What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Sorry for the lateness of this blog, but after a monumental win, enjoying a beer or twenty, lack of sleep from a near 70 hour work week and a LIRR train that just sucks the life out of you, sometimes these blogs don’t go up so quick!
I’m typing this up on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so this may be a little quick. It’s my one day off, so let’s get right into it!
As always, for the newcomers of this blog, you can always check the archives on the right hand of the site to catch up on previous rants, reviews, road-trips and general Ranger thoughts.
Before getting to the Ranger end of things, after their big game 2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, please tell me you saw this Jason Chimera goal yesterday:
Ouch. I know, I know, it’s the playoffs and anything can happen, but I thought whoever wound up as the 8th seed in the East would get decimated and dominated in the first round. The Caps are just too strong. I just feel it’s their year. However, when they are getting puck-luck goals like this, it’s gonna take a super-human effort to knock them out of the playoffs.
As always, this isn’t the x’s & o’s report of the game, but everything else that happened report! After getting out of work, I hustled and bustled down to mid-town Manhattan to check out the multiple Ranger parties going on. I know other arenas throughout the league sometimes open up their door during away games. The reason being so fans could all get together and celebrate or be miserable as a unit. However, I guess MSG is too big for that. I’ve seen pictures of the Bell Centre in Montreal opening up during away games. With what MSG charges for concessions, you’re better off in a bar with a bunch of rowdy hardcore fans anyway.
I had a few pre-game belts at the Blarney Pub, before walking next door to Stout, for the official Ranger party. Ron Duguay and Peter Stemkowski were there. I’ve met both of them before, but I was able to get a signed Duguay puck this time:
Stout was packed for the game. I was lucky I got there 45 minutes early and was able to get a seat. By the time the puck dropped, the bar was about 10 deep. I’m sure the other bars in the area, like Hudson Station & Jack O’Doyles had similar packed crowds. However, Stout got kinda young and too loud where it was tough to hear the volume. For the third period, I walked over to Mustang Harry’s for the Dancin’ Larry party. While Harry’s wasn’t as packed, I enjoyed that.
Without trying to sound condescending, Stout was the “in” spot to be in and I had a great time. However, there were people there just enjoying the environment and I have no problem with that, that’s what it was all about. I felt the people at the Dancin’ Larry party were more hardcore and knew everything that was going on. It was also an older crowd, so I didn’t have spit up Jagermeister all over my feet! I’m glad to see so many people come out for the Rangers, but a veteran drinker like myself would rather be with the over 30 crowd than the twenty-something crowd. Also, back in my day, I walked 7347374 miles to school while carrying the “Rock of Gibraltar” on my back!
On an aside, to be clear, when I say veteran drinker, I mean someone who can drink and not get sloppy. Nothing drives me nuts like some idiot either throwing up, constantly bumping into you on accident or spilling shit all over the place. Be a professional.
I had a really good time at the Blarney Pub, Stout & Mustang Harry’s. All different crowds with all different types of Ranger fans. For me, working in NYC, it was easy to hit up the bars. It was cool to see so many Ranger fans coming out to NYC to be with other diehard fans. I really enjoyed myself and the fans I met at all three spots. I thought all three bars did a great job at accommodating the fans and the free goal shots were appreciated. Just imagine if Rick Nash could score! That fuck is costing us free shots!
Prediction, NYR 5 – PITT 2, Kreider & Yandle 2 point games
— BlueCollarBlueShirts (@NYCTheMiC) April 16, 2016
Not for nothing, before this Game 2 started, I tweeted the above an hour before the game. Maybe I got ballsy with the two point game predictions, but both Kreider & Yandle scored and had good games. The Rangers almost had an empty-netter, so I was pretty damn close! Let’s just hope my Pens in 6 pre-series prediction is dead wrong!
Going into this game, there were several story-lines brewing. They were, in no order of importance:
- Could the Rangers get a win in Pittsburgh & get a split in the first two games?
- What was the status of Henrik Lundqvist? How bad was the damage to his eye?
- Just how bad is Dan Girardi banged up? Girardi was announced as being a scratch on Friday, the day before the game.
- Who would get the call for Game 2, McIlrath or Diaz?
- Was Jeff Zatkoff the second coming of Ken Dryden, or just extremely lucky?
- Would Fleury be back after practicing in the morning?
- Would Geno Malkin be back for Pittsburgh?
- Would Rick Nash score a goal? (Everyone knew the answer to that was a resounding NO.)
After the Rangers 4-2 game 2 win in Pittsburgh, we have some answers. Lundqvist looked fine and made some remarkable saves throughout the intense 60 minutes. He was pulled in game 1 because of swelling. I also thought he got a bit better playing the puck, or at least was more aware of what he was doing. He didn’t throw those lazy crappy passes for turnovers. I guess someone told him how Hagelin has that scouted and is there for the turnover every time.
Coach AV, when asked about if Girardi had an upper or lower body injury, you know, because there are no specific injury reports in the NHL, just a sea of vague answers, AV said “he’s hurting everywhere.” Girardi is like the late 1990’s Paul O’Neill of the Rangers. He’s the iron man. A hard-worker. There is no doubt to me that Girardi is hurting. The guy blocks so many shots and involved in so much physical play.
It might be tough to bench Girardi, especially with the Rangers now missing their top D pair of the last few playoff runs, but it’s good to see potentially the next top pair of the Rangers defense, for years to come, Brady Skjei & Dylan McIlrath get shifts and play well. For two rookies, they’ve helped the team, not hurt the team.
Pittsburgh coach, Mike Sullivan teased fans and reporters alike, by being mum on who was going to start in net for the Pens. It wasn’t until 30 minutes before game time that we knew that Fleury was still being held out because of concussion symptoms. Third stringer, Jeff Zatkoff got the start again. I thought he played well for the most part and his defense wasn’t there for the entire 60 minutes. He’s no Ken Dryden, but he also isn’t a liability either. I guess I could make my goalie contracts point here, but you know my spiel!
Malkin was back for Pittsburgh, but was it a good thing? The Pens streaked into the playoffs without him, going 14-2 to close the season. Did he break up their chemistry? Who knows? The Penguins lost, but I don’t think you can blame Malkin for that, who’s arguably been the Penguins top playoff player for a while. That includes Crosby.
As far as Rick Nash goes, it’s the same old shit. He plays well, is good defensively and makes plays, but when you’re being paid $7.8M a season, you gotta score goals. He doesn’t and until he does, Ranger fans and hockey people alike, are fair to criticize him.
Game 2, which the Rangers won 4-2, was another grind for the Rangers. After a scoreless and hard fought first period, the Penguins opened up the scoring on a Phil Kessel powerplay goal, three minutes into the second period. The Rangers responded with four unanswered goals, until Kessel scored another PP goal, with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
For the most part, I thought the Rangers played a complete 60 minutes, something they’ve struggled to do all season long. However, the special teams, which has been problematic all year, reared their ugly head again in this game. The Penguins went 2-5 on the PP, while the Rangers went 0-3. With a tough out in Pittsburgh, the Rangers must shore up on the PK and must execute on the PP. Playoff games for the Rangers have been won and lost because of the special teams in years past, and the simply put, the Rangers must get better in this department.
Here’s the official box score, courtesy of ESPN. As always, my notes are in italics:
1st Period Summary
|No scoring this period||0||0|
||Kevin Hayes: 2 Minutes for Interference|
||Patric Hornqvist: 2 Minutes for Roughing|
||Mats Zuccarello: 2 Minutes for Roughing|
2nd Period Summary
||Phil Kessel (1) (Power Play)
Assists: Trevor Daley, Nick Bonino
This PP goal came off a sweet pass from Daley. Fat Phil Kessel was wide open in front of Lundqvist and pushed it home for the first goal of the game.
||Keith Yandle (1)
Assists: J.T. Miller, Derick Brassard
Nash looked like he was screening Zatkoff. Yandle took a pass from Miller and it looked like Zatkoff had a chance at it, but the puck beat him. Tied game.
||Derick Brassard (1)
Assists: J.T. Miller, Brady Skjei
Brassard, on a breakaway, beat Zatkoff. Imagine if Nash could score on breakaways? Sullivan challenged that Brassard was off-side, and because this goal came 18 seconds after Yandle’s goal and because Toronto is Toronto, I thought this would be called back. I was shocked and may have sharted a bit when this was ruled a good goal. Credit to Skjei for the assist. Good to see the young guys produce.
||Mats Zuccarello (1)
Assist: J.T. Miller
Another Rangers young gun, JT Miller, had three straight assists in this period. That’s something impressive. Zucc took a cross-ice pass from Miller Time and buried it for the two goal lead. You know how I am with Lundqvist & two goal leads, so the game wasn’t in the bag yet.
||Mats Zuccarello: 2 Minutes for Hooking|
||Brian Dumoulin: 2 Minutes for Hooking|
||Bryan Rust: 2 Minutes for Interference|
||J.T. Miller: 2 Minutes for Interference|
3rd Period Summary
||Chris Kreider (1)
Assist: Derick Brassard
This goal came out of nowhere to start the third period. Kreider got the goal off a simple wrist shot.
||Phil Kessel (2) (Power Play)
Assists: Nick Bonino, Evgeni Malkin
Another Kessel PP goal that I thought Hank had no real shot at stopping. That comes alot coming from me!
||Sidney Crosby: 2 Minutes for Slashing|
||Chris Kreider: 2 Minutes for Goalkeeper Interference|
||Keith Yandle: 2 Minutes for Cross checking|
||Kevin Klein: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
||Chris Kunitz: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
||Chris Kunitz: 2 Minutes for Slashing|
||Kevin Klein: 2 Minutes for Unsportsmanlike Conduct|
For all my comments made the last two seasons about Lundqvist being overpaid and regressing, I still believe in that. That said, the Rangers best chance to get by Pittsburgh is for Lundqvist to be “vintage” Lundqvist. With the other highest paid player (Rick Nash) not doing his job in scoring goals, Lundqvist needs to hold down the fort on the other end. He made a few huge game-changing saves in the game & cooled the jets of the Penguins. The Rangers are going to need this effort and production from Lundqvist for the whole ride, however long this 2016 Stanley Cup playoff ride may go for the Blueshirts.
There was a lot of things I liked in this game, which is not always the case after a win. I thought Klein & Kreider really stepped up big. They over-matched the Pens with their physicality and had the Pens all discombobulated.
We all love Zucc, but there are games where he’s not a factor. When he’s a factor, the Rangers usually win. Zucc was a mad-man, all over the place, giving it his all for loose pucks and making plays.
I was happy to see the “old” Lundqvist, protecting the lead and being the solid rock when the Rangers were cracking a bit.
I was happy to see the young-guns on this team – such as Fast, Miller, Skjei & McIlrath all play well.
Yandle continues to prove that the Rangers must RE-SIGN him. If the Rangers let him walk, they have learned nothing from the Stralman/Boyle fiasco.
The fourth line of Moore/Glass/Stalberg continues to shine.
Boyle is too old and too slow for the Rangers & perhaps for any other team. His style is to be aggressive, but he’s too slow getting back and too slow for loose pucks. It cost the Rangers a tying goal in game 1 and he was beat all game long here. If McDonagh or Girardi can play in game 3, I would let one of the young bucks play for Boyle in Game 3.
As it stands right now, the Rangers have called up Raphael Diaz to practice with the team. I don’t like playing him. He hasn’t played with this team at all this season. Skjei & McIlrath have. Diaz may be better, who knows, than either one of the rookies, and yes he knows the system & has been here before, but he hasn’t played with this current team all season. Now is not the time to experiment with that.
Up next – game 3 at MSG. To quote Mike Francesa, “I will be in duh bildin!”
If you’re a Ranger fan, things are ok right now. The Rangers got the split. There is one idiot reporter saying home-ice doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs, but in the same breath, talks about how the home teams have a better record in the playoffs. The Rangers have played better at home all season long. Of course you want a home-ice advantage. Anyone who says otherwise is lost!
With this game 2 win, all the Rangers have to do is win every game at home, and this series is over in 6. Tall task? Yes. Impossible? No.
I still believe the Rangers should’ve taken off for Game 82 like the Islanders, especially when I watch that series the Isles are having with Florida. Neither building sells out. You just know if the Rangers drew the Panthers, Sunrise, Florida would be Ranger Blue all over the arena. No one travels as well as Ranger fans and Islander fans don’t even travel to Barclay. In fact, look at this:
This Panther/Islander series is perhaps the biggest joke out of all the quarterfinal series going on right now. It’s sparsely attended and makes the NHL look bad. The Rangers best route to go to the Cup would’ve been in the Atlantic. I’m just nervous that even if the Rangers get past the Pens, they will meet the toughest team in the second round, in the Caps. Sorry-not-sorry (I can’t believe I just used that expression) Flyer fans, Snider’s death isn’t going to spark an upset in that series.
The Rangers host games 3 & 4 on Tuesday & Thursday night, respectively. The Rangers need a copy cat effort of the game they played on Saturday. The biggest adjustment they have to make is figuring out how to make the special teams better.
We’ve seen in the past with the Penguins, they have a tough time closing out a series and also have a tough time making a comeback. If the Rangers can do the job at home, the Rangers will obviously be in a good place. With the Capitals up 2-0 already, the Rangers could use another 5 game series win over Pittsburgh like last season.
Who knows if Fleury will play at all in this series or if Sullivan is just trying to play mind games. However, if Lundqvist plays every game like Saturday, the Rangers will be in fine shape.
Depending on what time I get home on Tuesday night, I’ll try to get a Game 3 recap up. Having to be up at 4:30AM Wednesday may prevent that though.
Either way, as always,
LET’S GO RANGERS
@NYCTHEMIC on the tweeter