NYR/NSH 2/9 Review: “Hey, Grab me a Miller” Line Dominates & Sweeps All Three Stars of the Game, Rangers Sweep Season Series Against Saros & the Predators, Standings Watch, AV Has To Make A Decision on Lundqvist, Island Park Denied a Homecoming, Charles Oakley Hates James Dolan As Much As We Do & Much More From a Snowy Night at MSG

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The third line of the Rangers carried the team to two points tonight. Photo Credit: MSG Networks & Getty Images.

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. After a snowstorm that dropped anywhere from 12-18 inches, depending on where you lived, Ranger fans would not be denied their hockey on Thursday night. I was wondering if this game was going to be postponed because the LIRR is a shit show, there was a state of emergency, schools were closed and all the other craziness that goes on during these snowstorms, which are treated as the zombie apocalypse, occurred.

24 hours following Charles Oakley (If you didn’t see the video, google it) wanting to bitch slap the ever living crap out of resident asshole and owner of the Rangers & Knicks, James Dolan, the Rangers laid a little smackdown too, at the Garden. The Rangers would defeat the Nashville Predators, 4-3, taking both games in the season series. The Rangers even scored two goals in the third period, pushing their total of third period goals to 74, good for tops in the league. That’s one trend you want to see move on with the Rangers in the playoffs.

The story of tonight’s game was the play of Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner and JT Miller. All three were named the three stars of the game after the game’s conclusion. This line has been delivering all season long and now that they are 100% healthy, the Rangers & the MSG networks are looking for a line name for these three. That’s one of the better things about hockey, the funny line names fans or the media come up with.  The best idea I saw was this:

 

While I had a variation of this idea in my head, gotta give credit where credit is due! It’s not like chanting “MILLER TIME” after a JT Miller goal or “InKREIDible”, so props to Mr. Old Man Boyle! I’ll still always have “Lundswiss”!

The “Hey, Grab me a Miller” line produced a total of 6 points, with two goals from JT Miller, three assists from Kevin Hayes & another goal from Michael Grabner. Grabner now has 26 goals, good for third in the entire NHL. What makes Grabner’s goals even more impressive is that he doesn’t play on the PP and all his goals (I think for except two) are even strength goals. It’s really gotten to the point where AV has to put this guy on the PP. I’m not saying pump up Grabner’s stats, I’m saying the Rangers PP sucks, so why not put your best goal scorer on the PP? Seems pretty elementary to me.

With Nashville currently holding a playoff spot (2nd Wild Card in the West), the Rangers did well. Keep in mind, in both games against the Predators this season, the Rangers missed Pekka Rinne, as AHL goalie, Juuse Saros, making $620,000 a season, started both games.

In case you missed my blog from the first Nashville vs NYR game, you can check it out here. This blog also includes some horrible & hilarious stories from my “hockey career”:

NYR/NSH 12/17 Review: “Vintage” Lundqvist, Jimmy Vesey Gives Predator Fans a “DX Crotch Chop”, My DX/Predator Hockey Playing Days, Crushing a Cancer Survivor, UFC Thoughts & More from a Win That Glen Sather Envisioned When Building This Team

 

At the height of the storm, MSG club seats, which usually go for $500+ a game on Stubhub, dropped down to a “paltry” $119.

On a day where the snowstorm and Charles Oakley dominated the NY Sport radio airwaves, and really if you missed Mike Francesa on Thursday, you missed out on radio gold, the Rangers took care of business. Let’s go to the official box score from ESPN.com (Because we all know NHL.com is impossible to use), followed with my thoughts and rumblings afterwards:

1st Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NSH NYR
16:39
Cody McLeod (4)
Assists: P.K. Subban, Austin Watson
1 0
Time Team Penalty Detail
No penalties this period

2nd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NSH NYR
3:50
Calle Jarnkrok (10) (Power Play)
Assists: Mike Fisher, P.K. Subban
2 0
8:12
Michael Grabner (26)
Assist: Kevin Hayes
2 1
14:58
J.T. Miller (17)
Assist: Kevin Hayes
2 2
Time Team Penalty Detail
3:38
Ryan McDonagh: 2 Minutes for Slashing
9:50
Roman Josi: 2 Minutes for Slashing
17:09
Brady Skjei: 2 Minutes for Tripping

3rd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NSH NYR
5:36
Chris Kreider (22)
Assists: Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad
2 3
16:00
J.T. Miller (18)
Assists: Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Hayes
2 4
17:59
Roman Josi (6) (Power Play)
Assists: Ryan Johansen, Ryan Ellis
3 4
Time Team Penalty Detail
16:49
Brady Skjei: 2 Minutes for Interference

Goaltending Summary

Nashville Predators Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
J. Saros 30 4 26 .867 57:15 0

New York Rangers Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
H. Lundqvist 37 3 34 .919 60:00 0

Sean Hartnett, of WFAN, goes nuts about Clendening every game. If Hartnett appreciated the team’s history, he would be campaigning for the Rangers to retire the number 4 for Ron Greschner.

After writing in my last blog about how great the Rangers look when they are 100% healthy and how shot-blocking beats up a team, Dan Girardi was scratched tonight. Girardi needed stitches near his ankle after blocking shots on Tuesday against the Ducks. Freak accident? Maybe. Would Girardi be playing if this was a playoff game? Probably. Still, it’s hard to keep the shot-blocking up. The Rangers got away from shot blocking a bit tonight. I don’t think fans who watch the games only on TV appreciate a good shot block. It fucking hurts! I’ve sat as high as the bridges and can hear rubber bouncing off flesh and bone from up there. Eating a 100+ MPH piece of solid rubber? That shit isn’t for everyone!

One scratch on the other side got my attention. Anthony Bitetto, a defenseman, was scratched for Nashville. Bitetto is a native of Island Park, NY. I have many friends (and antagonists, HELLO EVAN DAVIS, BRIAN MILLER, DOUBLE G & TIM MALONE haha) from Island Park, as I live ten minutes away. While I can only say I met Bitetto once in a bar around my area (and it was just a hey and bye type of thing), many friends of mine know him and his family.  I can’t say I’ve been following Nashville much this season, so I don’t know why he was scratched tonight. I know he’s up and down with the franchise a lot, but it kinda sucks that Coach Peter Laviolette didn’t give him a start here.

We all know that sports are a business. Sometimes, some players should play, especially in a game like this. This is a non-conference game for Nashville and a game where Nashville is starting their back-up goalie. I know many people bought tickets to see Bitetto play and root him on. You don’t know ahead of time that it’s going to be a huge snowstorm, but people went to the game anyway to see him. Sometimes you just gotta throw the home town a bone.

It’s the same thing as starting ex-players against their former team. For example, the Oilers, who weren’t that great last year, wouldn’t start Talbot against the Rangers. Fans gave Talbot a standing ovation when NYR played a video for him anyway. Eddie Giacomin, obviously more well revered to Ranger fans than Talbot, got a huge reaction when he returned to MSG in a Red Wings jersey. When it comes to hometown guys and ex-players of a team, if it doesn’t really affect the playoffs, then why not give the fans what they want? You know, your customers?

For Island Park, hopefully Bitetto gets a start against the Islanders or Devils. It’s just a shame the kid didn’t get a shot to play in the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” Hopefully he gets another opportunity again.

With Girardi out of the line-up, Adam Clendening was back in. It’s tough to really rate Clendening this year because he doesn’t get much time and gets all these spot starts. He has no chance to build a rhythm or on-ice chemistry with this club. It’s just the way it is. For some fans, they don’t mind Clendening over Girardi, just like how I don’t mind Raanta over Lundqvist. However, if you’re one of these Lundqvist fan boys, who thinks Hank can do no wrong, how come the same luxury isn’t afforded to the other longest tenured Ranger, in “Iron Man” Dan Girardi?

As far as tonight, Clendening played well, but unless there is a major injury, it’s hard to see him getting any real time with this club.

Hayes has sparked this Rangers offense

I have talked about this for a while now here on this blog. Kevin Hayes is having the best season of his career this year. After losing some weight, which we’ve heard about 387384073840730 times, Hayes started this season off by helping the Rangers recruit Jimmy Vesey. On Vesey, I can’t wait for the day that Vesey & Buchnevich come into their primes. I don’t think we have to worry about these two being Lundmark and Brendl.

After getting his pal Vesey to the Rangers, Hayes has been a dominating force in the Rangers offense. When they lost and had a bunch of 1 goal games recently, it was without Hayes in the line-up. Hayes has been crashing the net like no other Ranger. Tonight he showed off his sweet mitts, picking up three assists. The first two assists (solo assists too) were the result of perfect passing from 13. This line has been producing all year and you can only hope with everyone healthy, this line continues this production. These guys also deserve PP shifts, especially Grabner. They are already your top penalty killers, so why not reward them, especially when the PP has been so anemic?

Cody McLeod got the first goal of the game, late into the first period. In what has been an alarming trend this year, Lundqvist had problems with another long shot, this time a 70′ open blast from PK Subban. Instead of playing the puck cleanly, Lundqvist had trouble and gave up a juicy rebound to McLeod, who was all by himself for the easy goal. Of course, the Lundqvist Fan Nation blamed every Ranger defender on the ice, but at $8.5M a season & already having a history of giving up bad long goals this year, Hank has to play the Subban shot better.

Despite a period where I thought the Rangers played better, the Predators took a 1-0 lead to the locker room. As was the case on Tuesday, Nashville had the edge on shots after the first period, 10-8, but I thought the Rangers had better looks.

Calle Jarnkrok got the second goal of the game, this time very early into a Nashville PP. Tough to blame Hank on this one, but it is something we’ve seen him stop before. 2-0 Nashville and once again, it seemed like the better team on ice was losing the battle on the scoreboard.

Then, after several opportunities, the third line of Hayes, Miller & Grabner, took over. Kevin Hayes found Grabner with a perfect cross ice pass. Boom, 2-1. Then six minutes later after the Grabner goal, Hayes found Miller with another perfect pass. 2-2 after two periods. And really, with the passes Hayes made, you or me could’ve scored these goals.

To the credit of back-up goalie and AHLer Juuse Saros, he played well. While he played better in the 2-1 loss to the Rangers in December, he wasn’t stopping these two goals. He made plenty of good saves, especially one on Zuccarello, where Zucc went back to the MSL move that got him a goal on Tuesday, the one timer slap shot from the left circle.

With twenty minutes to go, the best scoring team in the NHL looked to win the game in the third period. And they did just that.

Chris Kreider would get the first goal of the third period, the result of a Fluky Zuccy assist. Zucc took a shot (which seems rare for him at times) and Kreider was in front of net. The puck caught Kreider and it went by Saros. Tough night for Saros, he played well, but the Rangers offense was better at times.

It’s funny, Steve Valiquette always preaches high quality shots and that “shooting for rebounds and deflections doesn’t always work.” On Tuesday, Valiquette looks like a genius. Tonight, the Rangers won this game because of two fluke goals, as a result of shooting for rebounds and deflections in the third period. To paraphrase John Sterling, “that’s hockey Suzyn.”

The Rangers caught another break, up 3-2, with four minutes to go, when Ryan McDonagh blasted a shot that looked like that it either grazed JT Miller or was knocked in by a Predator defender. Miller got the credit for the goal, although it was McDonagh doing the work. McDonagh shot it, hoped for the best and somehow the puck went in. Really, you can have all the charts, spreadsheets and a NASA team breaking down & previewing a hockey game, but there is nothing that can tell you when you’re gonna get these type of goals. That’s why the games are played on the ice, and not on a Microsoft spreadsheet made by some kid in his mother’s basement.

With a 4-2 lead, the win looked automatic. However, Brady Skjei, who has been quite the penalty machine lately, got bagged for interference. The Preds already had Saros pulled and kept him pulled as they employed a 6 vs 4 attack. Josi would get an easy PP goal, with all the confusion in front of the net. 4-3 NYR, with 2:01 to go. Who was going to show up, Lundqvist or Lundwiss?

The Rangers played strong defense in front of their goaltender, even with Jaros pulled and Nashville up 6 vs 5. An errant puck went over the glass with 7 seconds left, moving the faceoff to the dot between the centerline and blueline. Rangers won the draw and as a result, took home two points, winning 4-3.

For the Rangers, it was another comeback win and more validation for their third period offense. It’s always easy to get behind a team that doesn’t quit.

Lundqvist has a chance at history in his next game

Here are the NHL goalie career win leaders, credit to: http://www.quanthockey.com/nhl/records/nhl-goalies-all-time-wins-leaders.html

Rk Born Name GP GAA SV% W L SO TIME G A P PIM
1 1972 CA Martin Brodeur 1266 2.24 0.912 691 397 125 74 438 2 45 47 122
2 1965 CA Patrick Roy 1029 2.54 0.910 551 315 66 60 235 0 45 45 262
3 1965 CA Ed Belfour 963 2.50 0.906 484 320 76 55 695 0 34 34 380
4 1967 CA Curtis Joseph 943 2.79 0.906 454 352 51 54 053 0 31 31 126
5 1979 CA Roberto Luongo 959 2.49 0.919 450 363 73 55 229 0 20 20 46
6 1929 CA Terry Sawchuk 971 2.51 447 330 103 57 194 0 7 7 229
7 1929 CA Jacques Plante 837 2.38 437 246 82 49 533 0 8 8 92
8 1943 CA Tony Esposito 886 2.92 423 306 76 52 585 0 25 25 31
9 1931 CA Glenn Hall 906 2.49 407 326 84 53 484 0 9 9 88
10 1962 CA Grant Fuhr 868 3.38 403 295 25 48 945 0 46 46 114
11 1972 CA Chris Osgood 744 2.49 0.905 401 216 50 42 562 1 19 20 137
12 1982 SE Henrik Lundqvist 726 2.30 0.920 399 242 61 42 595 0 22 22 16

The Rangers, currently on a 4 game win streak, have a chance at history on Saturday night. The Rangers started this week with a four game home stand. They’ve won all three of those games. On Saturday, if Lundqvist plays, he has a chance at win 400. Before this homestand, coach AV said he wanted to give Raanta a start. AV has a decision to make here. Does he go back on what he says and give Hank a chance to win 400 at home, or does he give Raanta a start that Raanta desperately needs, as Raanta hasn’t started since coming back from his injury?

This might shock you coming from me, the conductor of the “TRADE HANK’S CONTRACT” train (and these recent wins don’t change what I believe or anything I’ve ever said), but I think AV should give Hank a chance to win 400 at home. Hank should have the 9th overall amount of wins by an NHL goalie by the end of this season, but as sports fans, we all love round numbers. Hank should get a chance to do it at home.

That said – the Rangers are playing last place Colorado on Saturday. I’ve been preaching all season that Hank needs to beat playoff teams, teams that he will see in the playoffs. Next week, the Rangers go on the road against Columbus and the Islanders. The Rangers are 1-1 against Columbus, with Hank being pulled after being embarrassed in his last game with Columbus. In both games against CBJ, Tortorella didn’t start Bobrovsky, as he started McElhinney (Cut after the Rangers win against him) and Korpisalo.

For me, I rather see Hank play Columbus and the Islanders. The Islanders, who have owned Hank these last three years, are always a good test for Hank, although Halak,10-1 lifetime vs Hank, won’t be playing. It would be funny if the Isles called up Halak for that game.

The best thing for the RANGERS TEAM, is Hank plays against the playoff teams. Those are the games and tests he needs. Beating last place Colorado to get win 400 is a nice thing for the fans, but Raanta needs to play too. Having Hank beat last place Colorado, then Raanta getting the tougher starts, as he was doing before his injury, makes no sense for the good of the squad.

It’s a tough decision for AV to make here. Raanta does need to play, but the fans should see 400. If Hank plays, he has to play Monday vs CBJ and you can let Raanta deal with the Islanders. Bottom line, all I care about is that Hank plays against Columbus in either event.

Updated standings:

Metropolitan Division
GP
W
L
OTL
P
GF
GA
Diff
L10
STRK
Capitals
55
38
11
6
82
186
117
69
8-2-0
W5
Penguins
53
34
13
6
74
190
151
39
7-2-1
W1
Blue Jackets
53
34
14
5
73
173
132
41
4-5-1
L1
Rangers
54
35
18
1
71
185
143
42
7-3-0
W4
Flyers
55
26
22
7
59
145
167
-22
4-5-1
L3
Islanders
52
24
18
10
58
156
154
2
7-1-2
W2
Devils
54
23
21
10
56
127
153
-26
6-3-1
W2
Hurricanes
52
24
21
7
55
138
151
-13
4-6-0
L1

The Rangers are playing well enough that they could jump into second or third place next week, if everything lines up well for them. That said, I still believe the Rangers best bet for the playoffs is to finish as the first wild card. As I said last blog, you can’t play for that now, not with 28 games left. I will say, if there are 2-3 games left in the season and you can grab the Wild Card 100%, call up the fucking Swamp Rabbits from the ECHL. This is a Rangers team that needs the path of least resistance, especially when the core of this team has more miles than a Pinto.

Up next for NYR is the previously mentioned Avalanche of Colorado. Their season has been a literal avalanche down the standings. I fully expect the Rangers to win that game. I’ll also be, and to quote Mike Francesa, “in duh bildin.” Maybe I’ll catch UFC afterwards, as that Brooklyn card looks terrible, especially after the card MSG got in November. Then again, nothing good ever happens at Barclays.

Depending on my Saturday night, I plan on doing a late blog. If it’s too late of a night, see ya Monday after Columbus!

Huge credit to the Ranger fans who started a “CHARLES OAKLEY” chant tonight. When every media member (besides Francesa) and every fan blames Dolan for this, you know Dolan is a bigger asshole than you ever thought. It’s hilarious that the MSG Networks ignored this all night. It’s just another day and another incident proving that Dolan is the worst owner in sports.

Oh and for those who say “I’m glad Dolan doesn’t care about the Rangers and interfere”, I get that, but if Dolan gave two shits about his hockey team, we wouldn’t had to have been subjected to all these years of Senile Sather. 15+ years as GM, many of those years with an open checkbook and no Stanley Cup. People won’t admit it, but it was Gretzky & Messier that made Sather, Sather didn’t make the Oilers. Right place at the right time for good old Slats.

Maybe I’ll see a few of you at the Garden on Saturday. Until next time,

LET’S GO RANGERS

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on twitter

 

Oh and PS: how about this guy in the penalty box tonight. He got a bunch of screen time during a referee review (The Kreider goal, Nashville wanted an offside call)

Someone hire a mohel, this guy needs a snip. Oh no, I made another Jewish joke, one writer is going to be offended!

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