NYR/PITT 12/20 Review: Penguins Show the Rangers What the Stanley Cup Looks Like, Crosby Beats up McDonagh & the Rangers (Again), Lundqvist Wants No Part of The Black & Gold, Raanta’s 40 Saves, A Gary “Jewish Lawyer from NY” Bettman Book Review & Much More From the Second Worse Loss of the Year

Make all the puerile jokes you want about him, but Sidney Cosby is still the best player in hockey today. Photo Credit: NHL.com

 

What’s up everyone and blah blah blah. The blog is BlueCollarBlueShirts.com, the only blog of its kind and the only place where there isn’t rainbow and gumdrops talk when the name Henrik Lundqvist is mentioned!

The Rangers got embarrassed, 7-2, in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. To me, this was the second worst loss of the season, with the 6-1 loss, to these very Penguins, in MSG, being worse. Why was it worse? Because the team was healthy, at home and Lundqvist, the highest paid goalie in the league, was playing.

For the past week on this blog, I had this game circled. Just check out the previous blogs by visiting the main page or checking out the archives located on the right hand of this site.

I kept saying the same thing after every game – HENRIK LUNDQVIST MUST PLAY THIS GAME. Guess what, he didn’t!

Now Ranger fans and the Ranger talking heads on MSG (Although credit to Steve Valiquette, he did say he thought Hank should start before trying to come up with excuses for AV on why Hank didn’t) had no problem with Lundqvist not starting this game. To me, it’s complete bullshit.

Sometimes I think that AV makes these decisions to fuel the narrative of this site! It’s also funny that with Rick Nash out for 3+ games, due to pulling his other nut, Hank sat out again. If you recall, Hank sat out all the games Nash missed two weeks ago.

I’ve said it a bunch of times here. It’s great that the Rangers pay an aging and regressing goalie 13% of their cap and make him the highest paid goalie in the league at $8.5M for average stats. It’s great that Hank can’t win a cup, despite all the money and teenage Ranger fans bowing to him like he’s Marty Brodeur. The fact is, with that contract, Glen Healy will be the last Ranger to ever wear the number 30 and win the Stanley Cup.

Now, you might be saying, the Rangers lost 7-2 on Tuesday night, in Pittsburgh, with Raanta starting. Why aren’t I going off on him? I’ll get into that below when recapping the game itself.

Lundqvist has struggled all but for a week this season. The one week he played well, it was because he was benched for four straight games. You shouldn’t need to be benched and outplayed by your back-up to show up for games.

I’ve talked about the trend about Raanta taking the “heavy lifting” starts, while Lundqvist feeds on cellar dweller teams and teams starting their back-up goalies. Even the best week of his season, he beat two non playoff teams in Dallas & Nashville. Nashville started a back-up goalie too. Hank then beat the Devils, the same team that Raanta shutout a week ago! For the record, the Devils are in second to last place!

Look at the games Raanta has started. He played both games against Chicago, winners of 3 of the last 6 Stanley Cups & with 5 WCF appearances in 6 years. He played against Boston, with the lights out Tuukka Rask. Tonight he played against the Stanley Cup champions, the Penguins, who have just given the Rangers fits and hell since February of 2016.

So while it’s great that Hank is playing the Carolina’s, the Vancouver’s, the Sabres and other last place teams of the world, he missed a big opportunity to step up and play the best.

And yes, I know AV is the coach, but if you don’t think Hank has pull, you’re nuts. Then again, maybe AV knows how great Pitt is and threw Raanta to the wolves. Maybe he was coddling Hank by not starting him tonight.

This was a game Lundqvist needed to start. I’ve said it all season long. For the Rangers, the road to the Stanley Cup will have a stop in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have dominated the Rangers recently, ever since the Hagelin trade, ironically, where the Pens are now 5-1 (9-2 if you count playoffs) vs NYR. The Pens caught lightening in a bottle last February and haven’t looked back. While Crosby remains the star, the best player since Gretzky in the NHL & the best player in the league today, Pitt is also supported by Malkin, the HBK line, two Stanley Cup winning goalies and a sound defense.

Hank and the Rangers needed to prove something more here than the Penguins did. Sitting out this game was a disgrace.

Now, you might say, “oh you’re the guy who wants Hank traded.” I do. However, I’m not the coach or GM. I know that Hank is going to be starting in the playoffs, as much as I would love his contract off the books here. We all know Hank will be starting in the playoffs, no matter what Raanta does. This is the game Hank needs to play and win. Instead, he played with his hair on the bench.

You’re not going to see Carolina or those other last place teams in the playoffs. This is the game Hank needs to put in the work for. Ranger fans and the team themselves were cheated.

Oh and here are the last 6 Ranger vs Pittsburgh regular season game scores, since the Hagelin trade:

(Credit: EISHockey.com)

21/12/16, 01:05 Pittsburgh Penguins – New York Rangers 7 : 2  (1 : 1) (2 : 0) (4 : 1) 65. Gameday
24/11/16, 01:05 New York Rangers – Pittsburgh Penguins 1 : 6  (1 : 0) (0 : 5) (0 : 1) 41. Gameday
22/11/16, 01:05 Pittsburgh Penguins – New York Rangers 2 : 5  (2 : 0) (0 : 3) (0 : 2) 39. Gameday
28/03/16, 01:35 New York Rangers – Pittsburgh Penguins 2 : 3  (1 : 1) (1 : 1) (0 : 0) n.V. 162. Gameday
13/03/16, 17:35 New York Rangers – Pittsburgh Penguins 3 : 5  (1 : 1) (1 : 2) (1 : 2) 147. Gameday
04/03/16, 01:05 Pittsburgh Penguins – New York Rangers 4 : 1  (0 : 0) (3 : 1) (1 : 0)

In case you forgot, here are the results from the 5 game first round playoff series between the Rangers & Penguins from last spring:

(Credit: Wikipedia)

 

Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby manhandled Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh at MSG. Crosby manhandled the Rangers team on Tuesday night. Photo Credit: CA.freeformsports.com

This game was an absolute massacre and everything I feared. The Penguins are 9-2 against the Rangers since February and many of those games have been lopsided. This was no different.

The Rangers have been good, but good doesn’t win Stanley Cups. Tonight, you saw the difference between a pretender and a contender. The Penguins made mincemeat of the Blueshirts and for the Rangers, just like kids finding out about Santa Claus, learned that they aren’t for real.

Hey, it’s not even 2017 yet, right? Bottom line, the Penguins have been the NHL’s best team since February of last year and show no signs of slowing down. While no team has yet to repeat when it comes to winning the Cup, in the new cap era, the Penguins did make two straight SCF appearances since the 2004 lockout. Can they follow up their Cup win with another SCF appearance? It would be hard to bet against them.

Unless Crosby gets another concussion or the wheels completely fall off for the Penguins, the Penguins will be the Rangers biggest obstacle in their Stanley Cup dreams. What is scary is that the recent games between these two clubs haven’t been close, nor have been gritty one goal games. They’ve been blowouts, with many of them ending with Hank holding his head on the bench, with his nice little Gatorade scarf on.

Here’s the official box score from ESPN.com, followed by my thoughts and recap of the game:

1st Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR PIT
5:55
Sidney Crosby (22) (Power Play)
Assists: Ian Cole, Justin Schultz
0 1
16:59
Matt Puempel (2)
Assists: Marek Hrivik, Nick Holden
1 1
Time Team Penalty Detail
2:19
Kevin Klein: 4 Minute Double Minor for High sticking

2nd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR PIT
4:43
Evgeni Malkin (14)
Assists: Chris Kunitz, Phil Kessel
1 2
8:53
Phil Kessel (11) (Power Play)
Assists: Evgeni Malkin, Brian Dumoulin
1 3
Time Team Penalty Detail
2:02
Derrick Pouliot: 2 Minutes for Tripping
7:32
Kevin Hayes: 2 Minutes for High-sticking
11:01
Chris Kreider: 2 Minutes for Interference
12:14
Sidney Crosby: 2 Minutes for Kneeing
17:44
Ian Cole: 2 Minutes for Hooking

3rd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR PIT
1:52
Michael Grabner (14)
Assists: Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello
2 3
4:11
Justin Schultz (6)
Assist: Evgeni Malkin
2 4
6:12
Bryan Rust (9)
Assist: Sidney Crosby
2 5
12:22
Patric Hornqvist (7) (Power Play)
Assists: Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz
2 6
19:49
Nick Bonino (6)
Assists: Bryan Rust, Ian Cole
2 7
Time Team Penalty Detail
10:42
Brady Skjei: 2 Minutes for Tripping

Goaltending Summary

New York Rangers Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
A. Raanta 47 7 40 .851 60:00 0

Pittsburgh Penguins Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
M. Murray 28 2 26 .929 60:00 0

“Hey Raanta, thanks for taking the hit for me tonight. I can’t let my stats get any worse than they already are!” Photo Credit: DailyNews.com

I don’t know where to start, so I’ll make it simple as possible. The story of the game was shots on goal, time of possession and the special teams. In the first period alone, Raanta had 21 saves. He would go on to make 19 more, saving 40 shots and having 7 goals against added to his stats. However, aside from one of the goals, 6 of them were on the terrible Rangers defense and special teams. (This is where Hank fans blame Girardi & Staal for Hank’s numbers, but Raanta makes $7.5M less than Hank & Hank gives up a ton of bad goals.)

Raanta was a beast in the first period, making save after save. Rangers announcer, Joe Michelletti had the balls to say Raanta wasn’t challenged much, despite making 10 saves and killing off a 4 minute PP. If Lundqvist did the same thing, Michelletti would be sending flowers and chocolate from the booth down to Lundqvist.

The first period was all Pittsburgh, but aside from a deflection goal from Crosby, they could only muster up 1 goal on 22 shots. Somehow and perhaps miraculously, Matt Puempel flicked, what looked to be a harmless shot, in Matt Murray’s direction and got a goal. 1-1 after twenty minutes and an extremely lucky 1-1 at that.

It was tough to tell if the Rangers were showing no effort or if Pittsburgh was just that better. It was probably a combination of both, which is why Lundqvist wanted no part of this game. Highest paid goalie in the league to sit on the bench in the big games. I wish I could get paid like that at my job. Remember when Richter would sit out those big games against Brodeur or against the Islanders? Me neither.

Just thinking about the next two periods makes me sick and makes me want to vomit in my underwear.

It was a complete shit show for the Rangers. Grabner missed on two breakaways. The third time was a charm, giving the Rangers their second goal of the game. Aside from Raanta’s saves, that was the lone Ranger highlight of the last 40 minutes of this game.

Ryan McDonagh, after being rag-dolled by Crosby in the Garden, had a horrendous game. He was directly responsible for two goals, knocking in one himself and hand passing a puck right to a Penguin on Raanta’s doorstep.

The Rangers PP was absolutely dreadful, as it’s been the last few games. Sam Rosen has to be dying to belt out, “IT’S A POWERPLAY GOAL.” It’s been a while.

The Rangers PK, one of the top 5 PK’s in the league, decided to pick tonight to shit the bed. It was open season on Raanta. During one sequence, that led to a Penguins goal, Klein turned the puck over 3 times and couldn’t make a clear. Infuriating.

In what’s becoming alarming as of late, the Rangers took a shitload of penalties, and these were bad penalties to take. I get taking a penalty to slow someone up on a breakaway or something, but the Rangers were completely undisciplined tonight, like a middle school class during last period before the holiday break.

After firing away against everyone and anyone not named Pittsburgh, the Rangers only have 2 games with four or more goals in the month of December. Tonight, they only managed 2.

Now Ranger fans will say well Nash was out, Zibanejad was out and Buchnevich was out. For starters, Buchnevich hasn’t shown anyone anything yet. He’s a rookie. Zibanejad was good, but he was playing with Nash when the Rangers got spanked 6-1, to these same Penguins of Pittsburgh in MSG.

I know the season series is now 2-1, but look at the games & what the teams have done. To think that Pittsburgh isn’t the team to beat is insane.

While Lundqvist thanked his lucky stars he didn’t play tonight, Raanta had a vintage Lundqvist game, going back to the Renney/Torts years. Raanta played well, but saw his stats take a hit because the team in front of him was trash tonight.

On the other end, KING MURRAY, wasn’t challenged that much and gave up 2 goals. I don’t think he played that great, but he didn’t have much to work with either. 90% of this game was in the Rangers defensive/Penguins offensive zone.

Before continuing about the Rangers, let me calm down a bit and talk about a book I just read. I’d love to talk to anyone who also read this book:

Jon Gatehouse’s book came out in 2012, right before the latest lockout. Photo Credit: Amazon.com

I’m an avid book reader with an Amazon prime account and I’m not ashamed to admit it! The best thing about Amazon and books, is that if you wait a month or two after a book release, you can usually get a book for 90% off from its retail price. Of course, it’s a used book, but that just means someone read it once and sold it. I probably got 1000+ books in my house, that are probably worth what I paid for them – cents on the dollar.

One book that caught my eye during my Amazon browsing was “The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the NHL & Changed The Game Forever” by Canadian reporter/author, Jonathon Gatehouse. Since the cost was 1 cent used, I decided to grab it. After all, I have spent money on worse, like on a Lundqvist jersey that I don’t wear! In fact, if you visit https://www.amazon.com/Instigator-Bettman-Remade-Changed-Forever/dp/1600788157 the book is still going for 1 cent!

I heard about this book before, as someone said it was a book that tries to paint Bettman in a positive light. I didn’t get that from this book at all, although you do get some of Bettman’s achievements under his near 1/4 of a century reign.

This book came out in 2012, right before the latest lockout and what a difference 4 years makes. Some of the stuff in this book is dated, especially when it comes to numbers, which this book does a great job of explaining and reporting. The author of this book could probably write a sequel on what has happened since under Bettman’s watch or even add a few new chapters with updated stats/financials.

As an American, there were two things that really stood out to me in this book, which I don’t think was the author’s intention. The author came off very unAmerican and kept referring to Bettman as “the jew lawyer from NY.” In all of my reading, whether it be books, social media or websites, I’ve never heard Bettman referred to as that. Even during my trips in Canada, I’ve never heard one Canadian refer to Bettman as that, while the author makes it seem like it’s common knowledge that many refer to Bettman that way.

I’m not Jewish nor offended by anything, I just thought it was odd that was one of the themes the author kept pushing.

Here are a few page excerpts from the book, with some of my thoughts on the book to follow:

This was written four years ago before the 2012 lockout. Gatehouse is dead-on. 99% of my arguments with people over hockey are because of contracts. Just look at my stuff on Lundqvist!

If you’ve never talked about a hockey player’s contract, chances are you don’t talk hockey with anyone!

The Jewish NY lawyer reference would come up several times in this book.

The book starts off pushing the “Jewish Lawyer from NY” narrative and the anti-American stuff as things others say, but as the book went on, I felt that the author had the same feelings himself. I can see where the author is coming from, but I’ve been to many NHL cities and argued with many of my fellow Ranger fans here- there are hardcore hockey guys in the United States.

I get that hockey is bigger in Canada and treated with more prestige. I mean in NY, the home of the NHL offices, the NHL rarely gets a back page. However, I think the author pushed a stereotype that American fans are clueless about hockey. Again, I’m not offended by one’s opinion, I just don’t agree with it. I kinda understand where it’s coming from, especially when the author talks about the failed franchises in the south and in the sunbelt. Maybe if the author talked to some Ranger, Bruins, Blackhawks or Wings fans, he’d have a different opinion.

This book is broken up into extended chapters over 300+ pages talking about Bettman’s rise and career as NHL commish. I did find it weird that the author decided to close the book talking about an NBA guy (Bettman) dealing with an MLB guy (Fehr) when it comes to the NHL vs NHLPA. Kinda took away from what the book was all about.

The author did a great job talking about all the different franchises and Bettman’s work with them. He did a fair job of pushing Bettman’s successes (NHL players are the least paid, the money the league generates, the iron fist he has over the sport) and Bettman’s failures (lockouts, too eager to let anyone own teams, cities that shouldn’t have teams.)

Two great things I took out of this book came from opposite end of the spectrum. The author made a point to say, that aside from a few owners (I think 2-3), Bettman has personally been there or brought an owner into the team. That means Bettman has a relationship and power over these owners, because he was there first or facilitated the deal. The author also kind of pushed a Bettman is “anti-Canadian” narrative early in the book, but digressed as the book went along. I’m in agreement with Gatehouse – Canada deserves more teams. The stuff in Phoenix is ridiculous. Hamilton or Ontario in general could support a team. So could Nova Scotia or Quebec.

Gatehouse does a great job of explaining NHL financials and the deals Bettman made. He also blames Americans for the Fox “blue glowing” puck. I guess it was an American producer’s fault on that one! To be fair – hockey is 1000000000% times better in the HDTV age than when I was growing up. I don’t think a producer would’ve done that in today’s age.The whole HDTV flat screen was made for hockey. In fact, I can remember telling my Dad that the second we got a flat screen.

Gatehouse also does a good job talking about TV contracts and how Bettman has sucked out more money from sponsors/TV networks in Canada than anyone before. It still puzzles me how NBC paid all this money for hockey, but really dropped the ball with it. I’m surprised NBC never tried a HOCKEY NIGHT IN AMERICA like Hockey Night in Canada. Pick a dead TV night, even if it’s a Friday night, where people go out, and try to promote hockey, akin to Monday Night Football.

While I was told this book would make you appreciate Bettman more, I didn’t get that after reading it. I still feel he is the worst commissioner in sports history, and that includes the racist commissioners of baseball. You can’t on one hand, brag about all the money you’re making, then on the other hand, have three lockouts under your watch. Personally, I was furious during the 2004 lockout. This was also around the time when Leetch & Graves were traded too. It took me a while to get into it again as much as I am today, because I was always waiting for another lockout. It wound up happening 7 years later, right before this book was published.

I have always watched and paid attention to the Rangers, but I was turned off and wasn’t as avid as I once was and later became again. I’ll tell you what- I’ve been to more games & bought more merch from 1996-2003 and 2012-2016 than I did from 2005-2012. I was also at a different stage in life in those days (I was running my own wrestling company, which was a full time job in addition to the full time job I already had, so I didn’t have much time to go to games.) But I’ll say – that 2004 lockout really pissed me off.

In fact, after the 2012 lockout, I said that I’ll be done with watching hockey if they have another lockout at the next CBA. I’m just so sick of all these lockouts. I also said the same thing in 2004, because I’m sick of these grown men fighting over $ over a kids game. You don’t want to be a battered housewife with this league – “I only lockout because I love you!” I just feel in these times, it is the responsibility of the commissioner to have a deal in place before a lockout can occur. Shit, at the very least, let them play under the old CBA and then divvy up lost wages, like a police union.

My tangent aside – I thought Gatehouse did a great job explaining the two lockouts (again, book was published before 2012 lockout) and how Bettman controlled the talks. For someone accused of not knowing what a puck was, Bettman, an American, became the most powerful man in hockey in every aspect.

Again, it’s funny how time changes things, as I would’ve loved to get the author’s thoughts on the Islanders Barclay fiasco, the horrendous Las Vegas presser (The author predicted a Las Vegas team would be in the works too), Nashville’s growth (The author said the fans had as many teeth as the players, LMAO!), the 2012 lockout, the new salary cap, the upcoming TV deal & all the outdoor games.

The title of the book may lead you to thinking the book is all about Bettman and his personal life, and while some personal stories are told (Bettman did a college thesis on the Mafia, his lawyer work, etc) this is really a book about the NHL & their business under Bettman.

Despite feeling it pushed an anti-American theme in a lot of ways, I thought “The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the NHL & Changed The Game Forever” by Jonathon Gatehouse was a fun read. I wish I read it when it first came out, since the book does come off dated, even with only 4 years passing by.

Plus, for a penny, you can’t go wrong! Perfect book to check out while on a 3 hour flight this holiday season or after a night at Taco Bell! However, if time is an issue for you, check out the new Gretzky 99 book I reviewed on this site. I found that book as better time spent.

Did anyone else have Devan Dubnyk in the Vezina running this season?

Enough about Pittsburgh, this game sucked and unless the Rangers make some personnel moves at the deadline (There is no evidence to suggest they won’t), they will most likely watch the Penguins advance in the playoffs.

Up next for the Rangers are the second place Minnesota Wild and their Vezina candidate, Devan Dubnyk. Yes, we’re not at the halfway mark of the season, but take a look at this:

  • Devan Dubnyk leads the NHL with a sick 1.55 GAA
  • Dubnyk leads the NHL with a .948 save percentage
  • Dubnyk leads the NHL with 5 shutouts
  • Dubnyk is third in the league with wins, 16 wins to Bobrovsky’s 19 wins in Columbus.
  • Dubnyk is the 22nd highest paid goalie in the league, making $4.34 million a year, as opposed to Lundqvist making the highest amount in the league, at $8.5 for middle of the pack numbers.

With the games more spaced out as we hit the holidays, I would assume Lundqvist starts Friday. Then again, I assumed Hank would want the competition tonight, so who knows.

It wasn’t long ago that I actually walked out of an NHL game to catch the tail end of my girlfriend’s best friend birthday party in NYC. The Wild were up 4-0 in the third period. The bar where the party was at was 5 minutes away from MSG. I saw the Rangers come back to win 5-4 on TV. Serves me right for walking out!

Oh, and I’m assuming that Eric Staal doesn’t get a MSG “Thank You” video montage either! Eric Staal is having a decent season. Figures, another high end Rangers bust!

I plan on going to the game on Friday, so it might be a late blog or none at all. If not, have a Merry Xmas and all that happy horseshit.

And after a game like this, I sigh and bid you an adieu.

Alas, as always,

LET’S GO RANGERS

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the twitt-AH

Comments

  1. Just found this blog via twitter. I’m enjoying your candor and analysis. I see you like to come down on Lundqvist mighty hard and your reasoning stems from his contract. So I challenge you to go back in time to 2014 and rewrite his extension. Would you not have signed a franchise goalie and face of the team to a length that would take him to his retirement? Would you not have given him a no-movement clause? So would it just come down to money? Metrics Lundqvist and his agent certainly used: Rask signed the year before for 7 mil cap hit/year and Rinne two years prior for the same. Both included no-movement and were of equal or greater term length. Data from http://www.spotrac.com/nhl/contracts/goaltender/ So please tell us all what deal you would have signed Lundqvist to and then what you’d do with all that extra cap space.

    1. I’ve talked about this before. He’s the one who said he wanted to be here, wants to win at all costs. When he got his deal, he was just slipping from his prime, as IMO, his best year was 2012. If he got a deal where the money lessened as time went on, I’d be ok with that. If he really wanted to win a cup, and keep in mind, he has endorsements and plenty of $ making streams elsewhere, I think $4-$5M would be fair for him.

      As far all the cap space, depends what season and you never know how things will play out. Would’ve kept Hagelin, never made the Etem trade. Would’ve never traded Duke in the Yandle trade, but once it happened, I would’ve kept Yandle here. As far as other additions, Justin Williams would’ve been a better add than some of the guys NYR wnet for.

      I also think this is the era where a “franchise goalie” doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

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