NYR/VAN 11/15 Review: Rangers Sweep Western Canada, Put up a TD & the XP, Vintage Lundqvist, Top 90 Rangers List Flawed, A History Lesson For Larry Brooks & More

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Yes this quick 1:15am “Faceover” app image touch-up was rushed. Who cares, you get the point anyway!

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. After a few monster blogs, this one will be a tad shorter, as I’m starting this at nearly 1:30am, a half hour after the Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks on late Tuesday night, with a final score of 7-2.

Games like this will have fans, (mostly the younger 18-24 demographic) talking about the Stanley Cup. As I have been saying during this magical start, Cups aren’t won in November. The two hottest teams last year at this time were the Islanders and the Canadiens & look how they ended up in the Spring. I get it though, this is what you want to see. No one is rooting for the Rangers to lose now, to win later. You want to see them go wire-to-wire. However, it’s rare to see a team do that. The Penguins were thought to be a team that needed to be blown up around this time last season, but went on a crazy roll in February and ran the table to the Cup.

Bottom line, enjoy this, but stop with the parade and printing out Cup tickets talk!

While I was the first one to talk about my hatred for Lundqvist’s contract, something that many of you are now starting to agree on, I was never one for the anti-Alain Vigneault (AV) talk. Sure, I did prefer Messier or Ruff at the time, but once AV got the job, I supported him. Just like how I support our new President-Elect! I didn’t riot or ask for AV’s firing, I rooted for him.

The AV hiring has worked. He’s one of the winningest coaches in NYR history. He’s made the playoffs in every season. He has a Cup appearance and a Presidents Trophy to his name. He can’t be blamed when the goaltender doesn’t perform to his salary in the playoffs nor can he be blamed when the ghost of Rick Nash puts on the 61 jersey in the Spring. He’s led his team to the playoffs, but it comes to a time where it’s the job of the player to execute.

For the second time in three years, Coach AV has taken his NYR squad and has swept Western Canada. No small feat for these Rangers. I can’t find out when was the last time the Rangers did that, if at all, since these 3 teams (EDM/CAL/VAN) entered the league in the 80’s. All I know, is that the last time the Rangers swept Western Canada, they won the President’s Trophy behind the great goaltending of a one Cam Talbot! (You knew I would get at least one Talbot mention in this blog!)

I don’t second guess AV at all like many Ranger fans do. It’s funny, Ranger fans will attack Girardi, Staal and AV all day long, but will make any excuse possible for a Lundqvist bomb of a game. I’m the opposite. I’m sick of Hank’s contract, but will defend Girardi (hurt/tons of miles/this was his first big money contract), Staal (I don’t defend him as much, I agree he’s overpaid, but I don’t think he’s the reason the Rangers lose playoff games) or AV.

Sometimes I would like to see different lines or different players called up. I would’ve rather seen Tanner Glass (I know I’m in the minority on this one too) than Boo Nieves. I would’ve preferred Glass because he’s a veteran, has done the travel, has played in the building, knows the team, knows what AV wants and is a great teammate. However, with Kreider & Buchnevich unable to plaay tonight, AV chose to call up Boo Nieves. It worked out.

I will say, it’s harder for me to judge new players at home, rather than at the games. The game moves too fast for TV, so you miss a lot. You see a lot more at a game, especially if you’re in those bridge seats at MSG. I could only judge Nieves based on what I saw from the TV screen. With new players, if the announcers aren’t calling their name (Like how you heard Marc Staal’s name when he had his slump last season), that means they are doing their job. For one game, Nieves worked out. Once the whole team is healthy again, I don’t see him making the team, just as I don’t see anyone from Hartford making the team, because you don’t fix what’s not broken.

I’m sick of sad Hank every Spring

Like many Ranger games, this game was all over the place with many different stories being told. The first chapter of this story saw Henrik Lundqvist revert to his old self and put on one of his best performances of the season. I know he has a shutout this season, but I thought the first period he played tonight was the best hockey he’s played all season.

Of course, with every great save (and there were a bunch of them in that first period), I’m getting tweets by many people, mostly from people who live in their mother’s basements, about how great Hank is. I gotta quote Mike Francesa here – “WILL YOUSE CAWM DOWN?”

Let’s be real – the Rangers were playing one of the worst teams of the league. Lundqvist has been sitting out against good teams all year to beast on bad teams. That hasn’t even been fool-proof as Hank got beaten by the Blues back-up goalie and lost to a then-last place Carolina. However, the strategy remains the same for the last 3+ seasons – let Hank sit against the good teams on a back-to-back and play the worse team.

Vancouver is a horrible hockey club, as I and many others, predicted they would be. You saw it tonight. They just can’t finish. Teams in last place are in last place for a reason. Lundqvist is the highest paid goalie in the NHL. He should be great. When Lundqvist plays well, it shouldn’t be something to celebrate like a rare solar eclipse or testing negative for AIDS after a wild night out with Charlie Sheen. Act like you’ve been there before. This should be common place, not fans talking about this “vintage” performance. Hank is being paid to be the absolute best right now, not to be ranked by the NHL Network/NHL.com as the 9th best starting goalie in the NHL.

Hank had his ego boosted and beasted on a bad team. Great. That’s his job.

That said, he was a big factor on why the Rangers went into the first intermission with a lead. He was playing like his old self. You just want to see him do this all season and when it matters the most – in the playoffs. These 5 goals allowed games he’s been prone to in the playoffs and to good teams (Look up his last 10 games with NYI, PITT and TB, for example) have got to go.

At this point in the season, the Ranger goalies have been playing great and some of their performances are lost in the Rangers offensive juggernaut. I can’t believe I’m typing this up – yes the RANGERS OFFENSIVE JUGGERNAUT. It’s like it’s not real!

A man with a Cup and Henrik Lundqvist. Photo Credit: Zimbio.com

I mentioned that Lundqvist had a vintage performance tonight. The Rangers also had a vintage or perhaps the better word is “flashback” game tonight. They were blocking shots like it was the 2012 playoffs under John Tortorella. The blocked shots didn’t come without a price, as Stepan, Hayes and Fast were all shaken up after some key blocks.

The Rangers used to block shots all the time under Torts. Many say it’s why Girardi plays a lot older than his age. He’s eaten more rubber than a female escort.

You know me and my Lundqvist conspiracy theories. Not one reporter asks AV about these things to debunk what I’m saying. However, I do believe AV plays Lundqvist against crappier teams on a back-to-back, to boost his confidence. Tonight, the Rangers were blocking shots like I’ve never seen before in the AV era. Was this a new strategy to help boost Hank’s stats? Probably not, but I’ll run with it anyway!

Seriously though – Hank’s best seasons were under Torts because he didn’t face as many quality shots per game, as he does today. Sure, Hank had some woeful offensive teams in front of him and he had to make some big saves then, but the Rangers also played conservatively on defense. Now, the Rangers are the fastest team in the league, taking chances left and right and usually own the time of possession stat. Don’t even think about Hank’s horrible contract. With this offense, the goalie position on the 2016-2017 NYR Rangers is an afterthought these days!

Granted, the Rangers have had a favorable schedule up to this point. They’ve had many home games, played a ton of back up goalies and have beasted on cellar dweller teams. The tough part of the schedule is right around the corner and perhaps then, the Rangers aren’t scoring 4+ a night. I’ve been very impressed with Raanta, but I need to see Lundqvist routinely close the door against good teams like he used to do under Torts.

That said, Lundqvist played an excellent game tonight and arguably, this was his best game all season. Again, remember, this is against Vancouver. The two goals on Hank were absolutely not his fault, which means a lot coming from me! The first goal came when he was completely screened. The second goal, his own defenseman, Nick Holden, knocked into the net.  Holden would’ve been crucified by Ranger fans if the final was 2-1, but when you score 7 goals, you forget about Nick Holden’s dumbass play.

Let’s take a look at the box score from ESPN.com before talking about the Rangers offense:

1st Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR VAN
18:42
J.T. Miller (6)
Assist: Mats Zuccarello
1 0
Time Team Penalty Detail
7:58
Oscar Lindberg: 2 Minutes for Hooking
10:10
Oscar Lindberg: 2 Minutes for Slashing

2nd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR VAN
9:08
Kevin Hayes (7)
Assists: Jesper Fast, Brady Skjei
2 0
14:38
Brandon Pirri (5) (Power Play)
Assists: Mika Zibanejad, Ryan McDonagh
3 0
19:19
Brandon Sutter (3)
Assists: Daniel Sedin, Luca Sbisa
3 1
Time Team Penalty Detail
6:22
2 Minute Bench Penalty for Too Many Men on the Ice (Served by Sven Baertschi)
9:16
Marc Staal: 2 Minutes for Tripping
13:27
Luca Sbisa: 2 Minutes for Slashing

3rd Period Summary

Time Team Scoring Detail NYR VAN
1:49
Kevin Hayes (8)
Assist: Jesper Fast
4 1
2:31
J.T. Miller (7)
Assists: Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad
5 1
13:26
Markus Granlund (5)
Assists: Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa
5 2
15:02
Mats Zuccarello (7)
Assists: Nick Holden, Kevin Klein
6 2
18:04
Nick Holden (2) (Power Play)
Assists: Kevin Klein, Oscar Lindberg
7 2
Time Team Penalty Detail
8:13
Michael Grabner: 2 Minutes for Hooking
17:59
Nikita Tryamkin: 2 Minutes for Slashing

Goaltending Summary

New York Rangers Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
H. Lundqvist 38 2 36 .947 60:00 0

Vancouver Canucks Goaltending

Player SA GA Saves SV% TOI PIM
J. Markstrom 25 7 18 .720 60:00 0

Hayes & Miller were large factors in tonight’s game

The Rangers were beat to the puck, as the Canucks peppered Lundqvist constantly in the first period. In fact, Vancouver put up 17 shots in the first period to the Rangers 10. However, the Rangers were lucky to have Markstrom on the other end. Must be something about those Swedish swiss-cheese goalies!

From the same old shit department, once again, it was Mats Zuccarello lighting a fire under this teams ass. Late into the first period, Zucc got the puck, found a streaking JT Miller and it was 1-0 going into the first intermission.

The Rangers have been the best second period team in all of hockey all season. That didn’t change tonight either, as Kevin Hayes doubled the Rangers lead with an absolute bomb of a slapshot from Markstrom’s right side. Hayes wound up and slapped the shit out of this puck. One of the best slappers of the season.

Pirri got the Papajohn third goal, on a power play. After a scrum in front of the net, Pirri found a Zibanejad rebound and scooped it into the net. 3-0 with the game a little more than half way over.

Sutter would score a goal in the final minute after Sedin screened Lundqvist. It was a beautiful play that got the Canucks on the board.

With a 3-1 lead heading into the final twenty, the Rangers weren’t content to skate it out. Instead they potted 4 more goals.

Hayes scored early into the third, on a breakaway. Markstrom, who started off ok in the first period, fell apart, as many goalies have been to these Rangers. JT Miller made it 5-1 after a perfect pass from Zuccarello. I could’ve scored with that pass, that’s how good it was.

Markus Granlund would make it 5-2, after finding a puck that bounced off Holden and by Lundqvist. A three goal lead with less than 7 minutes remaining for the Rangers wasn’t good enough! Zuccarello (3 point game) made it 6-2 putting one by Markstrom with ease. It was almost kind of embarrassing and you felt bad for Markstrom. I don’t think even Zuccarello thought it would be that easy.

Nick Holden added the extra point, about 5 seconds into the final powerplay of the game. It’s worth mentioning the Rangers went 2/3 on the PP tonight. In addition, Hayes breakaway goal would’ve been a third powerplay, had he not scored.

On any given night, anyone on the offense can be a star on this team. You are seeing consistent powerhouse numbers from the Rangers offense. It truly is incredible and sometimes you gotta pinch yourself to see if it’s real!

Just look at this press release the Rangers sent out after the game. They never used to be this long, but there are so many numbers and crazy offensive production to talk about:

(Credit: BlueShirtsUnited.com)

Team Notes

  • LUCKY 13 – The Rangers’ 13 wins through 17 games this season are tied for the most the team has earned in the first 17 games of one season in franchise history. New York has now earned 13 wins in the first 17 games of a season twice in franchise history (2015-16 and 2016-17).
  • HIGH FIVE – The Rangers have tallied five or more goals in nine of the first 17 games in one season for the second time in franchise history (also accomplished the feat in 1972-73). In addition, the Rangers are the first NHL team to tally five or more goals in nine of its first 17 games of a season since Buffalo in 2006-07.
  • GOALS GALORE – The Rangers have registered 72 goals through the first 17 games of the 2016-17 season. New York has recorded at least 72 goals in the first 17 contests of a season for the first time since 1988-89 and for the fourth time in franchise history. The Rangers lead the NHL in goals per game this season (4.24).
  • SEVENTH HEAVEN – The Rangers tied a single-game season-high with seven goals and a single-period season-high with four goals in the third period.
  • PICK SIX – The Rangers tallied at least six goals in a game against the Canucks in Vancouver for the first time since Oct. 11, 1997, when Wayne Gretzky registered his 50th – and final – career NHL hat trick in a 6-3 win for the Blueshirts.
  • SAVING THE DAY – Over the last three games, Rangers goaltenders have posted a .965 SV% (109 saves on 113 shots).
  • MAKING THE DIFFERENCE – The Rangers lead the NHL in goal differential this season (plus-34; 72 goals for, 38 goals against). The Rangers’ plus-34 goal differential through 17 games this season is the second-best goal differential the team has posted through the first 17 games of any season in franchise history (1971-72; plus-39).
  • HOW THE WEST WAS WON – The Rangers defeated Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver on the same road trip for the second time since 1980-81, which is the season the Flames began playing in Calgary (New York also accomplished the feat during the 2014-15 season).
  • WINNING WAYS – The Rangers extended their winning streak to three games and have won each of their first three games on their current four-game road strip. The Blueshirts have won eight of their last nine games (8-1-0; dating back to Oct. 30 vs. Tampa Bay. In addition, the Rangers have won 11 of their last 13 games (11-2-0; dating back to Oct. 22 at Washington) and 12 of their last 15 contests (12-3-0; dating back to Oct. 17 vs. San Jose).
  • ROAD WARRIORS – The Rangers lead the NHL in road wins since the start of the 2013-14 season (77). New York has won four consecutive road games (including all three games on their current four-game road trip), dating back to Nov. 5 at Boston.
  • TWO GOOD – Seven different Rangers tallied at least two points in tonight’s game.
  • SHUTTING THE DOOR – The Rangers have allowed two goals or fewer in 11 of the last 14 games, dating back to Oct. 19 vs. Detroit. The Blueshirts have won 37 of the last 38 games in which they allowed two goals or fewer, dating back to Dec. 15, 2015 (37-1-0).
  • FINISHING THE JOB – The Blueshirts have posted an 11-0-0 record in games which they have held a lead entering the third period this season. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, the Rangers have posted a 178-3-8 record in 189 regular season games in which they have held a lead entering the third period.
  • SECOND HELPING – New York outscored Vancouver, 2-1, in the second period of tonight’s contest. The Rangers have posted a plus-22 goal differential in the second period thus far this season (31-9).
  • SPECIAL TEAMS – The Rangers have outscored their opponent on special teams in eight of 17 games this season and have posted a 7-1-0 record in those contests.
  • POWER SURGE – The Rangers were 2-for-3 (3:16) on the power play in the contest. New York has registered a power play goal in eight of the last 13 games and in 10 of 17 contests in 2016-17.
  • KILL ZONE – New York was 4-for-4 (8:00) on the penalty kill in the game. The Rangers have not allowed a power play goal against in five of the last six games, and have killed off 17 of their opponents’ last 18 power play opportunities (over a seven-game stretch), dating back to Nov. 3 vs. Edmonton (94.4%) over the span.

Three Stars on Broadway

  • J.T. Miller tied a single-game career-high with two goals. He extended his point streak to three games (two goals, two assists), and he has registered a point in 12 of 17 games this season. Miller leads the Rangers in points this season (17; six goals, 10 assists). Miller has recorded a point in 12 of the Blueshirts’ 13 wins in 2016-17, and the Rangers have posted a 12-0-0 record in games which Miller has notched a point this season.
  • Kevin Hayes posted his first career multi-goal game in the NHL, tallying two goals. Hayes has recorded a point in eight of the last nine games, tallying 13 points (six goals, seven assists) over the span.
  • Mats Zuccarello tied a single-game career-high with three points (one goal, two assists) and posted a plus-three rating. He has tallied 12 points (six goals, six assists) in the last 15 games. Since 2013-14, 146 of Zuccarello’s 182 points have either been a goal or the primary assist on a goal (80.2% of his points have been primary points over the span).

Blueshirt Breakdown

  • Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves to earn his ninth win of the season. In his last nine starts, Lundqvist has posted an 8-1-0 record, along with a 1.89 GAA, a .936 SV%, and 1 SO. He has posted a 2-0-0 record along with a 1.50 GAA and a .959 SV% in his last two starts.
  • Nick Holden tallied two points (one goal, one assist). He has notched seven points (two goals, five assists) in the last nine games, and he ranks second among Rangers defensemen in goals this season (two).
  • Brandon Pirri registered a power play goal. Pirri leads the Rangers in power play goals this season (three), and he has recorded eight points (four goals, four assists) in the last 13 games.
  • Brady Skjei tallied an assist. He is the first Rangers rookie defenseman to tally at least 10 assists and 10 points in his rookie season since 2010-11 (Michael Sauer). Skjei is the first Rangers rookie (forward or defenseman) to tally at least 10 assists in the team’s first 17 games of one season since Brian Leetch in 1988-89. Skjei is tied for fourth among NHL defensemen in assists this season, and he also leads all NHL rookies in assists in 2016-17. He is one of five Rangers rookie defensemen since 2000-01 to tally at least 10 assists in his rookie season (along with Fedor Tyutin, Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy, and Michael Sauer).
  • Ryan McDonagh notched an assist while skating in a team-high 23:56 of ice time. The Rangers captain is tied for second among NHL defensemen in assists this season (11; is tied with Erik Karlsson and trails Duncan Keith by one).
  • Mika Zibanejad tallied two assists and posted a plus-three rating. He leads the Blueshirts in power play assists (five) and power play points (five) this season.
  • Jesper Fast tied single-game NHL career-highs with two assists/points. He has notched a point in four of the last five games (one goal, four assists), five of the last seven games (two goals, four assists), and nine of 17 games this season (two goals, eight assists).
  • Kevin Klein tied single-game career-highs with two assists/points. Klein has recorded an assist/point in each of the last two games (three assists) and has tallied six assists/points in the last six games.
  • Cristoval Nieves made his NHL debut in tonight’s contest.
boucher

The Greatest Ranger in Rangers history, no matter what Larry Brooks says!

All in all, a great team win, in every facet possible for the Rangers. The goalie was great. The offense was great. Special teams were great. Coaching was great. Like many blowout games, no matter what side of it you’re on, you move on to the next one. This was just a great win for the Rangers and made it worth staying up late for!

One thing I wanted to talk about in closing is Larry Brooks of the NY Post and his Top 90 Rangers. As with any type of list, you could nitpick anything. Why is one guy ranked 65th instead of 64th? Why is one player ranked 18th and not 17th? The way I look at these lists is that if any player could be ranked 3 spots higher or 3 spots lower, the list is pretty good. However, that strategy does not apply to the top 10.

Here’s how Larry has the Top 10. (You can read the whole list of 90 Rangers ranked by visiting: http://nypost.com/2016/11/15/the-15-greatest-rangers-of-all-time/ or picking up a copy of the NY Post.)

  1. Mark Messier
  2. Brian Leetch
  3. Rod Gilbert
  4. Frank Boucher
  5. Andy Bathgate
  6. Bill Cook
  7. Jean Ratelle
  8. Brad Park
  9. Mike Richter
  10. Henrik Lundqvist

First off – Ranger fans have to be bitching at Brooks for having Hank at 10. Many Ranger fans/idiots have Lundqvist on their Mount Rushmore (Top 4 ever).

My Mount Rushmore of NYR would be Boucher (1), Leetch (2), Richter (3) & Messier (4). What do all of those players have in common? They all won a Cup. What does Boucher have as a Ranger that the other three don’t? 2 more Stanley Cups.

Do I have to reprint my Frank Boucher article again? I’ll save you the scramble, here it is here: https://doinow.com/boucher2k16/

Not only should Frank Boucher’s #7 be in the rafters of MSG (and Brooks did argue for Greschner’s 4 to be retired and I wish, since he has more pull than I ever will, would argue for Boucher’s 7 too) but he is the greatest Ranger ever.

Couple of quick facts on why Boucher should be #1 and ranked ahead of Messier, Leetch and Gilbert:

  • The 1994 Rangers were bought. Can we admit that? It was the highest salaried team and featured the Edmonton Oilers. Yea, you had Richter and Leetch who wound up being career Rangers (Let’s not talk about the end of Leetch’s career, Sather should be shot for that) but the team was a bunch of free agents and ex-Oilers.
  • The 1994 Rangers won one Cup. ONE! It was my favorite team of my life and my favorite memories of hockey. As an adult now (I was 12 when the Rangers won in 1994) I can look back and see what it was.
  • Frank Boucher won two cups as a player and the other as a coach, in more trying times, than the 1994 Rangers. Boucher was an original  Ranger. He made hockey a profitable business in NY. There may have not been a 1994 Rangers if the early Rangers weren’t successful. Baseball and the theatre were more attractive entertainment options to patrons of the time.
  • When Boucher played, the Rangers, as the most southern team in the league, had the worst chances at landing the best players. In the early days of the NHL (And for the record, the original 6 era is romanticized and things are made up about it. There were other teams, it was just that NYR/BOS/TOR/MON/DET/CHI lasted through it all up until the 1967 expansion) the draft was much different than it was today. The draft went like this – you got first rights to any player in a 150 mile radius of your city. It’s no mystery why the Canadiens have the best history in hockey. Montreal was breeding ground of talent and when things were slow, they would buy entire minor leagues just to get the rights of the best player of that league!)
  • The man who built the Rangers first Cup team, Conn Smythe, fired/quit, depending on what story you want to believe, after building the team. Just think – imagine if Smythe never left. Would there be a Toronto Maple Leafs? Would the Rangers have more than 4 cups? As someone who has read about 10 different books on Smythe, go read his autobiography and the new biography that came out about him this year. Both books can be had for pennies on Amazon. Both are excellent historical lessons.
  • Boucher won two Cups as a player when the Rangers really were getting the last licks on talent. In one Cup game, his coach Lester Patrick had to play net because the starting goalie got hurt in a game. The Rangers had to make sure to lighten the work load for the Silver Fox.
  • After winning two Cups as a player, Boucher coached the infamous 19-40 team to a Cup. This was a tough Cup to win because of World War II. As would be evident for the next 10-15 years, the Rangers had a rough go of it. The military draft crippled the Rangers like no other team. While other teams lost players to the war/draft, they had a bigger talent pool of which to replace these players from than the Rangers.
  • After his coaching days were over, Boucher ran the team as a General Manager, before a forced resignation. All in all, he was a player/coach/GM of the Rangers from 1926-1955. No other Ranger has had a 30 year tenure like that with the club.
  • Rod Gilbert, a great Ranger in his own right and a star on the GAG line, never won a Cup. Yes, he was a phenomenal Ranger, but Boucher had a much better and more storied NYR career than Gilbert did.
  • Yes Mark Messier and the guarantee will always be remembered, but just because you didn’t see Frank Boucher didn’t mean it didn’t happen. It’s a shame that Frank Boucher is a hockey hall of famer, but Sam Rosen has a better chance of having his name in the rafters before Boucher.

As far as the rest of the list, I don’t know how Bathgate, Park and Ratelle are above Richter. I was happy to see Bill Cook, another original Ranger, place so high. The Bread Line was the first big line in Rangers history. I thought Brooks did a good job overall, but I will not rest until Boucher gets his just due! Who else is gonna fight for the guy?

A man with a plan

The Rangers are probably on a plane now back to NY or maybe straight to Columbus, as I write these words to you at 2:30 AM! Up next for NYR is a metro showdown with the BlueJackets. I plan on going to the bar on Friday night, so perhaps I’ll get up a super late blog Friday night/Sat morning or maybe I’ll just save a blog for Monday morning after the Panthers game. We’ll see.

Until then,

LET’S GO RANGERS

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on twitter

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