|The Rangers Move To The Second Round!|
Check out the official NYR postgame news & notes about this series here: http://doinow.com/official-rangerspenguins-series-wrap-up-notes/
What’s up everyone and welcome to this belated blog here on DOINOW.com. Usually, I like to get these blogs up 90 minutes after game time. If I’m late with a game recap, it’s because either I was so mad the team lost and I need time to write from a less emotional state or the Rangers came off a huge win, that I may have overindulged and traded sleep for writing. I think you can figure out what happened with this blog!
As you all know by now, the Rangers defeated the Penguins, in overtime, 2-1, to close the series at 4-1. Go figure, the one game I attend, the Rangers lost! For the Rangers, this series wasn’t a cakewalk at all, as many expected it to be. In the Rangers four wins, they won all four games with a final of 2-1, with the final two wins coming via overtime. These were not easy games.
In several years, when you go back and look at the result of this series, it will read Rangers 4, Penguins 1. However, this was as close of a series you could have, as all five games were one goal games. Both teams played similar. Both teams had great goaltending, a weak PP, a strong PK, played excellent defense and played smart. When it was all said and done, the Rangers were just deeper and had better talent on the ice.
With the Yankees & Mets playing last night, this series kind of reminded me of their 2000 Subway Series. The Yankees won that World Series 4-1. Domination? Hardly. The better team just won and found ways to win. That is what the Rangers did here.
For the Penguins, they could’ve easily won this series in 5. They could’ve even swept it. They weren’t outmatched or outplayed at all. They were not the easy out that I thought they would be. For the Penguins fans and organization, they have every right to be second guessing themselves and thinking they could’ve won.
For the bitch Sidney Crosby, it’s another summer without a Stanley Cup. You can’t take Crosby’s one cup away from him, but for the man who was once heralded as the “Next Gretzky”, one cup in 10 years is disappointing. Legends like Gretzky, Messier, Super Mario and others, went deeper into the playoffs during their prime years. Crosby has regressed. The Penguins must consider this season a failure. They cleaned house, and in turn, finished off worse than last year. Crosby & Malkin can have great regular seasons, but it means nothing when a strong defense, such as the Rangers, can shut them down in the playoffs.
|See Ya, Sidney!|
Game 5 was a big game for the Rangers. Obviously, they could put the Pens to bed and get some rest and await the Isles/Caps winner. The Rangers don’t exactly have the best history in finishing series in the least amount of games possible. However, despite that, like anyone else, I wanted to attend the game. My friend Brian Miller (Mentioned in my NYR/NJD blog, check the archives!), another dedicated Talbot fan and his girlfriend RB, also wanted to attend the game. The infamous JEFFREY was already going with his season tickets.
With my girlfriend in tow, just like the movie, we “Met the Millers” at Hudson Station. I’ve reviewed all the top Ranger bars around the Garden (Also check the archives for that blog too!) and Hudson Station is always a good one. The game was on all over the bar, with the volume cranked up. Alternate TVs had the Yankees/Mets game on, so that was good to keep an eye on too.
The game plan was to meet up in Manhattan (check) and get tickets on Stubhub at the last second. Unfortunately, the second half of the plan didn’t pan out. I’ve talked about waiting to get last minute seats on Stubhub before. However, everything worked against us – Friday night, a clinching game and interest at the Rangers at an all-time high. While there were tickets available, paying slightly over $200 to sit in obstructed seats in the 400’s is just ridiculous. Maybe for a Stanley Cup game, but I’m a blue collar guy, I can’t justify spending what will basically be a mortgage payment in one night.
The best seats I saw opened up late, around 6:40 PM, 8 rows off the ice for $177. As I was debating buying them, BOOM, someone sniped them like a last second eBay purchase. Since the Millers are like the McCaffrey’s, we decided to save our cash for a later round game (Hopefully a Cup game) and watch the game with all the other Ranger maniacs at Hudson Station. I know the atmosphere is a little more ramped at the Flying Puck, but Hudson Station was pumping, comfortable and spacious. Even with all the people and crowd noise, not once did I feel cramped or stuffed in like a sardine.
|Hudson Station, 1/2 hour before game time. Luckily we got seats.|
After JEFFREY left us to attend the game, and he probably cursed out a few tourists on the two block walk to the Garden, we settled in to watching the game at Hudson Station. I really had a good time watching the game there, even though I would’ve obviously rather been inside MSG. What can you do? It’s just disgusting what ticket prices are these days. The Garden jacks up the face value for the playoffs, Stubhub increases their cut from the sellers and by the time they hit the market, you have tickets being sold for triple and quadruple face value. I’ve made this point millions of times on these blogs, but I really don’t understand how the Rangers plan on creating a new fan base with a new generation. Kids can’t afford to go to games.
I may have been the last generation to afford games as a kid. My father could afford to take me. Even as a teenager, when I had my license & was going to Penn by myself, I was able to afford tickets with friends. I don’t know how parents, unless they are super-rich can afford to take their kids. I don’t know how teenagers can afford to go. It’s really sad. That is why baseball will always be king in NY, it’s so cheap to go. Even with the Mets & Yankees playing well, you can still walk into either ballpark for $5.
It truly is a shame what the Rangers charge and get. It will only keep increasing. Nothing beats hockey live. Every other sport is made for TV. You can never go to another NFL or MLB game again, and you won’t miss a thing. In hockey, you miss stuff sometimes on TV. The live experience is great. Too bad I’m not a Devils fan, where they pay you to attend!
|Despite the copious amounts of Miller Lite & the Talbot jersey, I was nervous and worried the whole game|
As soon as the puck dropped, Hudson Station nixed the Zeppelin and Sam Rosen’s voice was pumped throughout Hudson Station. We were off!
While I’ve been great with my predictions for most of the year, I completely shit the bed with this series. I expected the Rangers to win, EASILY, in four. Instead, they grinded out four wins in five games. I thought that in either game four or game five, the Rangers would’ve finally busted out and had their offensive explosion. That didn’t happen. The whole series was tough defensive battles. Stars from both teams were shut down by great defense. It was frustrating as a Rangers fan to see that, because of Pittsburgh’s injuries on the defense.
Imagine my shock (and shart) when Spaling was sent to the box for tripping MSL, early in the first period. I might’ve went outside for a smoke break since it was going to be a waste of two minutes. Instead, 12 seconds after the penalty, Derek Stepan found a Dan Boyle rebound, and shot it, forehand side, for the goal! A FUCKING RANGERS POWERPLAY GOAL! I swore I saw pigs fly outside Hudson Station the second the shot went in! 1-0 good guys.
After scoring the first goal early into the game, both teams stayed off the scoreboard in the first period afterwards. If you saw one game this series, you saw them all. DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE.
|This soulless bastard was in the wrong bar|
We all know I’m the Cam Talbot guy. Deeper than that, I like watching good goaltenders perfect their craft. This was the series for me. While at times, shots were limited because of the great work from the defensemen, both goalies, when tested, came up huge for their teams. Lundqvist finished with 37 saves on 38 shots, in what was his biggest test of the series. His counterpart, Fleury, finished with 34 saves on 36 shots, another strong showing for the Flower.
Even the goals that were scored in this series, the majority of them were “puck-lucked”. Neither goalie got beat badly, outside of Lundqvist in Game 2. Aside from that, both goalies were superb and with the great defense, this is why we had four 2-1 scores. I was extremely happy with Lundqvist. He reminded me of the Hank of old. If he plays like this for the rest of the playoffs, there is no reason why the Rangers shouldn’t win the Stanley Cup.
On Lundqvist, I thought I’ve made this point before, but I’ll say it again, because of the amount of tweets I received. I’m not rooting against him. My whole point was that cap-wise Talbot is the better option. Who knows if Talbot gets four shutouts, plays the same as Hank or gets blown out. We will never know. However, I’m rooting for Lundqvist to cement himself as a NY Sports Legend and to become the greatest goalie in Rangers history. The Cup comes before everything else, and I’ll surely call him a King once he gets that Stanley Cup crown.
For these five games, outside of a less-than-normal performance from Lundqvist, he played amazing. He had to. If he didn’t, the Rangers aren’t winning this game. Most attention of this series will be on the Rangers success and Crosby failing, yet again, but to me, you can’t overlook what Fleury did. Fleury had one of the best playoff series of his life, but unfortunately, only got one goal in each of the four losses. The Fleury that falls apart in the playoffs was long gone in this series. He was arguably the best player in the series from opening faceoff in game one to Carl Hagelin’s game winning OT goal.
|The Empire State Building was ready for the Rangers to win!|
Entering the second period, with the Rangers up 1-0, we saw more of the same. Just great defense. McDonagh, Girardi and Staal, all three guys locked up for a while here in NY, all played well in containing Pittsburgh’s offense. Boyle, for as bad as he’s been at times, had a decent game, but his speed or lack thereof, shows up at the worst times. Watching it live, and I would have to watch the game back and count, I believe Pittsburgh got more shots off when Boyle was on the ice, than any other Rangers defender.
Nick Spaling, who took the penalty that set up Stepan’s PPG, scored late into the second period. It was a questionable goal, like most of the goals Pittsburgh scored this series. It looked like Lundqvist was kneed in the head but of course, no goalie interference was called. You had everyone in the crease and Spaling put it past the goal line. It even looked like it was batted into the net. I will never understand what is and what is not a goal on these questionable goals. The NHL officiating has been totally erratic and inconsistent all season.
The officials reviewed the goal and said it was good. I wasn’t expecting them to overturn it because the evidence wasn’t conclusive to overturn it. The only way it was going to be overturned was if the referees admitted they missed the knee to the head Lundqvist received. Of course that wasn’t going to happen. It’s just a shame that the NHL has been totally inconsistent all year with their reviews.
|Get Lawst Pittsburgh!|
The third period was another nerve wracking period. Both teams hit the post, as both Crosby and Miller clanged one. Neither team could convert on their powerplays, outside of Stepan’s goal, that seemed like it took place ages ago. It was just pure defense and trying to find the perfect shot. Even when the teams did find great shots, both Lundqvist & Fleury found ways to deny. With the defense coming up big, this game went into OT.
Let me tell you, the most shart-filled time of my life are these breaks between the third and OT, in the playoffs. There are no more points. No skill competitions. The teams could go all night, or like the Islanders showed us, can win it in 10 seconds. The Penguins could grab momentum back, and force a game 6 at home. We remember what happened when the Rangers were down 3-1 last year.
However, leave it to Carl Hagelin or Carlos, as he’s referred to by his teammates, to seal the deal and send the Rangers into the second round. I’ve talked about this before, but Hagelin is a free agent after this season and the Rangers need to keep him here. Payroll is tight, but the Rangers must find room to keep him here. He’s been one of the best Rangers playoff players in the last few seasons.
With ten minutes expired into the OT, Carl Hagelin ran what looked like a curl route in football. He raced behind the net, came back up and fired away. Some how, some way, the puck beat Fleury. When it happened live, I didn’t see it go in. I just saw the crowd behind Fleury go batshit, which to me, confirmed it was goal. After the game, Hagelin said the same thing, and said he even blacked out a bit from the euphoria and emotion. Watching the goal back, oh about 25 times, it really was one of those goals that you get if you just keep shooting. IMAGINE THAT! Hagelin just was able to catch Fleury off-guard and beat him with a shot that Fleury probably saves 99/100 times.
For the Rangers, it was a huge win that guarantees rest and perhaps the eventual return of Kevin Klein for round two. Zuccarello, who ate a McDonagh slapshot, by accident, of course, left the game and didn’t return. The days off will benefit him and he should be fine for round two as well.
|The man with a life-long contract, seemingly|
With the Rangers victory, the Rangers move past the first round again. It is really amazing the job Sather has done in assembling this team and choosing AV at the helm. Sather has made all the right moves, and while people may question giving up so many draft picks in the MSL/Callahan trade or giving up Duclair & picks for Yandle, none of that will matter if the Rangers win the Stanley Cup this year.
I plan on looking at Sather a bit more in a future blog, but it’s amazing how the salary cap has improved Sather as a GM. Do you remember Redden? Gomez? Holik? Drury? Rozsival? How about trading Ranger legends like Graves and Leetch? Sather was always a subject for scrutiny. Now? He has his entire defense locked up long-term, has a great group of young guns, has his veterans locked up and in this off-season, really just needs to keep Stepan and Hagelin here. You have guys in the minors who could be ready next year, and really, all you gotta do is cut Hunwick, Glass, Sheppard and tinker with their deals. Sather has a solid core here, for years to come, that should always be competing in the playoffs.
Sather, who once had an open checkbook has become one of the best fiscal managers in the whole NHL. I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that.
|Hagelin assisted on a game winner on Wednesday & won it on Friday|
For the Rangers, they await the winner of the Islanders/Capitals series. The time off will do the Rangers good. As far as what favors the Rangers, Lundqvist was 0-3 vs the Islanders this year, while 2-0 against the Caps. For the team, the Rangers were 2-3 against the Islanders and 3-1 against the Capitals.
I really don’t think it matters who the Rangers play in the next round. I would expect the Rangers to win that series too. I think the Capitals are a better hockey team than the Islanders, but the Islanders match up better against the Rangers. I would rather see the Capitals take that series. Put it this way – the Capitals home-ice will be nothing like playing at the Nassau Coliseum. There might be more Ranger fans than Capital fans at the Verizon Center.
The Rangers have shown they can shut down star players, but they have shown they have an easier time playing against Ovechkin than they do Tavares. I think the Islanders are a bit deeper, four line wise, than the Caps. What makes the Islanders weaker than all three teams, is the goaltending. I wouldn’t trust Halak to get my lunch order done right, never mind come up huge in a playoff game. Give me Lundqvist over Holtby and Lundqvist & Holtby over Halak any day of the week. That said, the Islanders are a fast and dangerous team. I think playing the Capitals is the path of least resistance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
|Let the countdown continue!|
That’s now four games down, twelve to go for the Rangers. We will know either today or Monday on who the Rangers will draw next. Beating the Penguins wasn’t easy, but it’s now another check mark for the blueshirts. I’ll have some preview blogs of whoever the Rangers get next, here on DOINOW.com
Until then, enjoy your stress-free weekend of hockey!
LET’S GO RANGERS
WE WANT THE CUP
@NYCTHEMIC on twitter