What’s up everyone and welcome to the first game review/thoughts blog of the 2016-2017 season. Sure it’s only preseason, but what a feeling it was to walk into MSG and feel that sheet of ice. Can you believe we’re just two weeks shy of the regular season starting? Can you believe the Rangers finally beat the Islanders for once, with a tally of 5-2? Sure it’s only preseason and the teams are experimenting, but still, it was fun to watch.
Before continuing with this game blog, if you haven’t checked it out already, I did 6 blogs on Monday morning. Here they are:
The New York Rangers 2016-2017 Preview: Where I Have Been, Thoughts on the Off-Season, What To Look For, Being Realistic About the Club in Year 90, Can Lundqvist Get His Cup, My Approach To Covering Hank This Year & Tons of Opinions About NYR
World Cup of Hockey Tournament Thoughts: Team Europe vs Canada Caps Off a Disappointing Tournament, USA Hockey, Why the WCH Failed in Front of Nearly Empty Arenas, Favorite NY Rangers, IIHF vs WCH & Much More From a Degenerate Who Saw Every Game
A lot of time and many beers were drank in the production of these blogs, so check them out and feel free to let me know what you think.
As I told you in my “Stubhub Trick” blog, Madison Square Garden, specifically James Dolan, are greedy. The product on the ice wasn’t the biggest concern for me tonight, here at a preseason game. What drove me nuts was that the upper 200 and 400 sections were full, while the 100’s were sparse. It’s like someone ripped a wet fart in the 100’s and everyone spread out. When half the building is empty, I think MSG should really go out of their way to find families and let them all move down into the nice seats. What’s the counter-point in this?
Put it this way – if families and young fans can sit really well, and trust me, there is a huge difference from sitting close and sitting high up, they will get a taste for it. By allowing people to move down for a game that has a half full arena, it builds good will. You’re also creating memories for young fans too, just like the young kids who are part of the “Little Rangers” program. I understand that sports franchises, especially in New York, want to rape the hard-working blue-collar fan and cater only to the corporate white-collar fan, but where do these teams expect to get fans from 20 years from now? These kids can’t afford to see games now.
It’s a shame when Mark Messier’s rink project in the Bronx gets stalled by the worst mayor in NYC history, Bill Deblasio. However, if Chase wanted another bridge to obstruct people sitting in the 400’s, it would be built. Where are the Rangers to help support Messier’s philanthropic project? I’m not asking for hand-outs or anything, I’m just looking for the team and Dolan to build and grow the franchise for another generation. There’s a reason why MSG is the quietest building in the NHL during the playoffs.
So the Rangers beat the Islanders in their first preseason game tonight, with a final of 5-2. You really can’t analyze or go nuts about a preseason game. The coaches/team are trying out new things. Players are mixed up. You don’t have a full squad. You’re experimenting. The opposition is doing the same thing. This game is just an exhibition, a scrimmage, if you will, of two teams trying different ideas out.
That said – I couldn’t be any more happier than what I saw out of the first line tonight.
Let me give the full box score from ESPN.com before continuing on with my game thoughts. And for the record – whoever is running NHL.com needs to be shot or deported by Trump. The site is unbearable, takes forever to load, freezes all the time and you can’t find a box score to save your life.
ESPN.com Box Score:
1st Period Summary
||Jason Chimera (1)
Assists: Stephen Gionta, Jesse Graham
||Mika Zibanejad (1) (Power Play)
Assists: Adam Clendening, Brandon Pirri
||Chris Kreider (1)
Assists: Adam Clendening, Mat Bodie
||Dan Girardi: 2 Minutes for Boarding|
||David Quenneville: 2 Minutes for Elbowing|
||Dylan McIlrath: 2 Minutes for Tripping|
||David Quenneville: 2 Minutes for Holding|
||Malte Stromwall: 2 Minutes for Hooking|
2nd Period Summary
||Brandon Pirri (1) (Power Play)
Assists: Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider
||Brady Skjei: 2 Minutes for Cross checking|
||Brock Nelson: 2 Minutes for High-sticking|
3rd Period Summary
||Nick Leddy (1)
Assists: Matthew Barzal, P.A. Parenteau
||Dylan McIlrath (1)
Assist: Mika Zibanejad
||Dan Girardi (1) (Shorthanded)
Assist: Maxim Lapierre
||Dan Girardi: 2 Minutes for Interference|
||Brady Skjei: 2 Minutes for Tripping|
Everyone knows me as the Talbot guy, but if I have a current second favorite goalie in the NHL, it’s MacKenzie Skapski. I love everything about this kid.
Skapski, born the day after the Rangers won the Cup in 1994, came onto the scene two seasons ago. When Lundqvist went down with an injury and Cam Talbot led the Rangers to their best record in franchise history (Amazing how in 11 years, Lundqvist had to go down for the Rangers to win the President’s Trophy. No wonder I call him overrated, overpaid and a product of playing in NY all the time) Skapski was Talbot’s back-up.
Skapski, the anointed “BUFFALO KILLER”, played two games backing up Talbot. After giving up a horrendous goal within a minute into his first start, Skapski shut out the Sabres for nearly two hours. Skapski won his first game 3-1, then shutout the Sabres in his second start. To be fair, the Buffalo Sabres were tanking, as they were in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes. Still, for a goalie not even legally allowed to drink, the then 20 year old Skapski handled the pressure and currently sports a 2-0 record in the NHL.
To this day, Skapski has a .978 save percentage and a half a goal allowed average. Skapski struggled through injury issues last year, which may have been good for Ranger fans, because that meant the Rangers weren’t able to deal him.
Like my fandom of Talbot, I like to root for guys coming up in the system. I like a good hard-work story like anyone. Where Halverson used to be the name you’d always hear as the next big goalie in the Rangers system, who knows – the Rangers may be ginger-powered one day.
What you may also not know about Skapski was his battle to get to the NHL. Skapski, a British Columbian, was involved in a near-deadly bus crash on 12/11/2009. At only 15 years old, his career looked to be over. Skapski suffered a broken orbital bone, a broken nose and needed surgery to relieve, a what could’ve been deadly, blood clot near his brain. Skapski somehow managed to survive. While he lost a year of his career, the kid is lucky to be alive.
I know I’m rambling on like a fanboy about Skapski, but I just love this kid’s story. He battled back from near death, got drafted in 2013, was one of the best “feel-good” moments during the Ranger’s President Trophy winning season and looked good tonight. I’m not rooting for anything bad to happen to Lundqvist or Raanta, but when Skapski was sent back to Hartford in March of 2015, I thought I’d never see him play as a Ranger in MSG again.
I’ll tell you what, while the building was half empty, when Skapski got in net at the half-way mark of the game, the building cheered. The hardcore fans go to preseason games and they know Skapski’s story. Call me a sap or a bitch (I know my friend Eddie S. will, more on him later) but I can’t help but root for Skapski to do well. As a fan just watching, Skapski is one of those guys I’ll always root for.
As I stated above, you can’t go nuts about a preseason game. Some teams aren’t even trying to win, they are trying out new systems and ideas. However, after another Swedish goalie, Magnus Hellberg, gave up a somewhat easy looking goal to the newly signed Islander, Jason Chimera, I was happy to see the Rangers fire back with three straight goals.
All three goals came from the play of the first line. Mika Zibanejad, the guy traded for Brassard, got a powerplay goal. This was a great looking powerplay goal too, as the Rangers moved the puck and found their shot. You didn’t see that often last season. The Rangers looked smooth as (Tanner) glass on that PP.
Oh and while on Tanner Glass, I loved that AV made him an alternate captain tonight. I wonder if he was just trolling with that move.
The second goal came from Chris Kreider from the point. You ever watch Saved by the Bell? In the finale, Mr. Belding tells Zack Morris, something to the effect of, “You’re a special kid. I hope I’m alive when you let it all out.” I feel that way about Kreider. He’s on the cusp of being great, but we haven’t exactly experienced it yet. Hopefully this will be his year.
Pirri got the third goal of the game, another rare Rangers powerplay goal, with Zibanejad and Kreider assisting. It was also a goal that came late in a period. The Rangers had trouble with the powerplay and scoring “heartbreaking” (late) goals last year. However, with Lundqvist in net, they did a great job of giving up a lot of powerplay and heartbreaking goals!
And hey, give it up to Skapski. The Rangers haven’t had a goalie since Talbot that could hold a two goal lead. That’s right. Where’s your crown King Nothing!?!?!
After Nick Leddy got a goal halfway through the third period to make it 3-2, the Rangers would not let the Islanders score again. Derrick Brassard 2.0 aka Mika Zibanejad assisted on another goal, this time to “The Undertaker” Dylan McIlrath, who fired one from the point. McIlrath is another fan-favorite and another guy I’m pulling for to have a good season.
The Rangers finished off those fishstick bitches with Dan Girardi recording an empty net short handed goal. Watch out Norris Trophy, here comes number 5! It will be huge for the Rangers this season to get production and quality out of Girardi and Staal, who seem to be the scapegoats for last year’s run. It is funny how everyone ignores King Cap hit.
I guess you can’t forget Lundqvist 101, which goes like this:
- If Lundqvist has a good game, it’s all Lundqvist and the defense didn’t do anything.
- When Lundqvist gives up 5+ and is benched, it’s all the defense’s fault and Hank can’t do it all by himself.
- Lundqvist is worth every penny when the Rangers win a game.
- The defense is overpaid when Lundqvist loses.
I’ve said it ever since since the Rangers gave King Contract that horrible deal, they will never win a cup paying the goalie 13% of the cap. However, I’ll still watch and hope they can.
The much hyped Pavel Buchvenich was on a line that produced most of the Rangers goals tonight. While he didn’t show up in the boxscore with an assist or goal, I thought Buchvenich had a good game. He was a puck hawk and constantly in the mix when on the ice. The Garden was hoping he’d tally one, and while it didn’t happen, you know it will. It was good to see Zibanejad have a great game offensively.
The other hyped rookie, Jimmy Vesey, did not play tonight. It is assumed he will play on Thursday on a line with Nash & Hayes. I like what Coach AV is doing here. He put Buchvenich on the first line with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Kreider is key since he speaks Russian and I’m assuming, will help Buchvenich’s transition to NY and the NHL in general.
On Thursday, Vesey plays with his good friend Kevin Hayes, which should help, along with the highest paid forward on the team, in Rick Nash. I’m also assuming that this will be the first line on Thursday.
Another player I had an eye on was defenseman, Adam Clendening. Can you believe Clendening has already been on 6 teams in two years?
Clendening was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, who then traded him to the Vancouver Canucks for Gustav Forsling. From there, the Canucks traded Clendening to PIttsburgh, along with Nick Bonino for Brandon Sutter and a pick. The Penguins then traded Clendening, with Perron to the Anaheim Ducks for Carl Hagelin. The Ducks put him on waivers before he ever played a game and the Edmonton Oilers signed him. The Rangers then signed Clendening during the off-season.
In Clendening’s short career, he’s already been traded for some quality names but has also bounced around. Clendening had a good game tonight, playing solid defensively and recording two assists.
The Rangers defense as of now looks to be Girardi, Staal, Klein, McDonagh and Skjei as locks, with Holden, Clendening and McIlrath fighting for the sixth spot. With a million forwards on the team, I don’t see the Rangers ever dressing 7 defensemen. It’s a tricky slope here. If McIlrath is only dressed for rivalry games or games where the Rangers need toughness, can he truly grow as a player? Is Clendening a guy who can produce offense consistently from the blue-line? Where does this leave Nick Holden? It’s gonna be interesting to see how this all pans out.
On an aside, funny story time! I got my friend Eddie S. into hockey and he loves sitting bougias for cheap. He is a friend I met through work and he enjoys a belt or 12 like myself. We always joke around and call each other bitch. For example, “what’s up bitch?” or “Hey bitch!” This isn’t really hard-hitting or complicated stuff. We just use the word bitch a lot for some reason and we find it funny.
Anyway, we were pre-gaming at the bars and indulged in a few pops at the game. Despite having $40 worth of free drinks through our MSG suite tix, we still ran a tab. Eddie goes to pay the tab and after settling up, tells the waitress, “THANKS BITCH!”, not even realizing who he was talking to. For some reason I found this hilarious and thought I’d share. Maybe no one else will think this is funny, but I’m cracking up just writing this. The funniest part is, we didn’t even realize he said that until after we left, as we were outside and he said, “I think I said Thanks Bitch! when I paid the tab.”
The point of this story – hockey games can be fun times away from the ice too and I always have a good time at MSG. Bitch.
All in all, with the Rangers beating the Islanders, it made for a fun night. What wasn’t fun was the moment of silence for Michael Fahy, the FDNY chief who died trying to put out a fire in a crack den. Kind of reminds me of how Derek Vineyard got started in “American History X”.
Hockey fans are the best. We stand for multiple national anthems at times and tonight, paid respect to another hero who had the shitty job of trying to save lives of people doing fucked up shit. This country is a mess and far too often do we hear these horror stories. Hockey and other sports, even stuff like UFC (coming to MSG soon) or even WWE, helps takes our minds off these things. Still, when the game is over, we are left with the sad reality of tragedies in our communities.
My condolences to the friends, family of Michael Fahy and anyone else serving in a fire department. I wouldn’t want your job. While I have friends in NYPD and FDNY, it isn’t for me. Yes, I am in construction, which can be dangerous at times, but it is nowhere as crazy as being in the NYPD or FDNY. These guys risk their lives every day, and in the case of the NYPD are often targets for no reason.
I’m not trying to be political here, so let me sign this off with my respect to the NYPD & FDNY. Another innocent life was lost today and it’s just not right.
Hate to end this on a sour note, but some things are bigger than sports.
That said, “Let’s Go Rangers.”
I’ll try to be back Thursday night with thoughts on Vesey’s debut.
@NYCTHEMIC on twitter