1-1 in the second period.
- Steve Kampfer must enjoy the Florida weather, because he wasn’t taking any shit from Tampa. Two fighting majors! Who is this guy! Tanner who? (Ok I take that back, I’m a fan of the GLASSIAH!)
- I didn’t see this live, and even when you watch this on the replay, you have to really look to see what Kevin Hayes did here:
Kevin Hayes squirts Alex Killorn with water from the bench, Killorn takes exception pic.twitter.com/ndxZ7hK8LG
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) November 3, 2017
Who does Kevin Hayes think he is? Melissa McCarthy?
— True Blue IAmARanger (@TruBlueRangers) November 3, 2017
And really, what is it with Rangers and squirting water bottles? We all know about the Lundqvist/Crosby spray, but in a 1-1 game, what is Hayes thinking? Sure, it’s funny and all, but the last thing you need here was giving Tampa a PP.
The third period was a hairy affair, for both teams, as each team would get looks at the net. However, neither team could convert. Both goalies played well and were also lucky when skaters shot wide. When the 60 minutes were up, the Rangers and Bolts were tied 1-1. If you know me, I love the low scoring, fast paced affairs. This game was right in my wheelhouse. This game was right up there with many other great games I’ve seen live over the last 35+ years. (The last great low scoring game I saw live was when NYR, behind KING RAANTA, beat the Blackhawks, in Chicago, 1-0, in another OT game.)
This might not make sense to some people, but these great low scoring games are akin to a pro wrestling battle royal. Each team are trying to throw the other team over the top rope, but the other team keeps holding on and mounts their own comeback. It’s just a back and forth affair, but eventually someone has to win. In tonight’s game, it was JT Miller, sealing the deal:
Time will tell if this win over Tampa is a sign of things to come or if this game was an anomaly of miracle proportions. Hopefully, the former and not the latter, will ring true.
Another reason not to beat your chest just yet, is this:
Sorry for the short blog tonight, but I’m on vacation and we got things to do!
I’ll be back either Saturday night or Sunday morning with a review of the Rangers/Panthers. I’ll be at that game too, so that blog will be written like this one. After that, with a few home games on tap, I’ll do my normal game reviews again. I should also have my Sean Avery “Ice Capades” book review up shortly as well. Again, I’m on vacation, so I don’t want to spend all my time on a computer, especially with the “Hard Rock” casino in my sights.
Overall, if you ever have the means, taking in a Ranger game at the Amalie arena should be on your bucket list.
See you later this weekend, and let’s hope the Rangers complete the two game sweep of the Sunshine State.
And as always…
“LET’S GO RANGERS”
@NYCTHEMIC on tweeter