NYR/TBL Recap: Bring Up The Wolfpack Immediately, Lundqvist Finally Beats Tampa*, McDonagh Injury, The Playoff Bound Rangers & More Ramblings & Musings As We Approach The Playoffs

The Rangers will most likely start the playoffs on the road. Just where will they start it though?

Welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Sorry for the lack of updates, but with a crazy work schedule that starts by waking up at 4:30AM & not getting home til 7PM, it’s been tough to pump these out. I apologize for the brevity of this blog in advance, but real life calls and this is just a hobby.

Quick few thoughts about the games I missed before getting into tonight’s win against the Tampa Bay Lightning:

4/2/16 Sabres 4 – Rangers 3: Lundqvist had one of those games where he just looks horrible. It’s been happening more and more as he gets older. It was another game where he was sent to his throne on the bench & made his Lundquit’s face. Luckily, the Rangers fought back, but it was too little, too late. Not scoring on a 5 vs 3 PP late also didn’t help. Just an ugly loss all around.

4/4/16 Rangers 4 – Blue Jackets 2: The Rangers clinched a playoff berth with this win. Before the game on twitter, I predicted Kreider would have a three point game. He had a two point game & has been turning it on as of late. He must realize he’s in a contract year. The biggest story coming out of this game was the injury to Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh.

Ryan McDonagh has taken a beating this season

The last year hasn’t been very kind to Ryan McDonagh. From breaking his ankle in last year’s playoffs, to the Wayne Simmonds incident this year, to being held out of games due to the fear of concussions; the last thing Ranger fans wanted to see was McDonagh hurt on Monday night in Columbus.

McDonagh blocked a shot in the first period of Monday night’s win over the Blue Jackets, but in the process injured his hand. Because this is hockey and everything has to be top secret, the severity and what type of injury McDonagh suffered hasn’t been released. Officially, it’s an “upper body injury.” To people with common sense, it’s some sort of hand injury, whether it’s a broken wrist, a broken hand, a sprained wrist or some sort of bone injury.

I don’t get this about the NHL. What’s the big fucking deal about announcing what the injury is? In the NFL, teams are mandated to announce their injuries, because of all the gambling on the games. People gamble on hockey too you know! It’s also silly to deprive the fan base crucial information, but the NHL is miles behind the other three sports when it comes to making positive changes to their game.

Anyway, before tonight’s game, the Rangers announced McDonagh would miss the rest of the season, a total of three games. While it wasn’t announced if he would miss some of the playoffs, people are speculating that he might miss the entire first round too, and possibly the second round, should the Rangers advance past the first round.

Again, why not just end the speculation and let people know what’s going on? I understand you don’t want to tell teams your weakness, but this was an obvious injury. Do the Rangers think teams are just going to slash and hack at McDonagh’s hand every game?

Losing Ryan McDonagh is a big blow for the NY Rangers. He’s their best defenseman and their captain. With the way things are going, the Rangers will draw the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. McDonagh has been great at containing Crosby in big games, playoff games obviously included.

McIlrath and Skjei will finish out the season for the Rangers. McIlrath takes the 5th D spot on the depth chart, with Skjei giving breaks to Dan Boyle & now Dan Girardi (More on that below) for the final two games. With the McDonagh injury, I now expect McIlrath, you know, the guy Larry Brooks of the NY Post called “The Rangers Savior” (LMAO, I mean McIlrath is fine and all, but savior is overdoing it) to get some playoff minutes.

Oh, and how ironic is it that McDonagh got hurt, blocking a shot against a John Tortorella team?

Oh, and more food for thought: did McDonagh dive in front of a puck from deep because it was instinct or because Lundqvist has been bad lately?

It would be beneficial for the Rangers to start calling up members of the Wolfpack for the final two games.

I said this before the game on my twitter, which I’m sure you follow already @NYCTHEMIC, but the Rangers should be calling up everyone from the Wolpack right now for several reasons:

  • Injuries. The last thing the Rangers needed, especially after the McDonagh injury, is anyone else getting hurt. Of course, Dan Girardi looked like he was concussed in tonight’s game against the Bolts, when Brian Boyle laid him out with a dirty hit, with nearly less than a minute left in the game. At the time of this writing, no injury information has been released and even when it is released, who knows how vague it will be.
  • Wear & Tear. The Rangers have played the most playoff games out of any other team in the NHL in the last four years. The majority of this core has been involved in all of them. This is a veteran team. They know how intense playoff games can be. Let them recharge their batteries and come in fresh for the playoffs.
  • Freak Bullshit.  Yes, freak bullshit. Last year, the Rangers lost Mats Zuccarello because he got hit by a puck in the back of the head by his own team mate, ironically enough, off the stick of the injured Ryan McDonagh. You don’t need anything stupid, a freak injury, a suspension or any thing that prevents any starting player missing any playoff game.
  • Path of least resistance. Ranger fans seem pretty split on this. I’m in the camp of trying to play the Atlantic division, in the first two rounds, providing the Rangers win the first round. If the season ended today, the Rangers would travel to Pittsburgh for games 1 & 2 of the first round. If the Rangers beat Pittsburgh, they would most likely face the Capitals in the second round.

Jagr’s new team and Jagr’s old team. Who do you want in the first round?

 

Let me just expand a bit here. Are the Penguins & Capitals impossible to beat? No. As a matter of fact, HELL NO! The Rangers beat both of those teams last year to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. However, all three teams are different from where they were a year ago. The Rangers were the best team in hockey at this point last year. Now, they will either finish third or fourth in their own division.

The Capitals are the best team in hockey right now, sewing up the President’s Trophy last week. However, we all know the stat about President Trophy winners and Stanley Cups. We’ve lived it. As each game goes by for the Caps, they look more & more easier to beat. Especially with Holtby logging a ton of minutes and work.

The Penguins are absolutely on fire, with one of the hottest offenses in the league. What scares me about the Pens & Caps, is that without McDonagh, Crosby & Ovechkin could tee off on Lundqvist all day.

If the Rangers were to fall out of their third place standing in the Metro and became the first wild card, the Rangers would play the Florida Panthers in the first round. Nothing against Jagr & the Panthers, but they seem a much more favorable match-up for the Rangers than the Penguins.

The Penguins are a team full of disappointment. They’ve won one Cup with Crosby, but the team, the fanbase and league experts expected more. They want the Cup badly & are in a similar situation as the Rangers, meaning that the window may be closing on them winning one any time soon.

The Panthers on the other hand, are just happy to make the playoffs. They aren’t battle tested nor have the experience as the Penguins have. They also don’t have the Rangers as well scouted as the Penguins do. Plus, I have that bad feeling if the Rangers draw the Pens, you will see a series closing goal by Carl Hagelin.

If you got past Florida, you would play Boston, Detroit or Tampa in the second round. I would rather play any of those teams than the Capitals.

Now people will disagree with my line of thinking. They will say, “to be the best, you gotta beat the best.” I counter that with, “sometimes you gotta be lucky.” It’s certainly true, you need some puck luck along the way to win the Cup.

Let’s be real – the Rangers are a WIN-NOW team. They got a ton of miles on them. They will need a break. Plus, even if the Rangers somehow got past the Pens & Caps, they will exert a ton of energy in those series, which could make them ripe for the pickings for whatever other team qualifies for the ECF.

To my original point, who cares if the Rangers lose out the rest of the regular season? I get you want to play well going into the playoffs. You just won your last two games. It’s time for the Hartford Wolfpack to be rewarded and get some ice time.

It’s funny, Thursday night, the Rangers host the Islanders. The Islanders right now have the first wild card spot. Their fanbase wants the wild card too. This might be the first time ever, that both fans of either franchise are rooting for the other team to win this huge rival game!  If the Islanders beat the Rangers Thursday, the Rangers will become the first wild card & face the path of least resistance.

For all these reasons listed & arguments made here, that is why I would call up as many people as possible.

The face Lundqvist usually makes after playing the Lightning.

For the first time in two seasons, Henrik Lundqvist earned a win over the Lightning*. I give you the asterisk, because for the first time in two seasons as well, the Lightning were missing four of their best players, in goalie Ben Bishop (rest), Ryan Callahan (Injury), Steven Stamkos (blood clot & possibly done for the season) and Victor Hedman (injury.)

When the Lightning are missing their best player & maybe a future Hall of Famer in Stamkos, two of their best defensemen and a great player in Callahan (NYR should’ve never dealt two extra picks with him in the MSL trade), is it really the Lightning? It’s more like a Florida 10-minute rain with one flash of lightning in the sky!

Still, a win is a win, and for once, it was nice to see Lundqvist not give up 4, 5, 6 goals to the team from Hockeytown, USA, you know – Tampa, Florida.

This was another one of those “consistently inconsistent” / “what team will show up” games for the Rangers. They had a brutal first period, where the shots at one point were 17-2. They showed life in the second period and came back to win it in the third, with all goals coming from American players.

Lundqvist made a lot of great saves in this game, but the first goal was on him. He’s prone to it. It’s going to happen in the playoffs too. I just the hope the Rangers can outplay whatever mistakes the aging and regressing Lundqvist will make.

Again, pressed for time here, so here’s the official boxcore from ESPN.com. As always, my notes are in italics:

1st Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail TB NYR
2:42
Andrej Sustr (4)
Assists: Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Marchessault 

 

 

Softie allowed by Lundqvist.

1 0
6:07
Brian Boyle (13) (Power Play)
Assists: Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson

 

 

 

The refs were whistle happy tonight. Of course an ex-Ranger in Brian Boyle not only scored tonight, but injured Dan Girardi.

2 0
Time Team Penalty Detail
4:38
Dylan McIlrath: 2 Minutes for Hooking
9:25
Henrik Lundqvist: 2 Minutes for Delaying Game – Puck over Glass (Served by Tanner Glass)
12:47
Erik Condra: 2 Minutes for Hooking
15:57
Tanner Glass: 5 Minute Major for Interference (Served by J.T. Miller)
15:57
Tanner Glass: 10 Minute Game Misconduct

2nd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail TB NYR
16:55
Derek Stepan (21) (Power Play)
Assists: Mats Zuccarello, Keith Yandle

 

 

 

Nice little feed from Zuccarello, who now has 60 points this season, as Stepan, from the left circle, blew one by for the first Rangers goal.

2 1
Time Team Penalty Detail
5:42
Derick Brassard: 2 Minutes for Delaying Game – Puck over Glass
9:46
Keith Yandle: 2 Minutes for Roughing
9:46
Cedric Paquette: 2 Minutes for Roughing
9:46
Keith Yandle: 2 Minutes for Roughing (Served by Chris Kreider)
12:43
Ondrej Palat: 2 Minutes for Delaying Game – Puck over Glass
16:47
Nikita Kucherov: 2 Minutes for Interference
19:46
Chris Kreider: 2 Minutes for Hooking

3rd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail TB NYR
2:33
Derek Stepan (22)
Assists: Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Klein

 

 

 

This time, Stepan shot from the right circle to get the tying goal. It was kind of an “excuse me” goal, as it looked to have been deflected in.

 

2 2
4:46
Chris Kreider (21)
Assists: Marc Staal, Derek Stepan

 

 

 

Stepan, with a three point game, watched Kreider on a breakaway beat Tampa back-up netminder, Vladislav Namestnokov.

2 3
Time Team Penalty Detail
0:30
Nikita Nesterov: 2 Minutes for Tripping
8:23
J.T. Brown: 2 Minutes for Tripping
18:52
Brian Boyle: 5 Minute Major for Boarding
18:52
Brian Boyle: 10 Minute Game Misconduct

USA USA USA

Sorry for the rush-job, even if I’m at nearly 3000 words at this mark in the blog. I usually like to go 5000+, but real life beckons. Just want to get these few quick thoughts out on the game:

  • Good to see Kreider heat up. He’s got 5 goals in the last 6 games. Like any of these Top 6 forward name guys, like Nash, Brassard, Stepan or Zuccarello, get hot in the playoffs, the Rangers will be a tough out.
  • Good to see Lundqvist have a better game than his last two outings. For as much as I hate his contract, the Rangers need him to be the Lundqvist of 2012 for them to go anywhere in the playoffs.
  • Nice to see Keith Yandle fired up. He had a bug up his ass and I loved it. If the Rangers let Yandle go at the end of the season, it will be a bigger mistake than letting Stralman go.
  • These referees are absolutely horrible. Glass gets 5 minutes for a debatable hit. Brian Boyle levels Girardi from behind and no call was made until way after the fact. The play continued until the refs realized Girardi couldn’t move. They then called the penalty.
  • The officiating, league-wide, has been atrocious and at its worst ever in my memory.
  • I thought Marc Staal had another good game. His brother fits right in with these Rangers, as he’s consistently inconsistent too.
  • Another solid outing from the fourth line, which seems to be the norm now.
  • Lindberg looked ok in his first action in a while. Hayes sat the game out, to get Lindberg time and not because of any sort of punishment, like earlier in the season.
  • Skjei & McIlrath may be the cornerstones of this defense one day. If that happens, they better not have games like tonight.
  • I still think Tanner Glass should win the Steven McDonald award.

The Rangers actually gave me something besides angina!

If you remember in my last blog, I told you how I donated to the Garden of Dreams last week, during their fundraising campaign. Well wouldn’t you know it, I had a winning raffle ticket! My signed Mats Zuccarello game stick will be in the mail any day now! And I didn’t have to guilt him into it by making up some prom story either!

If you know me from these blogs, twitter or in real life, you know I spend a ton of money, time and miles traveled with this team. It’s cool to finally get something back. With a donation to a great charity and a winning raffle ticket, what a win-win!

I’m going to take a wild guess and bet this guy doesn’t have a girlfriend or is married.

Two games remain. Thursday night at home with the Islanders and Saturday afternoon with the Wings. You know how I feel. Who do you want in the playoffs? Feel free to drop a line in the comment section, which I believe is working now or shoot off a tweet.

This will be the first time in my life that I wouldn’t mind if the Islanders beat the Rangers. Save me the “you’re not a true fan shit.” I want a Cup. If a loss to the Islanders on Thursday means the Rangers have an easier route to the Cup, than so be it. I can hear it now, “waa, waa, waa, I want to show the world I can beat the best teams, waa, waa, waa). Save me the bravado, machismo and valor for another argument. The easiest path to the Cup is through the Atlantic, not the Metro.

Again, I apologize for the brevity, but real life beckons.

As always, LET’S GO RANGERS!

Wait, hold that, for the next two games….

LET’S GO WOLFPACK!  nWo 4 life (a few of you will get that!)

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the twitter machine

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