|Photo Credit: Brian Lonrgan|
HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!
Ladies & gentlemen, welcome to another blog, here on DOINOW.com. As always, your support, word of mouth and feedback to this site has been great. As you know by now, you can check out the right hand of the site for the archives for previous columns. I suggest checking them out, as I don’t like to rehash & say the same things over & over. While you’re at it, don’t forget to tip your bartenders, don’t drink & drive, try the new chicken noodle soup special at the Bold O’Donoghues, never eat the chicken at the Nassau Coliseum, and above all else, make “IN CAM WE TRUST” your personal mantra.
The Rangers & Islanders clashed for the fourth time this season, at the dump in Uniondale on Monday night. On President’s Day, a federal holiday in the United States, it looked like the defense on both teams took the night off. The result? The most exciting game in the NHL all year, with the Rangers squeaking by the Islanders, 6-5.
I know for hardcore puck heads, it is tough to get people who aren’t into hockey into the sport. You either love it or you don’t. It’s hard to bring people, who aren’t fans of the sport, into it. It’s not like the NFL, which has all the gambling, fantasy and is easier to watch on TV. No one really bets hockey, fantasy hockey leagues is a laughingstock compared to the NFL & hockey is a better sport live than it is on TV. However, unlike the NFL, the NHL doesn’t promote women beaters, dog killers, child abusers, drug addicts, rapists, men with DWI’s, and other low lives. In the rare case that an NHL player commits a crime, he’s suspended automatically, before the public weighs in on a case.
If you are ever looking for game tape to convert someone into being a hockey fan, let this game be the game you show someone on the bubble. While the defense was shoddy all game, the Rangers & Islanders played the most exciting games of the season, with twists and turns and stomach churns for a full 60 minutes. Even better, when it was all said and done, the good guys, like a John Wayne movie, won.
|The fiercest rivalry in NY|
What makes Rangers vs Islanders so big, is that compared to the Yankees & Mets and Giants & Jets, the Rangers & Islanders are in the same division. Sure, the Nets & Knicks are in the same division, but the Nets aren’t even in the top 5 biggest rivals for the Knicks, with the Bulls, Heat, Pacers, Celtics and even 76ers around. The Nets fanbase is so miniscule, compared to all the other major teams in the metropolitan area, that it’s a non-factor. When the Rangers & Islanders do battle, they are doing battle for not only bragging rights, but for 2 points in their division.
I will never say a game is a “MUST-WIN” game when you already have a playoff spot, but this was, I quote Mike Francesa here, an “ENAWMOUS” game for both squads. With starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist out for a month, Talbot took his 4-1-1 record into this game. Talbot, who has statistically been better than Hank, would get the win here, pushing his record to 5-1-1, since taking over the starting job.
Let’s put this into perspective. Hank was 1-7 in his last 8 games with Boston. Talbot beat them on 2/4. Hank was embarrassed at home by Toronto, in the Rangers home opener, 6-3. Talbot beat them on 2/10, on the road. The Avalanche beat Hank for four goals (Shootout win) at MSG. Talbot beat them on 2/12. Hank, who gave up 13 goals, in 8 periods to the Islanders, in 3 losses, couldn’t beat the Isles this season. Chalk off another W for Talbot, as Talbot did what Hank couldn’t do again, and beat the Islanders, on the road, nonetheless!
Again, I must ask you, why do the Rangers pay Hank $8.5 million a season when Talbot is getting all the big W’s for $550,000 a year?
The Rangers went into this game, knowing if they won, they would grab sole possession of second place and be two points behind the first place Islanders, with two games in-hand. For the Islanders, a win would put more distance between not only the Rangers, but the second place Pittsburgh Penguins. While every game is bigger than the next, as you wind down the season, this was obviously the biggest game of the year, up to this point in time. When it was all said and done, Kevin Klein would score the game’s 11th goal, another game winning goal for Kevin Klein this season.
Listen, if you’re reading this, you know I’m the biggest Cam Talbot fan in the world, outside of the people related to him. I’ve peppered you with more Talbot blogs than Islander shots in this game. If Talbot farts wrong, I get it from everyone. So when the Islanders scored 11 seconds into the game, after a horrible turnover by Talbot/missed puck by McDonagh, the phone alerts were going off like a fire alarm.
While Talbot’s game shows weakness in the rebound/high glove areas, playing the puck has always been his strong suit. His opposition, Jaroslav Halak, is especially weak playing the puck, leading to many opposing goals this season. That’s why it was ironic that it was Talbot, to make such a boneheaded play with the puck, leading to a John Tavares goal, 11 seconds into this game. If the Rangers lost this game by one goal, Talbot would’ve been crucified. Instead, Klein is the hero and Halak is the goat.
Frans Neilsen would add another Islanders goal, 11 minutes later, after a turnover, that lead into a rush rebound goal. Both goalies were off tonight, as there were more rebounds here than a typical Knicks game. As the conductor of the Talbot Train, this game was getting derailed real quick.
Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh has been interesting as of late. He’s been a turnover machine and has been beaten by strong forechecks this season. It’s been so bad, that some Ranger fans are saying the “C” on his sweater is weighing him down. However, he’s been scoring as of late, making up for bad plays. Never did the Rangers need a goal, this season, as they did, when McDonagh came up big, pushing one past Halak, making the score 2-1 heading into the first intermission. It was big, that after another turnover, he was able to get a goal before this game went out of hand. Little did we know, this game would be out of hand, when it game to goal production.
Heading into the second, you thought both goalies would settle down. Halak looked shakier than Michael J. Fox all game, but he’s been good. However, as of late, he’s been giving up 3 goals a game in bunches. Talbot was coming off one of his best games of the season. Both teams were on win streaks, which made it so shocking that 11 goals would cross the goal line tonight.
The Islanders bailed out Halak, returning to a 2 goal lead, after a blast from Boychuck, who caught the Rangers on a shift change. That sinking feeling hit once again, as a Rangers fan.
However, the Rangers would score two quick goals, two in 23 seconds, tying the game 3-3. Kreider kept up his hot play, with a goal off a wrist shot. The Captain, Ryan McDonagh, tied it up after the Islanders couldn’t get a clear, due to Halak being screened and a deflection. Press the reset button, because we had a tied game here!
Ryan Strome would give the Islanders the lead again, after a powerplay concluded, but essentially was a one-man advantage, because the Rangers were changing & couldn’t clear the puck. 4-3 Islanders, heading into the third. It was just one of those games where you knew whoever would score last, would win.
The Rangers, entering the third period with another wrap-around period power play, came off on fire, at one point, leading the Islanders 15-3, on shots in the period. This was after already being down 32-15 at one point and giving up 22 shots in the first period. The Rangers found their legs. The Rangers looked great on the powerplay, setting up multiple chances, but Halak was able to find a way to stop the Rangers. That is why it was so depressing, as a Rangers fan, that Strome was able to put the Islanders up 5-3, early into the third, after a Dan Boyle turnover that led to a 3 on 1 rush.
While Islander fans were ripping off Daniel Bryan & my phone was going into shock, Martin St. Louis, finally broke his slump, scoring 90 seconds after Stepan, tying the game up at 5-5. While Stepan showed the Rangers still had life, making the score 5-4, Marty tying the game at 5-5 sucked the life out of the Coliseum. Those Daniel Bryan “YES YES YES” chants quickly turned into “NO NO NO” chants from the fishstick fuckheads.
For Ranger fans, it was huge that MSL finally broke his slump. I’ve been arguing with Ranger fans on twitter and facebook. Marty goes through these streaks. The only streak that matters is how MSL will be in the playoffs. The ride MSL took me on, as a Ranger fan, last spring, will never be forgotten. The man will play his best hockey when it matters, and MSL did just that here again, with a nice snap shot.
|The only Ranger fan for fan merch that matters at WEBLEEDBLUE.com|
With the FOXWOODS FINAL 5 graphic flashing on the screen, I knew that the next score would win. I was shocked that this game didn’t go into overtime, the way things were going. However, before a minute could expire during the FF5 graphic, Kevin Klein blasted one by Halak, off a one timer from the previously mentioned Marty St. Louis. 6-5 Rangers.
Of course this game wasn’t over. Halak & Talbot faced over 40 shots each. No fan could rest until the triple zeroes hit. Thankfully, as a blueshirt fan, those 0’s did hit, and the Rangers held on, beating the Islanders for the first time this season. Again, every game is bigger than the next, but this was the biggest win of the season for the Rangers and they got this monkey off their back.
|IN CAM WE TRUST|
When it was all said and done, Halak finished with 36 saves and Talbot finished with 38. Halak looked horrible all night. The Rangers are chasing the Islanders in the standings and Halak is showing signs of breaking down. Chad Johnson, the Islanders back-up, has been a wreck all season. Put it this way, Talbot is 5-1-1 since Hank went down. Do you think Johnson would have the similar record if Halak went down?
My facetious & exaggerated comments about Talbot aside, this was a tough game to judge Talbot. The Rangers are scoring in bunches, with 22 goals during this 4 game win streak. The Coyotes game, I thought Talbot stole, as the Rangers goals didn’t come until late into the third. One thing is a fact, Talbot is winning and at $8 million less than Hank. I thought Talbot needed a shutdown game, like he did in Arizona against the Islanders. Despite the win, this is a game that will make Sather second guess if he needs to get a veteran netminder.
There are games on the calendar, during an NHL season, where you will just have a wild game. This was that. Just like the Rangers putting up 5 in the third period, in a 5-4 against the Wild, earlier this season, the Rangers had a monumental 3 goal third period. The first goal, while on Talbot, wasn’t a shot contested, it was a horrendous turnover by Talbot. The Islanders played video game hockey, shooting the puck at all times and scored off of rushes & turnovers. Luckily for Talbot, the Rangers did the same thing on the other end. However, come the playoffs, it’s highly unlikely that you will get 6 goals a game. If anything, Talbot is getting experience and the Rangers are winning.
For the first time during this stretch, I thought Talbot’s play hurt the Rangers, after that shitty first goal and the Boychuk goal. However, Hank put the Rangers in such a hole this fall, that they are still climbing out of. Again, for the value, I think Talbot is better, but money aside, obviously Hank is the better goalie. Talbot is getting time and experience in the net, and the Rangers are winning. That’s all you can ask for.
For the Rangers, they won a crazy game and their biggest game of the season.
The standings now look like this:
Islanders: 75 points in 57 games
Rangers: 73 points in 55 games
Penguins: 73 points in 56 games
Looking ahead, the Islanders have Carolina tomorrow, where the disaster known as Chad Johnson will most likely start. They then have Nashville, the league leader, at home. The Rangers will battle Vancouver on Thursday, before taking on Buffalo in a make-up game on Friday. If the Isles can rip a three game losing streak, with tonight being game one of that streak & the Rangers outskate the MotherCanuckers, the Rangers will take first place for the first time this season.
In a town where both NBA teams suck ass, the NFL is over and MLB is still 6 weeks away, NHL is king. It is great that the Rangers & Islanders are fighting over first place. With a game like tonight, you will see more people talking hockey for a while.
In a non-hockey note, let me congratulate Bernie Williams on having his number retired. I will try to get in a Bernie Williams blog later this week, time permitting. If not, I’ll be back late Thursday, with NYR/VAN reaction.
Until then, as always, LETS GO RANGERS & IN CAM WE TRUST