NYR/PHI 1/4 Review: Lundqvist & The Rangers Bounce Back In Impressive Fashion, A Steve Valiquette Type of Game, A Clash with Columbus & Torts Up Next, RIP Milt Schmidt & Will The Real Henrik Lundqvist Please Stand Up?

After giving up four goals a piece, in four out of his last five games, Lundqvist had one of his strongest outings of the season, in a 5-2 win over the Flyers, on national TV.

Welcome everyone to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. After a disgusting and embarrassing loss to last place Buffalo last night, the Rangers returned to form and handled the Flyers 24 hours later, winning the game 5-2. While the score suggests a blow-out, this game was much closer than the scoreboard suggests. The only reason why the score was so close until the final minutes was because for about 57 minutes, Henrik Lundqvist returned to his prime form. It was like watching the 2012 Lundqvist tonight, not the Lundqvist we’ve seen for a majority of the season.

We all know I’m not the biggest Henrik Lundqvist fan in the world! Far from it. If it was up to me, I’d trade him and get his horrible contract off this team.  One impressive victory doesn’t make you forget that his contract is horrible and Raanta has better numbers for less money. However, for one night, Lundqvist showed glimpses of his Vezina year, especially during one sequence on a Flyers powerplay. While many will overreact and say “THE KING IS BACK”, just as I said last night after a bad loss, it’s only one game.

Going into this game, I thought Raanta would start. However, as the day went on, that announcement was never made. I then thought Lundqvist would start for several reasons. The Rangers schedule is friendly. The Rangers now have two days off before Columbus. After the Columbus game, the Rangers have 5 days off, before returning with a back-to-back starting on Friday with Toronto, followed by a visit to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. Of note, I will be in Montreal for that game!

If you got the means, Montreal is a great place to catch a game. With the Canadian dollar only being worth 73 cents to the  American dollar, your money goes further in Canada right now. Take advantage of that while this still exists!  To put it in perspective, a night at the Garden (including drinks/transportation) usually runs me $200-$250.  My flight/hotel/game ticket to Montreal costs me less than $500 combined. So I can skip two NYR home games and attend one NYR away game in Montreal for the same price. Well worth it to me. Plus, the Montreal drinking scene is awesome. Every bar is packed and they even have slot machines in the bars! A degenerate’s paradise. Plus if you’re into strip clubs (I’m not, why pay for an erection?) Montreal is known to have one or two of those too!

The ticket came out to $181 American. Flight was $200. A 4 star hotel two blocks away from the venue was $100. Seeing a game in Montreal for the price of two Ranger games? Priceless!

With the Rangers having plenty of time off coming up and with Hank missing a few games with the flu, it made sense for Hank to play this game. I’ve been pining on all season – he has to play the tough games. I have no issues with him playing against a team that could be a playoff team. I rather him play division opponents and playoff teams than ever see him play against Buffalo, Colorado, Arizona, Vancouver, etc. Hank needs quality starts against quality teams. This was that, and even as a guy who is not a fan of his, for the good of the team, I’m fine with him playing this game. He should play it 10/10 times.

In fact looking ahead, Hank should definitely play Saturday against Columbus. I will be mortified if he doesn’t. Then when the Rangers return from the bye, Raanta should play against Toronto at MSG on Friday & Hank should play against a team he might see in the playoffs – Montreal. Hank has horrible numbers in Montreal and he needs to fix those issues.

Going into this game with the Flyers, it was announced that Staal will be out until after the bye week, due to an “upper-body” injury. Only in hockey can you be so vague with your injury reports. Due to gambling, every other sport has to say exactly what’s going on. In hockey, you can withhold injury information. I wonder if next year, with a team in Vegas, if the NHL will force teams to disclose injury info. Face the facts – without fantasy football, which is gambling, the NFL would never become the juggernaut it became. You have television shows, magazines and all other types of media focused just on fantasy football/gambling! It’s probably in the NHL’s best interest to get in bed with the gambling industry. After all, it’s a business, as we’re reminded every day with this horrible salary cap.

With Staal out, Adam Clendening was in. He basically played like Staal, but for a lot less money. He had a few bad turnovers, committed a dumb penalty and did nothing to help the Rangers in the scoring department. I wonder if he has a brother the Rangers can get at the deadline too!

This was an NHL on NBC game, which meant you were subjected to the NBC guys. Mike Milbury was his usual asshole self. I do get a kick out of his hatred for Lundqvist, but even he had to admit Hank was great in this game. However, Milbury went on to bury Steve Mason, who was the victim of what felt like a million odd-man rushes in the third period. I don’t know how you can blame an average goalie when every other minute there is a 2 on 1 heading his way.

Doc Emerick wasn’t there for whatever reason, so John Forslund, of the Carolina Hurricanes, had the call with Mike Francesa’s best friend, Eddie O. I don’t know how Cane fans do it. Listening to Forslund was like watching Bob Ross paint – you just went to a state of tranquility and I had to fight off a deep REM sleep. Maybe he’s more amped up for Cane games since he had to play the unbiased straight man tonight.  By the first commercial break, I was wishing for Joe Michelletti to tell me about his man crush on Lundqvist and how the Rangers should take a timeout. (If you haven’t noticed, Michelletti always suggests the Rangers should take a timeout, but they never do!)

Let’s get to the official box score from ESPN, with my thoughts on the game to follow:

1st Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR PHI
No scoring this period 0 0
Time Team Penalty Detail
10:28
Shayne Gostisbehere: 2 Minutes for Hooking
12:00
Ryan McDonagh: 2 Minutes for Slashing

2nd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR PHI
2:08
Kevin Hayes (12)
Assists: Michael Grabner, Brady Skjei
1 0
Time Team Penalty Detail
8:22
Adam Clendening: 2 Minutes for Holding

3rd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR PHI
5:01
Chris Kreider (16)
Assists: Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello
2 0
11:13
Michael Grabner (15)
Assists: J.T. Miller, Dan Girardi
3 0
12:32
Jakub Voracek (12) (Power Play)
Assists: Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere
3 1
14:15
Kevin Hayes (13)
Assist: J.T. Miller
4 1
17:08
Jakub Voracek (13)
Assists: Michael Del Zotto, Michael Raffl
4 2
17:45
Michael Grabner (16)
Unassisted
5 2
Time Team Penalty Detail
11:45
Derek Stepan: 2 Minutes for High-sticking
20:00
Brayden Schenn: 2 Minutes for Tripping

Goaltending Summary

New York Rangers Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
H. Lundqvist 32 2 30 .938 59:43 0

Philadelphia Flyers Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
S. Mason 27 4 23 .852 59:20 0

K. Hayes (Rangers – RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

H. Lundqvist (Rangers – G): Saves: 30, Save Pct.: .938

J. Voracek (Flyers – RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

Kevin Hayes got the Broadway Hat tonight. Photo Credit: NY Rangers

While many Ranger games have a tale of different periods, this one was different. The constant story was the strong play of Henrik Lundqvist and with the Rangers offense building for the climax at the end of Act III. The first several minutes of this game started slow, but the game really started to pick up when the Flyers got a powerplay as the result of a penalty committed by Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh on long time Rangers nemesis, Wayne Simmonds.

As much as we all hate Simmonds (Who can forget last year?) as I always say when watching him, he’s the guy you love to hate and wish he was on your team. He is capable of getting a Gordie Howe hat trick on any given night. The guy can score, make good passes, throw down the gloves and kill penalties. He’s a player that would do well in any era. I wouldn’t mind him wearing the Rangers blue.

While the Flyers were credited with four shots during a frantic sequence, it might as well have been twenty. Pucks were flying all over. Screens were taking place. Flyers were looking for deflections. To Lundqvist’s credit, he stood tall and stopped it all. Instead of a 1-0 Flyers lead, the Rangers were able to escape the first period tied at 0-0.

What was funny about this game, was when Eddie O. talked about the great job Chris Kreider has been doing at screening goalies, especially on the PP. Eddie O. talked about how this frustrates the goalie. It’s something you never hear from Rosen or Michelletti. Whenever Lundqvist is screened, they make it seem like he’s the only goalie that has to deal with this in the league.  While I’m not a fan of the NHL on NBC presentation as a whole, I do enjoy Eddie O. telling it as is. Of note on this being an NBC game – Pierre McGuire looked crushed that he had no one to fawn and drool all over tonight. I’m sure he sexted a dick pic to Crosby after the game.

I talked about Kevin Hayes a few blogs ago. Aside from last night’s debacle, he’s been great at getting to the net. While he wasn’t scoring goals, he was always in a great position to get goals. Tonight he got two goals. Hayes broke the 0-0 tie early into the second period when after a Brandon Manning turnover, Hayes got the puck and just buried it past Steve Mason. The Flyers, who have lost several games in a row and were featuring the return of Mason, would never be able to tie the game again. For Hayes, this was a well deserved goal and it was nice to see his hard work produce results.

After the Hayes goal, both Lundqvist and Mason did a good job of denying scoring opportunities, as the team skated to 1-0 after 40 minutes. Since I don’t have much faith in Hank these days, I was hoping for the insurance goal. The Rangers would Papa John the shit out of the Flyers in the third.

Who scored that pretty goal out there? Oh me?

Without question, the newly named “Big Blue Line” (At least that’s what NBC was calling them) of Kreider/Stepan/Zuccarello has been the best line the Rangers have had all season. Again, forget yesterday, but this line has been producing points all over the place. It kinda all goes back to what MSG analyst Steve Valiquette said a while ago. To paraphrase Vally, “Watch the puck after Zuccarello touches it. Give it even 20 seconds. Anytime Zucc touches the puck, good things happen.” For a one Mr. Valiquette, tonight was in his wheelhouse.

With the Rangers up 1-0 in the third period, the Rangers would add the insurance goal with 15 minutes left in the third period. On the second Rangers goal, Zuccarello got the puck by the face off dot to the right of Lundqvist. Zucc flipped it up, Stepan got it and fed Kreider. Kreider then worked the puck with great skill and deftness by two Flyer defenders and then flipped the puck past Mason.

In fact words do it no justice, take a look at it yourself, credit to BLUESEATBLOGS.com:

 

Just a thing of art there man.

However, the sweet looking scoring plays of the Rangers were not put to bed just yet. With less than 10 to go, JT Miller made a Martin St. Louis type of pass that found the sweet spot of Grabner’s stick. I could’ve scored with that pass, and that’s with 12 Labatt Blues in me! Grabner easily made it 3-0. Again, Mike Milbury was burying Mason after the game for a goal like this, and I can’t see why. It was just a perfect play.

Again, you know me, I’m not a Lundqvist fan at all. I’d trade him for draft picks just to get his contract off this team. That said, even I was rooting for him to get a shutout. He kept the Rangers into this game until the Rangers figured out the combination against the Flyers. He was having one of his best games of the season.

Right after the Grabner goal, Derek Stepan took a dumb high sticking penalty. Completely unnecessary when you’re up 3-0 and less than 8 minutes to play. I was expecting dirty penalties from guys like Gudas or Schenn, not Derek Stepan. Anyway, the Flyers get the PP and after a shot that bounced back off the boards from Giroux, Voracek got the puck and got it to bounce off McDonagh’s skate and into the net. That’s usually something you see from Dan Girardi, not Ryan McDonagh. Could’ve Hank stopped it? Perhaps. Still, this play doesn’t happen if Stepan doesn’t take a bad penalty. Shutout gone.

With the Flyers thinking they had some hope of tying the game, the Flyers came very close to making it 3-2. However, after a puck that barely missed high on Lundqvist, the Rangers took the puck to the other end and once again, it was Kevin Hayes burying it (And beating the porn star stalker, Michael Del Zaster) on a rush. 4-1 Rangers. I was already declaring the Rangers victors and congratulating Lundqvist (If I’m going to bury him when he’s bad, I gotta say when he’s good too) when the Flyers made it 4-2.

Voracek scored a shot that Lundqvist has to stop. That’s what drives me nuts about Lundqvist. He makes all these great saves and then when the crunch time comes, he gives up a horrible one. Fans will forget about this goal because the Rangers won the game 5-2, but if this was a 2-2 game, you wouldn’t hear the end of it. Voracek buried a 40+ footer, with no screen and no traffic in front of Hank. Hank was just beat. Again, he played great the entire game, but has these lapses where you just say “WTF?”

So with the score 4-2, the Flyers pulled Mason, giving them the 6 vs 5 advantage. However, before the Flyers could do anything, Michael Grabner got the puck and tossed it into the empty net with ease, from near the centerline. 5-2 Rangers, game over.

For Grabner, this empty netter was very reminiscent to the days of Carl Hagelin. Rather than having to sweat the game out, Grabner used his speed to get the puck and made sure to connect on his shot to end the game. I commented to someone else about this, and not to be cold or anything, but Grabner was on fire to start the season. Then his grandmother passed, and he took time off for her funeral. He seemed to lose his groove a bit. I don’t know if her passing affected him or anything, but he’s been playing better lately. Again, I’m not trying to be callous or anything here, but we are all affected if someone close to us passes.

I’d have to really take the time out and research around the league, but Grabner may be the best bargain of this past off-season. The fact that it burns up Islander fans is even better!

Photo Credit: Vancouver Sun

Yesterday, I posted a picture of AV grimacing. Today, here’s happy AV! I’ll never join the “FIRE AV” bandwagon until the Rangers start missing the playoffs in consecutive years. I think he’s been a great coach during his tenure here. If you’re going to blame him for last night, then you gotta give him credit for tonight. Hey, I bury Lundqvist all the time here, and I have to give him all the credit for a game like this tonight. That said – it has to happen more frequently.

I talked about this game being in Valiquette’s wheelhouse before, because he was right about Zucc (the whole watch the puck after Zucc moves it talk). Last night, on the MSG broadcast, Duguay challenged Vally a bit about Lundqvist and Vally supported his former teammate, even saying he was happy to back him up. Lundqvist made Vally look right tonight, but that’s one night. Lundqvist needs to be having these performances every night. We shouldn’t be ranting and raving for a “VINTAGE” Lundqvist game. We should be ranting and raving that he’s doing it all season, like Rask, like Bobrovsky, like Dubnyk, like Price, etc.

However, don’t worry my “TRADE HANK” bandwagoners, I still feel the Rangers are better off getting rid of his contract. That said, we’re stuck with him, so we need him to play well. I will always root for the front of the jersey rather than the back, but I know come playoffs, barring injury, he’s going to get the call. We need that 2012 Lundqvist to show up.

Ever since signing the new deal, Lundqvist has been inconsistent. Will the Real Henrik Lundqvist Please Stand Up? And please, can he stand on his head come the Spring?

Photo credit: BOSTON.com

Bruins and NHL icon, Milt Schmidt

From BOSTON.com, direct link: https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-bruins/2017/01/04/bruins-legend-milt-schmidt-dies-at-98

He was 98.

Schmidt had been the oldest living NHL player. He was the only person in Bruins franchise history to serve as on-ice captain, coach and general manager.

‘‘It would be a challenge to find anyone who took greater pride in being a Boston Bruin than Milt Schmidt did — be it as a player, an executive or an ambassador over the 80-plus years he served the franchise, the city of Boston and the National Hockey League,’’ commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. ‘‘Milt was a landmark presence in Boston’s sports landscape. The NHL family cherishes his contribution to our history.’’

Schmidt’s Boston teams won the Stanley Cup in 1939 and in ‘41. When he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force two months after the Pearl Harbor attack along with ‘‘Kraut Line’’ mates Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer, they were carried off the ice on the shoulders of the archrival Montreal Canadiens.

‘‘When they grabbed Bobby, Woody and myself, we felt like saying, ‘What are they doing?’ Well we found out in a hurry that they all grabbed us and carried us off the ice,’’ Schmidt said before a 2016 ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of his NHL debut.

‘‘That goes to show you that you have friends — although you are bitter enemies, you had friends in the National Hockey League,’’ he said. ‘‘Not necessarily on the ice, but off the ice.’’

 

A native of Kitchener, Ontario, who was born on March 5, 1918, Milton Conrad Schmidt played with Bauer and Dumart in the junior leagues before they were reunited as the ‘‘Kraut Line’’ in the NHL for the 1936-37 season. With the three players of German heritage, the Bruins won two NHL championships, and in 1940 the linemates finished as the top three scorers in the league — the only time in NHL history players from the same team finished 1-2-3 in scoring.

During the war against Germany, Schmidt considered changing his name — to Smith — but decided against it. (The Bruins held a contest that came up with the suggested ‘‘Buddy Line,’’ but it didn’t stick.)

Schmidt missed three full seasons for World War II but returned to score career highs of 27 goals and 62 points in the 1946-47 season. He won the 1951 Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player after totaling 61 points in 62 games.

Schmidt played four more seasons before retiring at the age of 36 with 229 goals, 346 assists and 466 penalty minutes to his credit. He also scored 25 goals and assisted 48 more in 86 playoff games.

Taking over as coach in 1955, Schmidt’s teams reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1957 and ‘58. But he had left the bench and taken over as general manager when the young phenom Bobby Orr made his debut in 1966.

At the trade deadline that season, Schmidt orchestrated the deal that brought Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston from the Chicago Blackhawks. With the future hall of famers Orr and Esposito, the Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1970 and again two years later.

Schmidt was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. The Bruins retired his No. 15 in 1980.

‘‘When you think about the Bruins, you think about Milt Schmidt,’’ forward Patrice Bergeron said on Wednesday. ‘‘He lived an amazing life and I am very proud to have known him.’’

At the age of 98, he was back in the new Boston Garden on opening night of the 2016-17 season, when the team celebrated the 80th anniversary of his first game and the 50th anniversary of Orr’s debut.


Before the game, the two argued playfully over who was the franchise’s biggest gem.

‘‘I would go with you, Milty, being the greatest Bruin ever,’’ Orr said.

‘‘He’s got to say that because I’m sitting right beside him,’’ Schmidt replied.

‘‘He wasn’t very big, but his heart was this big on the ice,’’ Orr said, spreading his hands wide. ‘‘And that’s how he played. He was great player and he’s a wonderful individual. He’s a great man and a great friend to all of us.”

 

After pushing Schmidt to center ice for a ceremonial puck drop, Orr helped Schmidt raise his hand to acknowledge the cheering crowd. They were joined there by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, and other players skated over to pay their respects.

‘‘It’s very special for me, being here my whole career, and having the chance to see them once in a while,’’ Bergeron said then. ‘‘Realizing how much they mean to the Bruins — but also to hockey, and to Boston, it’s very special to me to have a chance to take a few seconds to go shake their hands.’’

 

Schmidt’s coaching record during two stints on the Bruins bench was 245-360-121 in 726 games.

He was also the first general manager of the expansion Washington Capitals, who in 1974-75 set the NHL’s record for futility by going 8-67-5. Schmidt took over as coach late in the 1974-75 season, posting a 5-34-5 record, including an 0-22-3 stretch that spanned 57 days and cost him both jobs.

‘‘Milt’s impact in Boston, as both a player and a coach, will forever be felt amongst hockey fans,’’ Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said. ‘‘He was a legendary personality in the Bruins organization and goes down in history as the ultimate Bruin. We should all be envious of the longevity and meaningfulness of his life.’’

Schmidt is survived by a son, Conrad, and daughter, Nancy.

You know I love my road trips. Before every road trip, I usually read another book about the franchise I’m going to see. I went to Boston earlier this season and read the “100 THINGS EVERY BRUINS FANS SHOULD KNOW” and the Bobby Orr autobiography. Both books featured stories of Milt Schmidt. As you know, I love history, whether it’s American or hockey history.

I go nuts from time to time on this blog about how Frank Boucher should be in the rafters of MSG. I just talked about this last night again. You see a guy like Milt Schmidt, a guy who lived longer than Frank Boucher and was born nearly 20 years later, and he’s a legend in Boston. 99% of Ranger fans can’t even tell you who Boucher is.

Big props to the Bruins who honored the legacy of Schmidt in every season of his retirement. I respect that. It’s disgusting the Rangers can’t even hang a fucking banner for Frank Boucher, but James Dolan can pay millions of dollars in lawsuits whenever Isiah Thomas wants to play some grab ass.

RIP Walt Schmidt and thank you for your contributions to the league.

Look who’s next… Photo Credit: Toronto Star

If you’re a Rangers fan, you have to be rooting for the Columbus Blue Jackets to win their 17th straight game when they play the Washington Capitals later tonight. If CBJ wins, they will tie the 1992-1993 Penguins for most consecutive wins in a season. That would then set up a show down on Saturday, in Columbus, where the Rangers could prevent Columbus from setting the record.

John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault, essentially traded for each other (They weren’t really traded, but they swapped spots) at the end of 2012-2013 season. Tortorella went to AV’s former home in Vancouver, where he didn’t make it past a season. AV wound up going to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Rangers. Fast forward to today and Torts, after a Team USA failure in the WCH (To be fair, Team USA lost many guys to Team North America) has the Blue Jackets as the Las Vegas Stanley Cup favorite. CBJ is the hottest team in the league and if the season ended today, they would win the President’s Trophy.

However, CBJ hasn’t been tested by many Metro division teams yet. How nice would it be, in their game before their 5 day bye, if the Rangers beat Torts & the Jackets? You know Chris Kreider will be foaming at the mouth like Pierre McGuire with a Crosby blow up doll. It wasn’t long ago, that in his first meeting with the then Torts Canucks, that Kreider opened up for a hat trick.  However, Torts has plenty to prove to his former team. It’s no secret that Henrik Lundqvist helped run Torts out of town too. As much as the Rangers want this game, Torts wants it just as bad.

In either event, this game will be bigger and more important if CBJ beats WSH on Thursday, so let’s all root for that.

I’ll be back after the Torts Cup on Saturday!

Until then,

Let’s Go Rangers

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on twitter

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