What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. I’m still catching my breath after the Rangers 2-0 Game 1 victory in Montreal tonight. Seriously, this game just blew your balls off (and lady balls, for our female readers). Wow. I don’t even know where to start. This was one of the best hockey games I’ve seen all year. It had everything. Even as I type this blog up, I got the Sharks/Oilers game on, but my heart is still racing after this Rangers victory. If anything, this game let you know that playoff hockey is here.
Seriously, the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best playoffs in all of sports. This was only Game 1! We’ve seen the Rangers, in many a playoff series over the years, but whether it’s the year removed from the playoffs, not expecting much last season or being the underdog in this series, this game was like a tornado and a hurricane (Just not a Carolina Hurricane) hitting each other.
If you missed it, right off the puck drop, the intensity, drive and determination to win from both teams, was through the roof. This was playoff hockey. For those who said “The Rangers will be complacent because they had nothing to play for the last month”, well that crap went out the window the second the puck hit the ice.
In case you missed yesterday’s blog, I did my annual New York Ranger Report Card blog, where I also did a mini-preview of NYR vs MTL. You can read it here:
New York Rangers 2016-2017 Season Report Card: Grading Every Single New York Ranger & NYR Team Staff At The End of the Regular Season. Plus: NYR/MTL First Round Preview!
Where to start, where to start, where to start! I guess the beginning is always a good starting point!
Going into this game, I was a ball of nervous energy. There is only so much you can read and watch before a game. It just comes to a time, where enough of the chatter, just drop the damn puck.
There was a little controversy over what AV would roll out for this game. Tanner Glass got the nod over Pavel Buchnevich, while Brendan Smith got the start over Kevin Klein. Here’s what AV went with:
First Line: Kreider/Stepan/Zucc. We’ve seen this line a lot this season. No issues here.
Second Line: Vesey/Zibanejad/Nash. Again, same old and I’m fine with that.
Third Line: Miller/Hayes/Grabner. One of the hottest lines this season. They actually started the game.
Fourth Line: Glass/Lindberg/Fast. The MVP line of this game.
Defensively, AV went like this:
Pair 1: McDonagh/Girardi. No surprise here.
Pair 2: Staal/Holden. Holden owes me two new pairs of underwear, because I shit myself twice watching him tonight.
Pair 3: Skjei/Smith. Skjei needs to swap spots with Holden ASAP.
Of course, Henrik Lundqvist was your starting goalie, despite all the stats, trends and history suggesting this wasn’t a wise idea. For at least one night, “that’s why the games are played on the ice, not on paper.”
If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’m a big Tanner Glass fan. You can check the archives, located on the right hand of this site, read my last few blogs, or search “GLASS” in the tags of this blog. I’m not going to rehash everything on Glass. If you want though, you can read this blog I did on Glass at the beginning of the season:
The Saga of Tanner Glass: Why AV’s Favorite Son Should Be On The 2016-2017 New York Rangers, Shooing Away the Glass Haters & More
As I’ve been saying for the last two seasons, Glass does his role well and brings something to this team that no one else does. All I heard before this game, was people groan about Glass starting over Buchnevich. Like I said in my preview blog, Buchnevich has shot wide at more open nets than he’s put the puck on. I would rather Glass and his physical play for the playoffs, than a rookie who has struggled on the ice and with injuries this year.
In fact, I also said this, 30 minutes before the game, on twitter:
Tanner Glass is gonna score tonight, I feel it! #nyr
— BlueCollarBlueShirts (@NYCTheMiC) April 12, 2017
However, in my blog last night (linked above) and in my Hudson Valley Hockey Podcast appearance, I did say something else. In case you missed my spot on the podcast (I go on at the 52:00 minute mark), you can hear it below:
As you may have also read, I was also extremely nervous about Lundqvist and would’ve preferred Raanta to start this series with Montreal. So what happens in Game 1? Lundqvist has his best game of the season, makes a bunch of great saves and posts a shutout. What was the difference in tonight’s victory over Montreal? The Rangers fourth line! Talk about a kick to the old ego cock! Hey, if I’m going to brag and boast when I’m right, I got to take my lumps when I am wrong. And trust me, as far as Game 1 goes, I WAS DEAD WRONG. Print that out and save it for a rainy day!
The Rangers won this game (Although some fans are acting like the Rangers won the Cup) because of two factors – the elite goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist and their fourth line. While I may have been wrong on one prediction, at least for one game, I did predict the Tanner Glass scoring a goal thing right. In fact, he scored the game winning goal!
I do expect to take my “social media” lumps after a great Lundqvist performance in this one individual game, but please keep in mind, this doesn’t mean Raanta doesn’t get a shutout if he starts. Lundqvist played great. No denying that. That doesn’t take away from a potential Raanta start though! Even with Lundqvist playing lights out tonight, it doesn’t mean I’m confident about Game 2, 3, 4, or the rest of the playoffs. Lundqvist has struggled with consistency all season. I need to see him do this 15 more times before I’m sold. However, for one night, I give him his due. He was fantastic tonight.
I talked about this on twitter too – we all know my contract rants about Lundqvist. As far as the playoffs, all that crap is out the window, because this is the team we have and contracts don’t affect this part of the season. For guys like Lundqvist and Rick Nash, now is the time they have to earn their money. These two will be more remembered by what they did in the playoffs rather than what they did in the regular season. Tonight, Lundqvist had a monster playoff game and I can’t take that away from him. Still, it doesn’t mean Raanta doesn’t do the same. It just means Lundqvist finally showed up.
That all said, I will gladly eat shit and crow if Lundqvist can have 15 more games like this! In fact, I have several bets with Ranger fans. If Lundqvist hoists the Cup this year, I have agreed to wear a Lunqvist jersey at the parade and write a blog about his “regalness.” I hope I lose all my bets and am forced to do this! What many of you guys look past is that I don’t root for Lundqvist to lose. I root for the Rangers to win. If it means dealing Lundqvist, so be it. Whatever is best for the Rangers team. I care more about the front of the jersey, not the back!
Still, despite a “vintage” performance from Lundqvist, this is only ONE game. On the word “vintage”, I have talked about this before too. I hate using that word, because it implies that it doesn’t happen frequently. It is fair to call this a “vintage” game from Lundqvist, because he hasn’t had many of these games in the last calendar year. All I or you can root for, is 15 more games just like this.
This was roller coaster game, no matter who you were pulling for. Right off the opening puck drop, you knew you were watching playoff hockey. NBC Sports reported that the Rangers & Canadiens average 22 hits per game or 44 hits combined. Tonight, the Rangers had 45 hits, while Montreal had 53 hits, for a combined total of 98 hits! Like the tag-line says, “Because it’s the Cup!”
The Montreal crowd was bat-shit crazy and buzzing like blood-thirsty savages near a wounded animal. For the first ten minutes of this game, the Canadien fans razzed Lundqvist, mockingly chanting “LUND-QVIST”. They booed every time Chris Kreider touched the puck. They exploded with admiration after every big hit. In fact, the refs were influenced by the crowd, as they let anything and everything go, until they realized that they weren’t fans and had to make some calls. That shit drives me nuts.
How is a player supposed to play consistent if the refs can’t stay consistent? You had guys spearing, charging, elbowing, high sticking and everything else and the refs let it go. Then, the refs settled down, just like the Montreal crowd, after the Tanner Glass goal. Some of the leniency went away at that point in the game. How is that fair? Even worse, after being stricter with the whistle, the refs would then start letting things go again in the third period. Zuccarello is going to need a bullet proof vest with these refs.
Quite simply, you can’t just turn the rules/infraction on and off like it’s a video game. The game needs to be called consistent from puck drop in the first period to the final horn in the third period. The refs were all over the place. These horrible refs let the crowd and situations of the game dictate their whistles. That’s not how it’s supposed to go down. Granted, this was a wild game, but you can’t bring the lion back to the cage after letting him run free.
For those living under a rock, MSG Networks is carrying the first round. I’m happy because I enjoy our merry crew. However, for an hour pre-game show, there was way too much puff & fluff. Listen, I like Arda Ocal, but I can care less about him making ice-cream. Watching Vally, Pidto and Duguay eat shitty pizza doesn’t get me amped for this game either.
There were two funny Vally quotes on this pregame show. He started off one segment talking about how “Shea Weber is going to pound ya hard.” Somewhere, I thought Micheletti was looking to sign up for that job! (Relax, it’s a joke.) Then Vally started talking about the Rangers needing to take “Price’s eyes away”, meaning you gotta screen him and shoot. Not for nothing, doesn’t that apply against most goalies and in most games? Sure, you have crappy goalies that you can fire at, but at this level, screening and shooting is always a good idea. It’s not rocket science. Shit, all I did was preach “Crash, Screen, Deflect, Repeat.” It’s just catchier than what Vally was going on about.
While Vally has been 100% on the money for most of this season, leave it to Tanner Glass to throw a simple backhanded shot past Price for the GWG. To paraphrase John Sterling, “That’s hockey Suzyn.”
Let’s go to the official ESPN box score and then talk about this heart-racing game:
1st Period Summary
||Tanner Glass (1)
||Brendan Gallagher: 2 Minutes for Tripping Marc Staal|
||Ryan McDonagh: 2 Minutes for Interference of Max Pacioretty|
||Brendan Smith: 2 Minutes for High-sticking Artturi Lehkonen|
2nd Period Summary
|No scoring this period||1||0|
||J.T. Miller: 2 Minutes for Delaying the game|
||Alex Galchenyuk: 2 Minutes for Delaying the game|
||Brendan Gallagher: 2 Minutes for Holding Ryan McDonagh|
3rd Period Summary
||Michael Grabner (1) (Empty Net)
Assist: Jesper Fast
||Phillip Danault: 2 Minutes for Tripping Brendan Smith|
||Mats Zuccarello: 2 Minutes for Roughing Brendan Gallagher|
||Brendan Gallagher: 2 Minutes for Roughing Mats Zuccarello|
||Andrei Markov: 10 Minute Misconduct|
Team Statistical Comparison
|Key: NY Rangers Montreal|
I know there is a new “Fast & Furious” movie coming out, and really how much faster & furious can they get, but that would’ve been an ample way to describe tonight’s game. Both teams came out skating, hitting and there were plenty of battles. While no fights were recorded in the game, each team had some antics after whistles. I thought the funniest one was Steve Ott preventing Lundqvist from getting to his water bottle. Just a little mind game/dick move from Ott. Duguay would call Ott a “rat” during the break. That was great! Gotta love Duguay!
The PA/organist/whatever you want to call it, was also all over this game. I was cracking up when they were playing Kurt Angle’s WWE theme music. If you’re not aware, there is a refrain in the song which fans sing along “YOU SUCK!”. Only in French Land, is playing an American Olympian Gold Medal Winner’s theme song, a way to get at the visiting American team!
Brendan Gallagher was a cheap shot artist all night, and really what a piece of shit he was here. Not only did he spear Rick Nash (in front of a ref, and not called) he also kept going after Zucc. What a tough guy. Who does he think he is, JBL? (Yes, another wrestling reference!)
Gallagher took the first penalty of the game and really, the refs couldn’t let this blatant tripping on Marc Staal go. The Rangers would finish 0-4 on the PP, as they were just horrible, as usual, on the PP. There was one part during this PP where Rick Nash was left one on four with the Canadiens. How does that even happen? At least the Rangers didn’t give up a shorty, as they’ve been prone to do on the PP.
Watching this game, I thought the Rangers dominated the dot all night. I was surprised to see that the teams tied in faceoffs won, at 28 a piece. I guess the Rangers just won the “bigger” faceoffs or faceoffs at key times in the game. Whether it be a faceoff on a PK or an icing, it felt like the Rangers won the faceoffs at opportune times.
The play of the game occurred at the ten minute mark of the first period. Lindberg won the faceoff. Tanner Glass, with a backhand like a Williams sister (Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating), flipped it in the direction of Price and the puck beat Price. In case you missed it, here it is:
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 12, 2017
With that goal, that was the first goal of the NHL playoffs. Let’s hope Glass scores the last one too!
While I felt Glass was the right move over Buchenvich & I did have a feeling he would score, I did not see him scoring the GWG! The rest of this game would be a goaltenders battle between two former Vezina winners, who each played like one. If it wasn’t for this fluky type of a goal, who knows what the feeling in Rangerstown would be right now?
This goal silenced the Montreal crowd a bit. However, the action was still loud on the ice, with hit after hit and lots of jaw-jacking between both teams.
While Glass did score what would be the GWG, the Rangers fourth line dominated all night. Fast, Lindberg and Glass did so many things well tonight. They cleared the puck, they kept the puck in the offensive zone, they were strong defensively, they created scoring opportunities and they were just all over the place. If you remember the Cup run of three years ago, it was a strong fourth line that kept the Rangers in games. For one night, the Rangers fourth line made their mark on this series.
If you’re going to blame the defense for every goal Lundqvist gives up, you also have to give the defense credit when Lundqvist gets a shutout. The Rangers defense, from both their forwards and defensmen was solid all night, with the exception of Nick Holden. He had two BRUTAL turnovers, and the Rangers were lucky that Montreal didn’t make Holden pay for them. Hank bailed out Holden each time. In a series against an elite goaltender in Carey Price, Nick Holden simply has to be better.
After one period, it was 1-0 Rangers. Once the teams got back on the ice for the second period, the Rangers just dominated for 12 straight minutes. The Canadiens would make a little run towards the end of the second period, but Lundqvist shut everything down, even making a diving save when the Rangers were short-handed.
As I talked about going into this series, if Lundqvist is going to start, he needs to be that 2012 Lundqvist. You can’t give up crap or soft goals, because the guy on the other end isn’t. While the Glass goal was kinda fluky, Price was remarkable tonight. Lundqvist deserves a lot of credit for not allowing Montreal to tie this game. His play helped silence the French speaking Canadians & Canadiens! All Montreal needed was one goal for the momentum and to wake up their crowd. Instead, Lundqvist, coupled with strong defense in front of him, took the air out of all that.
Speaking of great defense, I thought Rick Nash had a monster game. We all know the story. For $7.8M he needs to score. That said, he didn’t have a bad game, he had a good game. He stopped several Montreal opportunities throughout the game.
In the final period, with the Rangers still up 1-0 and after killing several penalties, Carey Price was removed from net, as the Habs scrambled for a last second goal. Just like Hagelin of years ago, the fastest player on the ice, Michael Grabner, dashed the comeback hopes, as he scored an empty-netter very early. With 70 seconds left to go, the Rangers led 2-0 and that would be the final.
This win was a team effort in every facet. Lundqvist was strong. The defense besides Holden was strong. The skaters were strong, none stronger than the fourth line that just kept bringing it. It’s a 2-0 win that the team can be proud of, but call me jaded, but I still have plenty of concerns with this series moving forward.
All the rah-rah out of the way, these are the things that had me concerned:
- While the penalty kill was on point, and lot of credit to Rick Nash here, the PP was fucking awful. The Rangers finished 0-4 and blew a 5 vs 3 opportunity. There were times where the Rangers had the puck, but were out-numbered by the Habs. How does that happen? Then on a 5 vs 3, the Rangers did their pretty boy passing and couldn’t get a shot on net off. They were shooting wide on the PP non-stop. They weren’t crashing the net. The rare times they did, the Rangers kept volleying the puck around, rather than taking a shot. This PP reminds me of Gretzky – “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
- The first two lines. The optimist will say that the Rangers first two lines canceled out the lines of Montreal. That said, do you want to rely on the fourth line to provide all the scoring in this series? While the skaters played well and were very strong defensively, they simply gotta score. They have to overcome their fear of shooting.
- Lundqvist leaving the net. Hank left the net about 6 times tonight to play the puck. Only once did he complete a clean pass to his teammate. The other 5 times were turnovers and/or set up a teammate to be crushed by a Canadien. Stay in the net. Playing the puck has always been a weakness for Lundqvist. You don’t want a play like this to go for a goal the other way, especially with goals coming at a premium for the Rangers.
- Nick Holden. These turnovers can’t continue. If Klein can play, give him a shot, even if it’s for a game. Holden was too reckless out there and while it won’t get much talk, because none of his turnovers bit the Rangers in the ass, I don’t want to see these horrible turnovers going for Hab goals.
That said, there was a lot of good in this game, aside from the individual performances. When the clock was winding down, the Rangers met the Habs at the blue line. There was no skating the puck into the Rangers defensive zone. The Rangers killed penalties. They had these minutes of non-stop barrages. They dominated stretches of this game. They won the big faceoffs.
Just think, tonight it took Lundqvist at his best & a Tanner Glass goal to win this game. While Lundqvist at his best is crucial, you can’t rely on the fourth line to provide all the scoring moving forward.
Tonight, the Rangers took care of business. The best road team in the NHL bucked Hank’s stats in Montreal & picked up a huge victory. At this point in the season (the playoffs), puck luck is a thing and the Rangers had it tonight.
I know all the Hank fans are going nuts and ejaculating all over the place. Enjoy your night. Trust me, I was tagged in about a million things tonight, as if the Rangers won the Cup in this game. I’m happy the Rangers won guys, but keep in mind, Hank has had a problem staying consistent all season. Let’s hope those struggles are over and these starts will be the norm for the rest of the way. If not, you will have to explore Raanta. Whatever Hank did tonight, he needs to keep doing.
The bottom line, moving forward, is that all of these games are unpredictable, charts & stats mean shit and anything can happen – even a Tanner Fucking Glass game winning goal!
As I write these final words, I just finished watching the Sharks 3-2 OT win over the Oilers. What a disgraceful game. More ugly officiating, with the refs giving the Sharks 6 PP’s. That’s a good way to take McDavid out of the game. Talbot did make 41 saves, but the Oilers did him no favors, as the Sharks out-shot the Oilers, 16-3 in the third period. Yes, “gotta get them next time”, but these refs have been horrible in the two games that I watched start to finish tonight.
Game 2 is on Friday night in Montreal. See you then. Let’s come home up 2-0.
LET’S GO RANGERS
@NYCTHEMIC on twitter