The 5 Goals-A-Game New York Rangers: How Long Can The Stanley Cup Bound Rangers Keep This Up, The Best Offensive NYR Team Since The Gartner Days, Papa Johns Sucks & More About The Most Impressive Team in the NHL

The Rangers may get sick of celebrating these days!

What’s up everyone and welcome to my third and final blog of this Presidential Election Tuesday!

If you haven’t already, check out the first two blogs:

My Trip To Hartford: Taking in a Hartford Wolfpack Game, Whalers, Disappointing Dylan, Tanner “F’N” Glass, What Fans There Say About The Team, The XL Arena & More

 

My Trip to Boston: Rangers Give the Bruins a Beantown Beatdown, Deadly Uber Drivers, “Bawbby Awe & Nawm Petahson”, The TD Gardens & More

 

While the first two blogs dealt with my recent weekend trip to watch the Wolfpack and the Rangers, this blog will deal with the product on ice. Let’s roll.

The famous NY Rangers Goal a Game line of Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle & Vic Hadfield.

History lesson for you people who think the Rangers drafted Henrik Lundqvist, which led to Lundqvist immediately becoming starter and being the best goalie to ever lace skates.

Before the days of the Rangers scoring five goals a game, the Rangers had one of the most dominant lines in hockey history, the GAG line, which stood for the Goal-A-Game line. Centered by Jean Ratelle, captain Vic Hadfield was on the left wing while Rangers legend Rod Gilbert (Who has his number 7 in the rafters of MSG, a slap in the face to Frank Boucher) was on the right wing.

The line averaged a goal a game from the 1968-1969 season, until Vic Hadfield was traded to the Penguins in 1974 for Nick Beverly. Who knows if Hadfield would’ve been traded in the Original 6 era? However, the NHL expanded in 1967 and you saw more player movement than any other time in hockey history up to that point.

Ratelle would be moved a year later, in one of the biggest trades in NHL history, when Ratelle (along with Brad Park & Joe Zanussi) was swapped to the Bruins for one of the greatest players of his time, Phil Esposito. Carol Vadnais would also join the Rangers.

For the better part of five years, the GAG line of Ratelle, Hadfield and Gilbert were the toast of the town. How often do you see lines produce the way they did?

Nearly 50 years since the GAG line first teamed up, there is something special again at MSG. The 5 Goals-A-Game TEAM.

Every Ranger is holding their keep this season

From the Rangers press release at BlueShirtsUnited.com after their win against the Jets on Sunday night:

Team Notes

  • TOP TEN – The Rangers’ 10 wins through 13 games this season are tied for the most the team has earned in the first 13 games of one season in franchise history. New York has now won 10 games in the first 13 games of a season three times in franchise history (1990-91, 2008-09, and 2016-17).
  • HIGH FIVE – The Rangers have registered five or more goals in each of the last five games. New York has tallied at least five goals in five straight games for the first time since Dec. 26, 1978 – Jan. 14, 1979 (nine consecutive games). In addition, New York has recorded five or more goals in five straight home games for the first time since Oct. 17, 1990 – Oct. 31, 1990.
  • GOALS GALORE – The Rangers have registered 55 goals through the first 13 games of the 2016-17 season. New York has recorded at least 55 goals in the first 13 contests of a season for the first time since 1990-91 and has tallied at least 55 goals in the first 13 games of a season for the seventh time in franchise history. The Rangers have registered five or more goals in eight of 13 games in 2016-17 and in each of the last five games. New York leads the NHL in goals per game this season (4.23).
  • HOME COOKING – The Rangers have won eight of their first nine home games in one season for the third time in franchise history (1972-73, 1990-91, and 2016-17). The Rangers have posted an 8-1-0 record at home this season and have outscored opponents, 42-19, in their first nine games at MSG in 2016-17. New York leads the NHL in wins (eight), goals for (42), and goals per game (4.67) at home this season. The Blueshirts have earned at least one point in 69 of their last 89 home games, dating back to Oct. 16, 2014 (60-20-9 record). In addition, the Rangers have posted a 35-11-4 record at MSG since the start of last season. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the Rangers lead the NHL in wins (35), goals for (172), and goals per game (3.44) at home. The Rangers have outscored their opponents, 26-6, over the last 14 periods at MSG, dating back to the start of the second period on Oct. 26 vs. Boston.
  • MAKING THE DIFFERENCE – The Rangers lead the NHL in goal differential this season (plus-26; 55 goals for, 29 goals against). The Rangers’ plus-26 goal differential through 13 games this season is the best through the first 13 games of any season in franchise history.
  • WINNING WAYS – The Rangers extended their winning streak to five games, dating back to Oct. 30 vs. Tampa Bay. In addition, the Rangers have won eight of their last nine games (8-1-0; dating back to Oct. 22 at Washington) and nine of their last 11 contests (9-2-0; dating back to Oct. 17 vs. San Jose). The Rangers have outscored their opponents, 26-8, during their current five-game winning streak, and have tallied at least five goals in each game.
  • BACK-TO-BACK – In their last 84 back-to-back sets (since the start of the 2010-11 season), the Rangers have posted a 55-23-6 record in the second game of the set.
  • WHAT A LINE – Over the last five games, the Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-J.T. Miller has recorded 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists).
  • TEAM EFFORT – Five different Blueshirts recorded a goal and 11 different Rangers tallied a point in the contest.
  • TWO GOOD – The Rangers have allowed two goals or fewer in eight of the last 10 games. The Blueshirts have won 34 of the last 35 games in which they allowed two goals or fewer, dating back to Dec. 15, 2015 (34-1-0).
  • SECOND HELPING – The Blueshirts have outscored their opponents, 25-7, in the second period this season. In addition, New York has outscored its opponents, 21-5, in the second period over the last nine games.
  • NOVEMBER REIGN – Since the start of the 2005-06 season, the Rangers lead the NHL in wins during November (87; 87-46-9 record in 142 games in November). The Rangers have won each of their first four games in November in 2016-17.

Three Stars on Broadway

  • Kevin Hayes tallied a goal and posted a plus-two rating. He extended his point streak to five games (four goals, nine assists) and his goal streak to four games. Hayes’ four-game goal streak is a career-high, while his five-game point streak ties a career-high. Hayes has posted a plus-11 rating over the last five games.
  • Brandon Pirri tied a single-game career-high with two assists, established a single-game career-high with a plus-three rating, and won seven of 10 faceoffs (70.0%). He has registered three assists/points over the last three games, and he has tallied seven points (three goals, four assists) in the last nine contests.
  • J.T. Miller registered the game-winning goal and posted a plus-two rating. Miller has tallied a point in four of the last five games (three goals, four assists) and in nine of 13 contests in 2016-17 (five goals, eight assists). He has not gone two consecutive games without recording a point thus far this season. He has recorded a point in nine of the Rangers’ 10 wins in 2016-17, and the team has posted a 9-0-0 record in games which he has recorded a point this season. Miller has posted a plus-12 rating over the last five games.

Blueshirt Breakdown

  • Mats Zuccarello recorded a goal and led the Rangers with four shots on goal. He has registered a goal/point in three of the last six games, tallying four goals over the span. Since the start of last season, 31 of Zuccarello’s 32 goals have been in game situations when the Rangers have either led by one goal, trailed by one goal, or were tied in the contest.
  • Jesper Fast tallied a goal and posted a plus-one rating. He has recorded a goal/point in two of the last three games, and he has registered a point in six of 13 games this season (two goals, four assists).
  • Pavel Buchnevich registered a goal and posted a plus-one rating. He has notched a goal/point in each of the last two games, and he has recorded a point in four of his first eight career NHL games (two goals, two assists).
  • Brady Skjei recorded an assist and was credited with two blocked shots. He extended his assist/point streak to five games (six assists) and has tallied seven assists in the last eight contests. Skjei is the first Rangers rookie defensemen to tally a five-game assist/point streak since Brian Leetch, who did so twice during his Calder Trophy-winning season in 1988-89. He is tied for first among NHL rookies in assists this season (eight).
  • Chris Kreider notched an assist and recorded three shots on goal. He has registered an assist/point in six of the nine games in which he has played this season (three goals, seven assists).
  • Kevin Klein tied single-game career-highs with two assists and two points, and he led all skaters with four blocked shots in 18:45 of ice time. He has tallied three assists/points in the last two contests.
  • Adam Clendening notched an assist, was credited with two blocked shots, and posted a plus-one rating. Clendening has recorded an assist/point in each of the last two games he has played.
  • Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves to earn his seventh win of the season. Lundqvist has earned a win in each of his last three appearances (3-0-0, 1.67 GAA, .941 SV%, 1 SO over the span), and he has posted a 6-1-0 record, along with a 2.01 GAA, a .927 SV%, and 1 SO in his last seven appearances.
  • Ryan McDonagh tied for the team-high with three hits and posted a plus-two rating while skating in a game-high 25:40 of ice time. The Rangers have posted a 23-1-2 record in the last 26 games in which McDonagh has logged at least 25:00 of ice time, dating back to Oct. 16, 2014. He has led the Rangers in ice time in every game thus far in 2016-17.

Do you want to know how crazy this league is? (All stats as of Tuesday morning, 11/8/16.)

The Montreal Canadiens are 10-1-1 with 21 points in 12 games.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers are both 9-3-1 with 19 points in 13 games.

The Rangers are 10-3-0 with 20 points in 13 games.

The Rangers lead the league in goals with 55. Second place, the Blackhawks with 47. Third place, the Oilers with 40.

Even with this insane streak the Rangers are on, they still aren’t in first place. It really shows you the depth of this league.

I really hope you didn’t skip the BlueShirtsUnited.com material. Just look at what’s being reported there. Everyone on the team is doing something positive. Points are being recorded so fast that the stats people have refueled their pens with ink – multiple times. This is something that hasn’t been seen since the 1978-1979 season. It’s a good bet that 99% of you reading this weren’t even born. I know I wasn’t! (I missed it by three years!)

Of course, because the Rangers are playing record breaking hockey right now, I’ve seen a million tweets and posts on Facebook about what time to start the Stanley Cup parade and who will the Conn Smythe. Do these people ever learn?

REALITY CHECK: The Rangers have won four cups in 90 years. That is the worst record of success in the NHL. They have won the least amount of Cups out of all the original 6 teams. I hate to be the pin in your balloon, but to quote Mike Francesa – “CAN YOUSE ALL CAWM DOWN?!?!?!”

New blood to the Rangers, like Jimmy Vesey and Brandon Pirri have injected offense to a team once known just for their defense

If you know me in person or just follow me on the twitter or these blogs, you know I’m jaded. Four cups in 90 years will do that to a man. I really just want to sit back and enjoy this, but really, none of this matters. What matters is what the Rangers do in the playoffs.

Can this team go wire-to-wire and hoist the Cup in June? What a difference the first month of a season makes. Go look back, not only here, but at the writings of every Rangers reporter, any NHL reporter or even the social media postings of NHL & Ranger fans. No one predicted this.

Personally, I thought the Rangers would struggle just to make the playoffs. Instead, they are the hottest scoring team in the NHL. What worries me, is that like NFL TV ratings, the Rangers really don’t have much “up” left. The only direction they can go from here is down. How do the Rangers sustain this high power offense all season? I really don’t have the answer to that, that’s a question for Alain Vigneault.

What is known is that this Rangers team has been the most exciting team to watch in the first month of the NHL season.

Just think, by the time the Stanley Cup Playoffs start in April, the Rangers have had much turnover in just three years, when they last made a Stanley Cup appearance.

Only Lundqvist, McDonagh, Staal, Girardi, Stepan, Zuccarello, Nash, Kreider & Klein remain from that Cup team. Fast & Miller were there too, but were non-factors and didn’t play in the Cup finals. What do most of those names have in common? They were largely on the Rangers defense, with only Nash, Stepan, Zucc and Kreider being forwards.

The Rangers offense has turned over a lot in three years. While it was sad to see names go like Hagelin, Brassard, Marty St. Louis (retirement), Moore, Talbot, Stralman, Richards, Boyle, Carcillo & Dorsett, the Rangers have found themselves in the thick of things again.

In the new salary cap era, which started in the 2012 lockout abridged season, the Rangers have always been in the mix. They lost in the ECF to the Devils in 2012. They were embarrassed by Boston in 2013 & fired Torts afterwards. They lost a heartbreaking SCF series to the Kings in 2014, in AV’s first season. They lost in 7 games in the ECF to the Bolts in 2015, which made fans wonder if they could’ve gone further if Zucc wasn’t hurt. They were annihilated by the Penguins in 2016.

The only thing that has remained constant about the Rangers in the playoffs, since 1940, with the one exception being in 1994 (where you could argue they bought a Cup), is that this team hasn’t been able to win a Stanley Cup. That’s why I’m driven nuts when I see fans already looking to print tickets to the Cup & figure out parade routes in November.

There is no doubt we are witnessing something special. For the first time since the Gartner era, the Rangers offense is winning games. Just look at how this team has been built ever since Hank got here. It’s defense first and everything else second. The Rangers spend more money on goaltending and defense than any other team, yet it is their cheaper offense that is producing wins. It is an offensive based coach in AV, rather than a defensive based coach in Torts, that is bringing the Rangers their best success since 1994.

Image result for lundqvist doinow

An all-time great or an all-time goat?

All-time greats are determined by whether or not they win a championship. It’s just the facts. You know my feelings on Hank, I think it’s time to move on. However, for the first time in Hank’s career, he has an offense that can bail him out of mistakes. If Hank can time-warp to his prime, the Rangers will be unbeatable, if this offense holds up.

Too many Ranger seasons end the same way – with a sad picture of Lundqvist. It is an image that Lundqvist and Ranger fans are sick of seeing.

For a team that many experts and fans alike did not pick to go far, the Rangers are creating doubt in even the biggest skeptics of the club. What makes this team so special right now is that scoring is coming from anyone on any given night. Grabner is getting hat-tricks. Pirri is on fire. Nash is executing. Kreider & Zucc are all over the place collecting points. Rookies like Buchnevich and Vesey are finding twine. The Hayes/Miller/Grabner line is producing points like a 1996 Jordan against the New York Knicks!  Hayes was even named the NHL.com third star of the week!

Ever since Lundqvist lost to last place Carolina, look at the games & scores the Rangers have pulled off:

Sun, Oct 30
vs
Lightning
W 1 – 6
Final
Tue, Nov 1
vs
Blues
W 0 – 5
Final
Thu, Nov 3
vs
Oilers
W 3 – 5
Final
Sat, Nov 5
@
Bruins
W 5 – 2
Final
Sun, Nov 6
vs
Jets
W 2 – 5
Final

Look at those teams! The Lightning always have the Rangers number & have been a deep playoff team the last two years. The Blues are a perennial playoff team. The Oilers are one of the best teams in the league today. The Bruins have always been a thorn in the Rangers side. The Jets, well, like the NFL Jets, the Jets always suck!

Even more impressive, is the Rangers are winning back-to-backs too. Of course, Lundqvist always plays the easier team, while Raanta does the heavy lifting against the better team. It’s been working, just like it worked when Talbot did it. AV, in his fourth year, is starting to rest defensemen, as well as Hank more, as he realizes it’s Cup or bust too. You’re seeing great coaching and excellent execution.

Papa John is a dick

Listen, I hate Papa John. He’s anti-union. He’s rich as fuck, but will dick over his employees at any chance. The guy is worth over a billion dollars and lives well. I don’t hate him for his success. However, if you’re a super billionaire, will it really kill you to take better care of your employees? How much money does one need? Plus, if his workers feel compensated correctly, they will be a better reflection for his company.

Everyone knows that whenever the Rangers score 3 goals, you get 50% off his crappy pizza. I see many Papa John comments from Ranger fans, but can we be real? A couple of points on Papa Johns:

  • What New Yorker eats Papa Johns? Everyone knows the best NY Pizza is the local joint
  • If you’re eating Papa Johns every time the Rangers score 5 goals, they are going to have to widen the seats at MSG
  • Papa Johns pizza is fucking disgusting and is only consumable when drunk and when nothing else is open.
  • Papa John may or may not have naked pictures of Peyton Manning
  • If any Ranger ate Papa Johns, it might slow down their production this season!

And please – when the Rangers score 6 goals, which has happened frequently this season, can we please stop the “FREE PIZZA” jokes? It’s been done and it’s time to retire the joke.

In my opinion, Zucc deserves the “A” on his jersey.

What are the Rangers doing this year that they haven’t done in years prior? It’s easy to figure out that all the younger talent has produced fresher legs on offense. The Rangers are killing teams with their speed. The Rangers seem off to the races about 3-5 times a game. More importantly, they are finishing on chances at the net.

The biggest key for the Rangers from this point on is to stay healthy. Alain Vigneault giving breaks to guys and swapping in a Clendening or Lindberg won’t hurt. Personally, I’ll miss Glass and McIlrath, but who can argue with success?

I just hope Ranger fans keep knocking on wood and refrain from Cup talk. It’s November. It’s a long year. Remember how hot the Canadians and Islanders were last year at this time?

From now until the trade deadline, you will hear suggestions. Should the Rangers upgrade their defense with a solidified blue liner like a Shattenkirk or Trouba? Right now, you don’t want to fuck with what’s working, but the playoffs are a different animal than the regular season. It is something Jeff Gorton will have to consider.

I’m going to need a lot of these if the Rangers are playing in June!

Up next for the Rangers are the cellar dweller Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks suck ass this year and lost to the Islanders on Monday night. The Rangers catch this terrible team as the Canucks play the second of a back-to-back. With three days off after this game, this should not be a trap game for the Rangers. It should be a decimation. Good teams beat bad teams, and the Rangers, albeit the Lundqvist loss to Carolina, have been good at doing so.

Let’s just hope this team can do what the GAG line never could – win a Cup.

Thanks for reading all three blogs today!

I’ll be back tonight with Rangers/Canucks!

Let’s Go Rangers

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the twitter

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