NYR/NYI Review: Rangers Best Loss of the Season, Zuccarello Receives The Steve McDonald Award, Isles Embarrass Lundqvist Again; Sweep Season Series, Possible Playoff Scenarios (Bust Out the CopperTone) & More From MSG

The Rangers may have been embarrassed by the Islanders tonight, but at least we had one good moment.

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. As always, you can follow my live thoughts about the games on twitter @NYCTHEMIC, find previous blogs in the archives by searching on the right hand of the site and yes; I’m working crazy hours so these blogs aren’t as long as usual.

Now that I got the usual spiel out of the way, how about them New York Rangers?

As I said in my last blog and on the twitter machine, for the first time in my life, I was hoping the Islanders would beat the Rangers. I explained why in my last blog, but in short, the road to the Cup is easier playing the Atlantic bracket than the Metropolitan bracket.

Why would the Rangers want to play Pittsburgh and potentially Washington in the second round, when they could play the Panthers and whatever struggling team from the Atlantic makes it past the first round?

Pittsburgh is 10-1 in their last 11 games played. They are missing Malkin. Missing Fleury. Crosby is on fire. Hagelin knows the Rangers inside-out. The Rangers are missing their top D pair with injuries, in McDonagh & Girardi. And yes, I know Girardi hasn’t been on the top pair in a while, but I could see him playing on the first pair in the playoffs because of his success against Pittsburgh & Washington last season.

The Penguins & Capitals are perennial playoff teams that are also in win-now mode. They know the Rangers very well.  On the other side, the Panthers are just happy to make the playoffs and there was this yesterday:

If you don’t have time to watch the video, in short, Panthers owner, Doug Cifu said this:

I guess the Rangers have a great, world class goalie. In a coin flip, I’d probably prefer the Islanders but it’ll be a great buzz down there. Obviously a ton of transplanted New Yorkers down there.”

Talk about bulletin board material.

The Rangers match up better against the Atlantic teams than they do with Washington & Pittsburgh right now. As a result of this loss to the Islanders, they are in a prime place to finish up as the Wild Card.

This game will be forgotten about in two weeks when the Isles are bounced from the playoffs.

Before getting into the game itself, as I told you, I was hoping for the Islanders to win. If the Rangers won this game, they would’ve locked the 3 seed down and Pittsburgh vs the Rangers would’ve been set as a first round match-up.

As a result of all the scores around the league tonight, Pittsburgh is officially the number 2 seed and will host either the Rangers or the Islanders in the first round.

The Panthers have clinched the Atlantic Division title and will host either the Rangers or the Islanders in the first round.

The Islanders are currently the third seed in the Metro division. The Rangers are currently the first wild card and can finish no worse than that.

The Islanders have 99 points in 80 games played. The Rangers have 99 points in 81 games played.

The Rangers can still finish in third place, but it makes no sense to. The Penguins are a better team on the ice and in the standings than the Panthers.

The final 3 games in New York play out like this:

Saturday- Rangers vs Detroit at 12:30 PM and Islanders vs Buffalo at 7:30 PM.

Sunday – Philadelphia vs Islanders at 7PM.

As long as the Rangers don’t get a point against Detroit, the Islanders will be heading to Pittsburgh.

I know, I know, it’s tough to root for your team to lose and please save me the “you’re not a real fan” shit. Bottom line, expectations for the Rangers are lower than they’ve been in the last 4 years. The Rangers are banged up. The window is about shut. You gotta hope for the easier path. You gotta rest these guys. You can’t take any more injuries. Pittsburgh is on fire right now. Capitals have given the Rangers fits this season. In fact, Lundqvist, has not beaten Pittsburgh at all this season, just like how he hasn’t beaten the Islanders either. The Panthers, while not an easy out, are the easier play.

If you need even more ammo, Lundqvist could not beat Tampa in the regular season last year. He couldn’t beat them in the playoffs last year. He hasn’t beaten Pittsburgh this year. Any Ranger or Islander fan, for that matter, saying they want Pittsburgh in the first round, is either lying to you or a straight out idiot.

Zuccarello won the Steven McDonald “Extra Effort” Award for the second time in his career.

First the good news, than the bad news, depending on how much you value this loss to the Islanders.

Mats Zuccarello, for the second time in his career, won the Steven McDonald “Extra Effort” Award. You could argue that this is the most prestigious non-NHL (Meaning Hart Trophy, Vezina, etc) individual award that a Ranger can receive.

On an aside, the video package the MSG Networks and the Rangers did during the second period intermission about this award (and also available on the Rangers app) was excellent.

This award goes to the Ranger who gives it his all and leaves nothing behind. For me, I was kinda hoping Tanner Glass would get the award, in the same vein John Scott was the NHL ASG MVP this year, but I got no problem with Zucc. Shit, I can’t wait to get my free autographed game used Zuccarello stick in the mail, that I won through the Garden of Dreams raffle!

You know how much I petitioned and went nuts about the Rangers keeping Zucc here, at last year’s All-Star break. You can just read those blogs in the archives. Zucc is a huge fan favorite and works hard. There is a reason why you hear ZUUUUUUUUUUUUUUC in every NHL arena the Rangers play in. Fans recognize his hard work, scrappiness and dedication to winning.

I’m telling you, in my travels around different arenas this league, working in NYC, living in NY and just being out, I see more Zuccarello jerseys than any other current Ranger on the team today. That includes Lundqvist. Includes McDonagh.

I hate to do the what if, but what if Zuccarello didn’t get hurt in last years playoffs?

Anyway, congratulations #36, well deserved and earned. Just like a Derek Jeter or a Justin Timberlake, Zucc is a person that the ladies love for his looks and the men love for his hard work. I’m glad for our little Norwegian!

Here’s something for the stat and chart nerds: Henrik Lundqvist has been pulled 8 times this season. Previous 4 seasons combined: 7 times. KING!

There’s a bunch of ways I could take this blog, when talking about tonight’s game. Let’s talk about the goalies.

Henrik Lundqvist makes $8.5 million a year.

Thomas Greiss makes $1.5 million a year.

Greiss made 36-37 saves, while Hank made 13-16 saves tonight.

And people still tell me that Hank is paid fairly!

Listen, I’m not going to go nuts about this game. I don’t think players intentionally tank. Maybe management makes deals to make teams lose, by trading players or calling up minor leaguers, but I don’t think the pros tank games. Players are paid based on statistics. A guy like Kreider is in a contract year. You don’t think he wants to get a few more goals to close the season and help his cause at contract time?

Granted, hockey players do get paid based on their playoff performance too, unless your name is Rick Nash. Still, players on the ice are not trying to lose. I don’t think Lundqvist went into this game saying, “let me look like shit tonight on purpose.” He does a fine job of that on his own.

I mean, the King has taken his throne on the bench 8 times this season! That’s insane. It’s even crazier when you realize he’s only been pulled 7 times in the last 4 previous seasons. Again, people still to this day, argue with me that Lundqvist is not overpaid and that he is not regressing.

Scarier for the Rangers is that they will rely on Lundqvist to get them to the Cup. Again, this is why I would’ve preferred Talbot here, making $8M less (He has since got a contract extension for the next 3 years in Edmonton, but his Ranger contract was only $550,000 for 2015-2016) and used the extra $8M to help the offense.

For the first time in a while, my expectations aren’t that high for the Rangers in the playoffs. Any fan arguing that the Rangers are a slam dunk to win the Cup, is someone under the age of 20 and doesn’t know this team. 4 cups in 90 years should tell you all you need to know.

That said, can the Rangers win the Cup this year? Sure. They’re in the tournament. You need luck to win Cups too, and the Rangers may have gotten a break if they remain as the first wild card team. I’m not as confident with this team as I was the last two seasons. Can you blame me?

What has scared me about Lundqvist since he signed that disgusting contract is that he has more and more of these games, where he just gets torn apart. He has a tough time protecting leads. He has games where he will give up 4, 5 ,6 goals and look into space from his throne on the bench. He did it again tonight.

Without McDonagh & Girardi for possibly the first round, the Rangers will catch a major break if they avoid Pittsburgh in the first round.

I know Lundqvist has been great in the playoffs through the years, but that said, since signing that contract, he’s been out played by lesser paid goalies, blown multiple two goal leads and gave up back-to-back touchdowns to Tampa (after having a 5.00 against them in the regular season) in the ECF.

I know Lundqvist’s history. He’s been great here. His number will be retired one day. However, he is overrated. Playing in NY has been beneficial to his career. Just watch around the league. Plenty of goalies make big saves and consistently too.

Wayne Gretzky said something today about how in his era, he was paid to score goals and not block shots. He even said that he didn’t block one shot in his life!  He said the goalies were paid to block shots. If you notice, ever since Tortorella left, who embraced the shot-blocking mentality from his skaters, Lundqvist has been exposed a bit. Then again, that’s why the Great One played in a 5-4 NHL era, than the 3-2 NHL era we see today.

We know barring an injury to Lundqvist, Raanta will not be playing in the playoffs. Lundqvist better get his shit together. There is no more time left and trying to shut out Detroit on Saturday isn’t in the Rangers best interests.

Like Lundqvist, Greiss has no Cups either. Does that make him a King too?

So the Rangers got swept in their 4 game season series with the Islanders, losing this game 4-1. I was furious about the first three losses, but was happy about this one. Bring on Florida.

Again, I don’t think players try to lose, but the Rangers had a million scoring chances in this game and kept coming up short every time. I was wondering at times, if JT Miller was trying to see how close he could get to scoring a goal without actually scoring.

I don’t think these teams tried to play that physical either. I wonder if the concern for injuries was in the back of their minds. Jesper Fast took a shot late in the third. As I said in my last blog, I don’t know why AV isn’t bringing up some Wolfpack guys to give his main guys some rest and prevent injury. I don’t even know why Lundqvist started either. Do you really want to risk injury to your starting playoff goalie?

Let’s get into the official score, courtesy of ESPN. As always, my comments are in italics:

1st Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYI NYR
No scoring this period 0 0
Time Team Penalty Detail
13:12
Brady Skjei: 2 Minutes for Tripping Josh Bailey
16:47
Nikolay Kulemin: 2 Minutes for Interference of Dan Boyle

2nd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYI NYR
13:28
Shane Prince (6)
Assists: Marek Zidlicky, Steve Bernier

 

 

This was a double deflection goal, that even bounced off Dan Boyle. It started with a 50 foot shot though. I can’t believe the puck even made the net. That said, Lundqvist didn’t have it tracked well.

1 0
18:38
Casey Cizikas (8)
Assists: Shane Prince, Brock Nelson

 

 

Lundqvist was beat out of his skates on this one.

2 0
19:45
Frans Nielsen (20) (Power Play)
Assists: John Tavares, Kyle Okposo

 

 

An easy one timer beat the King here.

3 0
Time Team Penalty Detail
7:54
Steve Bernier: 2 Minutes for Hooking J.T. Miller
10:45
Dylan McIlrath: 2 Minutes for Tripping John Tavares
18:55
Keith Yandle: 2 Minutes for Tripping Calvin de Haan

3rd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYI NYR
17:12
Kevin Klein (9)
Assists: Derek Stepan, Keith Yandle

 

 

Too little too late for the Rangers. Maybe Kleiner will get 10 on Saturday.

3 1
19:28
John Tavares (32) (Empty Net)
Assist: Kyle Okposo

 

 

Tavares put the Rangers away with Raanta (who was playing for Lundquits) on the bench. At least I pushed my 5 goal over bet!

4 1
Time Team Penalty Detail
6:43
John Tavares: 2 Minutes for Interference of Derek Stepan
9:21
Calvin de Haan: 2 Minutes for Interference of Tanner Glass
14:27
Johnny Boychuk: 2 Minutes for Slashing Rick Nash
14:27
Rick Nash: 2 Minutes for Roughing Johnny Boychuk

 

I was hoping Coach AV would spit his used gum out in Hank’s hair tonight. Hank making pissy faces on the bench is not AV’s fault. Greiss made all the tough saves. Hank has to do the same.

We know what this loss means for the Rangers. It means they are in control of their own destiny when it comes to taking the road less traveled. Do you want to play Pittsburgh and Washington again? Or do you want to play teams just happy to be there?

I thought the Rangers played well until Lundqvist pulled his New Orleans-levee-during-Hurricane-Katrina act by allowing 3 goals in a little over 5 minutes.

The Rangers got a ton of shots off. King Greiss did a great job of holding down the fort. The special teams, especially the powerplay for both teams had me wondering if the fix was in, but perhaps they were both looking for the perfect shot.

I’ve never seen so many tickets and for so cheap, for a NYR/NYI game

I think the ticket situation for this game tells you what the fans thought about this game. Talking to Ranger/Islander fans in person and on social media, it seemed fans of both franchises wanted to lose this game. There were even articles about it on HockeyWriters.com and the NY Post.

I know I could’ve went to this game, and sat in the MSG suites for $135. I passed, because deep down, I didn’t want to see the Rangers win tonight. I want the Panthers. Short term thinking (a win tonight) hurts long term growth (a deep playoff run.) Pittsburgh is running through teams like a buzz saw. Why should the Rangers be the first sacrificial lamb? Let the Islanders get a taste. Plus, they are used to being bounced out in the first round anyway.

So many of us will go to work tomorrow or get shit on twitter from Islander fans, but you will have the last laugh when the Penguins decimate the Islanders and the Rangers neuter the cats from Florida. Even better, Florida is Rangers south, so you will have a ton of Ranger fans at the games in Sunrise too.

It’s a shame Lundqvist couldn’t get a tanning bed on the bench tonight. However, let’s all hope we are busting out the sunblock next week in Florida.

So yea, I rooted for the Rangers to lose tonight for the greater good. And guess what – I’m rooting for them to lose on Saturday too. Give Hellberg a reward start in net if you have to. Let that blond haired weird haired chef and Susan Sarandon, who are real Ranger fans and at every game, unlike a mugging for the cameras type like Jimmy Fallon, lace up too.

Despite everything, I still believe the Rangers can turn the switch on in the playoffs. I know, it sounds like a pipe dream, but deep down, we’ve seen them buckle down in the playoffs before. This is it. No ifs ands or buts. If it don’t get done this year, it’s time to use the “R” word – rebuild.

Let’s just hope the Rangers road to the Cup starts in the sunny skies of the New York of the South, Sunrise, Florida.

After the game Saturday and before the playoffs, I hope to get a Final Regular season report card up on the blog. I can’t wait to see how much the grades have shifted from the quarter pole and half-way mark of this season.

As always, except for tonight and Saturday,

“LET’S GO RANGERS!”

WE WANT THE CUP
Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on that twitter gimmick

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