New York Rangers First Round Playoff Preview, Win a Signed Zuccarello Stick, My NHL Bracket, Marc Staal Drug Test, Another Bettman Fail, Being Realistic, The 4 Non-Blondes Talk the New York Rangers & More

Will this be the year “The King” gets his crown or will it be another summer of woulda shoulda coulda?

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Here’s the usual quick intro stuff:

  • Check out the archives by using the search button on the right hand of the site or browsing month by month.
  • You can follow me on the twitter @NYCTHEMIC
  • I do not hate Henrik Lundqvist. I hate his contract!

Today I’ll be giving my thoughts on the upcoming Rangers vs Penguins first round playoff series. In addition, I’ll give you my prediction on every series. I’m already on record, as early as October 2015, of predicting Capitals vs Blackhawks. I’m sticking with that pick, but I’ll expand my thoughts below.


 

“Twenty-five years and my life is still
Trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination
I realized quickly when I knew I should
That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man
For whatever that means
And so I cry sometimes
When I’m lying in bed just to get it all out
What’s in my head
And I, I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning
And I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs
What’s going on?
And I say, hey yeah yeah, hey yeah yeah
I said hey, what’s going on?” – 4 Non Blondes “What’s Going on?”

When I think of the 2015-2016 New York Rangers season, one song comes to mind. I can hear Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes screaming in my head, as she belts out the chorus –  “WHAT’S GOING ON!?!”

If you adjust the first lyric of the song, “What’s Up?” to “Thirty-five years and my life is still trying to get up that great big hill of hope for a destination”, it pretty much sums up Henrik Lundqvist’s quest for a Cup.

In fact, if you got time, give it a listen yourself:

If the Rangers do not beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and if they don’t get past the Capitals in the second round, you can squarely blame Rangers management for another lost season.

I talked about it a bunch here on this site already, but the Rangers going out of their way to beat Detroit in Game 82 is a possible fatal mistake for the 2015-2016 season. You saw how the Islanders laid down to the Flyers in Game 82. As much as I personally detest the Islanders (FTI), all I could think about when I saw Islanders coach, Jack Capuano, having his team tank was this:

Tom Hagen: You know how they’re going to come at you? Michael: They want to arrange a meeting between me and Barzini. On Tessio’s ground. Where I’ll be safe. [Hagen is silent for a long moment] Tom Hagen: Tessio. I always thought it would be Clemenza. Michael: It’s the smart move. Tessio was always smarter.

All I can say, is that I hope the Islanders have the same fate as Tessio.

However, that’s the Islanders. For the Rangers, they purposely chose to take the harder road to the Cup. I think it was stupid move. When you’re missing your best defenseman, the team is banged up, the team hasn’t been playing well and the goalie is regressing, why would you choose to play the hottest team in the NHL since Christmas?, Then if you beat them, you get rewarded by playing the best team in the entire NHL? Doesn’t make sense to me at all.

Save me the real fan shit or the chest pounding shit. Yes, I read Pat Leonard of the Daily News, Larry Brookside of the NY Post and Jim Cerny of BlueShirtsUnited.com. I saw all the quotes. If you haven’t seen the Marc Staal quote, here it is:

“We were playing to win… We’re not scared of anybody,” Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal said. “We’re a good team that knows how to win. You play to play the game. You play to win. You start going the other way, and it’s bad hockey karma. You don’t lose to play somebody else. (If you do), you’re looking for bad things to happen.”

Marc Staal must be smoking the pot with Kevin Hayes, because he’s out of his mind. Seriously, drug test him or check him for CTE. Then again, in Bettman’s NHL, that wouldn’t matter anyway. Did you see this article on Derek Boogaard? I read the “Boy on Ice” book about him. My review of that book is somewhere in the archives. 14 failed drug tests? WHAT’S GOING ON?

Back to the topic at hand, Mr. Marc Staal.

Marc Staal mind you, scored 2 goals all season, DEAD LAST on the team. He also had a +/- of 2, so he was out there for a ton of goals against too. In fact, out of all the Rangers defensemen, Staal had the worst +/- number on the team, besides Boyle who had 0. At least Boyle has an excuse, being 83 years old and for what it’s worth, he scores goals too.

Marc Staal isn’t scared? WHAT’S GOING ON?

I’ll tell you who is scared. Me. I’ll let the cat out of the bag now, but my prediction is Penguins in 6 games. Does that mean the Rangers can’t win? Of course not. I have tickets to game 3 and game 6 of this series. I’m hoping when I go to game 6, the Rangers have a shot at clinching. I don’t want to pay good money to see the last game of the season. However, being unbiased and as a gambler, I just don’t see how the Rangers get it done this year.

Missing McDonagh is huge and anyone who thinks otherwise is underrating McDonagh’s value.

The Rangers road to the Cup entails beating the two hottest teams in the NHL, rather than the Deadlantic division. I’m not under-estimating the Panthers, Wings or Bolts, but beating those teams would be easier for the Rangers than going through the Metro division.

I’ve read a million things on social media about how the Rangers beat the Penguins & the Capitals, last year, in round one and two, which would most likely be the road to the ECF this season too. However, these teams from last year and this year aren’t the same.

Missing Ryan McDonagh is a huge loss for the Rangers. McDonagh, who has bolstered his offensive game, sometimes at the risk of hurting his own guys with his powerful slapshot (Insert “What if Zucc wasn’t hurt last year?” here) has always done a great job of shutting down Crosby. Crosby is on fire right now, if you haven’t noticed.

The Penguins offense as a whole has been great. When I think about the biggest disparities between the two teams, I look at the Penguins PP vs the Rangers PK and the Penguins first and second line vs the Rangers top 4 defensemen. When I look at this series with a wide lens, over the years the Rangers have struggled to score goals in the playoffs. If the Penguins remain hot, I don’t see the Rangers matching the Penguins offensive weaponry. I mean who’s going to score goal-for-goal with Sidney Crosby? Rick Nash? N-Word please!

Many Ranger fans think the Penguins are limping into this series because of the injuries to goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray. You know what, the Penguins were the hottest team since Christmas with and without “King” Fleury. Word out of Pittsburgh, from the writers there and from the fans I speak to, are predicting that Fleury and even Malkin will be back at 100% for this series.

Which brings us to another huge match-up in this series, Pittsburgh’s goaltending vs Henrik Lundqvist.

One calls himself a King despite not having a Cup, the other has a Cup & had another great season.

Remember when Fleury, despite having a Stanley Cup win in 2009, started falling apart in the playoffs several years ago? It feels like ages ago now, as “Flower” has worked himself to be one of the best goalies in the NHL.

Henrik Lundqvist, one of the best goalies in hockey, of the last ten years, had his worst season during the prime of his career.

It’s funny – I see many Ranger fan businesses releasing T-Shirts about Crosby being a crybaby bitch. Don’t get me wrong, he is a crybaby bitch. Perhaps the biggest. But if you can sit here with a straight face and tell me that Lundqvist isn’t the biggest crybaby goalie in hockey, you’re being biased.

From flipping over nets, blaming his own players, dumping water bottles (on Crosby, ironically), having hissy fits, being benched when things don’t go his own way, trust me, Lundqvist is the biggest diva goalie in hockey.

You all know I hate Lundqvist’s contract. I see more people starting to agree with me when I say Lundqvist is overpaid. However, what we’re starting to see now as Lundqvist puts more miles on those pads and as he gets older, he’s no longer an elite goalie. He’s not consistently in the Vezina running. In fact, he was benched more times this season than he was the last 4 seasons combined!

That said – the playoffs are a different brand, a different animal of hockey, if you will. Can Lundqvist carry this team in the playoffs, as he’s done so many times before? I wouldn’t bet against it. However, can I see Lundqvist having bad games in the playoffs for every great game he has? I can see that too.

We saw it last season, in the playoffs, in Lundqvist v Fleury, Lundqvist v Holtby & Lundqvist v Bishop. Lundqvist doesn’t give the Rangers that huge goaltending advantage that he once used to. To quote Michael Cole from WWE, “Lundqvist will have to be VINTAGE Lundqvist” for the Rangers to have a shot at winning this whole thing.

Truth be told, the Rangers will only go as far as Lundqvist can take them. He’s the highest paid player on the team. The highest paid goalie in hockey. He’s being paid this money for this time of the season. Like years previous, he will have to be flawless. Just look at the last few series the Rangers have had in the playoffs, starting in 2012, when Hank had his Vezina year & the Rangers went to the ECF for the first of three times in the last four years.

While Marc Staal isn’t scared, I am because if you look at the 2012 year, the Rangers played two grueling 7 round series with Ottawa & Washington before ultimately losing to the Devils in the ECF. What happened? The Rangers were so beat up by the time they got to the Devils. Lundqvist couldn’t do it all by himself anymore, and he was bested by Brodeur. I see a lot of parallels in that year with this year. For the Rangers to get to the ECF, they will exert a lot of time, energy, blood, sweat and tears to get past Pittsburgh and Washington. They could be ripe for the pickings, if they get to the ECF, just like that 2012 team.

In 2013, the Rangers got by Washington in the first round, again, another 7 game series. They got destroyed by Boston in the second round. The offense was weak, the PP brutal and Lundqvist couldn’t do it all.

In 2014, the Rangers won a 7 game series with the Flyers, with some key injuries to the Flyers. The Rangers fell 3-1 to Pittsburgh, but the death of the mother of Martin St. Louis propelled the team to 3 straight wins and the Rangers won the series in 7. The Rangers then beat a Carey Price-less Canadiens & went to the Cup. After being given several 2 goal leads throughout the series, Lundqvist blew it and lost to a better goalie in Jonathan Quick of LA.

Last season, the Rangers won a tight 5 game series with Pittsburgh. They were then pushed to 7 with Washington again, and won that. In the ECF, they went to 7 games with Tampa and lost. They lost because Bishop was better when it mattered most. If Lundqvist doesn’t give up back-to-back touchdowns, especially in a game where his team gives him 5 goals, the Rangers most likely go to the Cup. However, that didn’t happen, and that’s why Lundqvist won’t be a King to me, until he gets that Stanley Cup crown.

Lundqvist needs to be the best goalie in hockey in every game of this series for the Rangers to win. Based on this season, it’s hard to gamble on that.

Was winning Game 82 that important? Will you remember the Rangers beat the Wings in the final game of the season? Or, will you remember how the Rangers finished in the playoffs this season? Choosing to go through the Metro over the Atlantic? WHAT’S GOING ON?

The unbiased hockey & jaded Ranger fan in me sees this series going like this:

  • Pittsburgh wins game 1, one goal game.
  • Rangers win game 2 in a blow out. Bounce back game. Someone will get hot, like Stepan, Kreider, Brassard or Zuccarello. It just won’t be Rick Nash.
  • Lundqvist has a bad game 3, because I’m in the building.
  • Lundqvist is lights out, steals it, and ties the series in game 4.
  • Pittsburgh wins an OT game, brutal goal allowed because a Rangers defenseman was lost.
  • Pittsburgh closes the series game 6, because I’m in the building.

The optimist Ranger fan in me, (He’s still there sometimes), can only hope for Lundqvist to steal this series. Really, it would be nice if Rick Nash would do something besides come up empty-handed on every breakaway. These guys making the top money, they need to be held accountable like me, you or whoever else in the world is at their jobs.

If the Rangers powerplay goes over 50% this series, I will buy a hundred powerball tickets.

I’m getting a pit in my stomach just thinking about this series. I just feel that instead of an NHL official coronation of Henrik Lundqvist, he will be listening to this again:

The NHL has done a terrible job of making these brackets more accessible!

Let me take a break and look at the rest of the playoff picture, before my last words on the Rangers/Penguins.

As I said a million times, from the beginning of the season, til the All-Star Game and right now, I see the Capitals winning the Cup, beating the Blackhawks.

Here’s how I see it doing down:

FIRST ROUND:

  • Dallas Stars over Minnesota Wild in 5. The Stars are a veteran team. If the Wild can win this series, it would be akin to Dikembe Mutombo celebrating that one year, when the Nuggets beat the Sonics.
  • Chicago Blackhawks over St. Louis Blues in 6. Blackhawks are a playoff team. Throw away their slump to the finish line aside. They know what has to get done. I think this is the year that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock gets fired. Another first round exit for the Blues, who are just victims of bad first round match-ups.
  • Anaheim Ducks over Nashville Predators in 7. This might be the most contested series in the first round. I just think the Ducks have a little more firepower than the Predators, although the Predators do have the better goalie.
  • LA Kings over the San Jose Sharks in 5. Sharks are the Rangers of the West. A perennial playoff team, but no hardware to show for it. Quick carries the Kings, yet again.
  • Florida Panthers over the New York Islanders in 6. Isles are too banged up and the Panthers have a better goalie. Jagr will have this young team ready.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning over Detroit Redwings in 6. I’m not impressed by the Wings, who also slumped to the finish line. The Bolts have a better goalie, a better four lines and a better defense. Missing Stamkos and Stralman hurts, but I still think they have enough to get past the Wings.
  • Washington Capitals over the Philadelphia Flyers in 6. The Flyers will win a couple of games, maybe because of the Snider death motivation factor. The Caps are too good to be upset in the first round.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins over the New York Rangers in 6. The Rangers losing McDonagh is key. Pittsburgh makes it “third time is a charm” against one of their rivals.

SECOND ROUND:

  • Chicago Blackhawks over Dallas Stars in 6. Blackhawks are like the Spurs, just built for the playoffs. Dallas comes up short again.
  • LA Kings over the Anaheim Ducks in 5. LA is built to win. They are a bigger team than the Ducks and great goaltending can steal a series. LA has that.
  • Florida Panthers over Tampa Bay Lightning in 6. The Panthers are no pushover, although I thought the Rangers could beat them, based on the individual match-ups. Tampa, who is already hurt and won’t be 100%, will struggle with their Florida neighbor.
  • Washington Capitals over Pittsburgh Penguins in 7. This could be the most exciting series in the playoffs. I just think this is the year of Ovechkin.

THIRD ROUND/CONFERENCE FINALS:

  • Chicago Blackhawks over LA Kings in 7. It’s really a toss-up between these two teams, who have met in what, every conference finals of this decade? At least it feels that way. I could see either team winning this one. I’m just taking the Hawks because I took them at the beginning of the year.
  • Washington Capitals over Florida Panthers in 5. Experience plays a factor here. The Panthers would be ecstatic if they made it this far. The Capitals would be upset if they lost. I think the Capitals match up really well against the Panthers.

FOURTH ROUND/STANLEY CUP FINALS:

  • Washington Capitals over Chicago Blackhawks in 7. I’m expecting another exciting Stanley Cup Final this year. The White Russian/no cup jokes finally end. Even as a Ranger fan, if you hate Ovechkin, you are out of your mind. He’s more deserving than anyone. I’m taking the Caps over the Hawks in 7 because I believe Holtby is better than Crawford at this stage of the game.

Boomer Esiason has started quite the craze

One thing that has gotten popular over the years is WFAN’s Boomer Esiason “freezing” jerseys of the opposition during the playoffs. Hey, I’ve done it myself. It’s a cool superstition thing. However, I see many people “freezing” Carl Hagelin Ranger jerseys by putting the jersey in their freezer, in the hopes of making him cold.

Um, hello? You’re putting a Rangers jersey in the freezer!

I get it, Hagelin, who will most likely, knowing the Rangers, score the series ending goal, is on the Penguins. Still, you’re freezing a Rangers jersey. Maybe you will understand a bit more why I wanted Talbot and not Hank here, because of the contract – I root for the front of the jersey, not the back! No one player is bigger than this team, except for maybe Frank Boucher!

Freeze a Crosby jersey. A Fleury jersey. A Malkin jersey. Even a fat Phil Kessel jersey. Don’t freeze a Rangers jersey! They got enough problems as it is!

Still one of the most iconic teams in New York sports history – the 1994 NY Rangers.

With everything I said in this blog, I truly hope the Rangers can pull this off. If they don’t win the Cup this year, you really have to start thinking the dreaded “R” word – rebuild.

In fact, if the Rangers sweep this series and go on to win the Stanley Cup, I will give away the signed Mats Zuccarello stick I won in the Garden of Dreams fundraiser. Just be the first person to tweet this blog at me, @NYCTHEMIC once the Rangers hoist the Cup!

The best thing about the NHL playoffs is that they are truly the most unpredictable playoffs in all of sports. Anything can happen. Players get hot. Players get cold. Puck luck is a thing. Injuries occur.  No team goes into these playoffs with a loser’s attitude. As someone who has watched the entire league all season, through my trusty NHL GCL package, it really is hard to envision seeing the Rangers, who were “consistently inconsistent” all year, turning on the switch and winning 16 more games. I hope I’m wrong.

I’m 33 years old now, will be 34 in June. Was the Stanley Cup I saw in 1994, at the ripe old age of 12, the last Cup I’ll ever see? It’s hard not to be jaded with this team, especially as Yankees & Giants fan, who’ve won multiple titles in my lifetime.

As you read these words, I sit here, with my anus clenched. The stress is real. There are only three words that can cure me now….

“LET’S GO RANGERS!”

Depending on the work schedule, I’ll try to get a Game 1 recap up Thursday morning. If not, I’ll be back over the weekend looking at the first two road games for the Rangers.

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on that twitter machine

 

PS: Do you know what Beck’s “LOSER” and 4 Non Blonde’s “WHAT’S UP” have in common? Both were released during the 1993-1994 Cup season. Mind blown!

Comments

  1. I came to your blog posts by way of your comments on nhl.com. Yes, i am a penguins fan, but the playoffs since the cup winning year have been a huge disappointment to me. I “emotionally distanced’ myself from the team when they quit on Dan Bylsma. Since the firing of Mike Johnston i would check the box score of the games. Mike Sullivan has this team playing like a true “team” and not some superstars and regular players. You writing is so on “point” and fun. I have added this to my blogs that i read. While i hate to see any injured players, you couldn’t be more right about “The King”. When has he ever hoisted “Lord Stanley”? I hate any fat contract that restricts a teams ability to level the playing field in this day and age. Look forward to more of your posts.

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