Lundqvist King Of His Domain

Predators Rangers Hockey

Henrik Lundqvist stops the puck in front of diving teammate Jarret Stoll in a 3-0 shutout of the Predators. AP Photo by Julie Jacobson/Getty Images

If this was a boxing match, it would’ve been scored a unanimous decision in favor of the Predators. Considering all the pressure they applied, it could’ve been a TKO. Unlike prize fighting where blind judges score controversial decisions like the lopsided one Canelo Alvarez got over Miguel Cotto in Vegas on Saturday, hockey is decided on the scoreboard.

By night’s end at the World’s Most Famous Arena on 33rd between 7th and 8th Avenue, Henrik Lundqvist had beaten the Predators all by himself. The King stopped them in their tracks finishing with 31 saves en route to a shutout in a Rangers 3-0 win. That included 14 big ones in a lopsided first that saw Nashville pile up shots on three consecutive power plays. In total, the Blueshirts killed all five. When they weren’t blocking shots (26), Lundqvist was their best penalty killer thwarting the Preds time and again.

”I think the guys, when they see guys pay the price like that, it gives the bench energy,” Lundqvist pointed out of his defense’s commitment. ”As a goalie it gives you a lot of energy.”

The frustration level of the Preds escalated. They entered having not scored a goal in their last seven and a half periods. Facing the league’s hottest goalie, it only got worse. They couldn’t get anything past Lundqvist. The King was at his very best turning away a Preds’ onslaught during the first two periods. Nashville out-shot the Rangers 25-7 and out-attempted them 62-21. If you take away blocked shots with the Blueshirts rejecting 22, the Preds had a 40-12 edge in shot attempts. For the entire game, the Preds out-attempted the Rangers 75-41.

”So many chances,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. ”So many chances.”

That’s how it’s gone for them lately. Nashville has now been shutout in three straight setting a franchise record. They haven’t scored in the last 213:47. Even five power plays and total domination in the attack zone couldn’t aid them.

”We took way too many penalties,” Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal said after setting up a goal and blocking four shots. ”We started the game off killing almost the whole first half of the (first) period. … We had to try to get in some lanes and block shots.”

The combination of Staal (4), Kevin Klein (6), Dan Girardi (4) and Ryan McDonagh (4) blocked 18 of the team’s 26 shots. All four logged big minutes shorthanded making strong reads while sacrificing their bodies. Jarret Stoll blocked three to lead the forwards.

Even though the first 40 minutes were lopsided, the Rangers were opportunistic scoring the game’s first goal early in the second period. Rick Nash forced a turnover. After stealing the puck, he skated down the left wing on a 4-on-1 and fired a missile past Pekka Rinne for an unassisted goal at 4:22. He stayed hot following up his hat trick with a fourth goal over the last two.

”There’s a hole there,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”Only a goal scorer can pick that hole against an elite goaltender.”

Posted in NYRangers | Leave a comment

Nash’s hat trick wins it in overtime over Panthers

Rick Nash

Nashty Boys: Rick Nash is mobbed by Mats Zuccarello after completing a hat trick for the overtime winner over the Panthers. AP Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

It wasn’t a Picasso. It didn’t have to be. In a confusing yet wild and entertaining game, the Rangers defeated the Panthers 5-4 in overtime. Rick Nash’s hat trick allowed them to bounce back from Thursday’s 2-1 defeat in Tampa. His breakout gave the Blueshirts their 10th win in 11 allowing them to stay five points up on the Capitals.

Playing about as undisciplined as possible, the Rangers blew a two-goal lead with less than three minutes left in the third period. Earlier, a Mats Zuccarello breakaway goal off a pretty pass from Derek Stepan and a Viktor Stalberg finish from Oscar Lindberg put them ahead 4-2 with 7:46 left.

However, they put themselves in penalty trouble all night long. It almost came back to burn them. A bad Stalberg interference minor in the offensive zone allowed Panthers coach Gerard Gallant to risk pulling Roberto Luongo for a 6-on-4 with 3:11 remaining. They made the strategy pay off when Aleksander Barkov rebounded home a Jonathan Huberdeau shot past Henrik Lundqvist with 2:28 left.

With Roberto Luongo on the bench for an extra attacker, Jaromir Jagr took full advantage of a Nash turnover tying the score with 1:49 to go. Nash failed to clear the zone leading to a nice passing play with Aaron Ekblad and Barkov combining to find an isolated Jagr for a wicked wrist shot past Lundqvist.

Astonishingly, right off the face-off at center ice, Marc Staal and Dan Boyle allowed Reilly Smith to skate right through and draw a penalty shot with 1:42 left. It was the second penalty shot of the game. Earlier, Chris Kreider failed to beat Luongo in the first. He became the first Ranger to ever earn penalty shots in two consecutive games also doing so but failing against Ben Bishop of the Lightning. Like Kreider, Smith was unable to beat Lundqvist running out of real estate before missing.

That allowed the game to go to 3-on-3 overtime. The Rangers have yet to score in it including preseason. That would remain the case due to a bench minor on the Panthers. With the threat of a 2-on-1, a Panther jumped on too soon getting nabbed for too many men.

Handed a 4-on-3, the Rangers made it count by getting it to the hot hand. Having already tallied twice including a highlight reel goal where he carried Nick Bjugstad on his back while beating Luongo from a tough angle, Nash was the recipient of a Derick Brassard feed in the right circle. With Zuccarello screening Luongo, Nash fired past the distracted Florida goalie for the game-winner at 2:01 of OT.

While the Rangers were celebrating with Nash who scored more goals (3) tonight than his season total (2) entering play, a stoic Gallant stood at the Panthers bench with his stunned team. They seemed upset about something. As it turned out, they were considering challenging whether the Rangers were offside. Zuccarello appeared to be but got back onside when Dan Boyle gained the zone.

There was no challenge. Just a Rangers victory.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Aaron Ekblad, FLA (2 assists, 3 hits in 28 shifts-21:53)

2nd Star-Mats Zuccarello, NYR (goal-team best 10th, 2 assists (11), 21 points in 20 games)

1st Star-Rick Nash, NYR (hat trick-3rd, 4th, 5th incl OT game-winner at 2:01-PPG)

Posted in NYRangers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rangers need more from Stepan and Kreider

Derek Stepan

Despite a great start, the Rangers need more consistency from Derek Stepan and line mate Chris Kreider. AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images

A 14-3-2 start is exactly the kind of start coach Alain Vigneault wanted. Entering tonight’s game at Florida, the Rangers sit in first place with 30 points leading the Metropolitan Division. Only the Canadiens have more in the East. They’re five clear of the Caps and six up on the Pens.

After having their nine-game winning streak snapped by Tampa Bay, they look to start a new one later. The results have been very positive with leading scorer Mats Zuccarello emerging into a star with a team best nine goals and 18 points. He’s been the offensive catalyst with line mate Rick Nash (2 goals) struggling to finish.

A big plus is the emergence of rookie Oscar Lindberg whose 12 points (7-5-12) are tied for fourth among rookies. However, he’s slumped lately with two assists and no goals over the last six. Lindberg has meshed well with Kevin Hayes who also has a dozen points. Both are superb skaters who are strong on the fore check.

Viktor Stalberg has been as advertised supplying energy with his 43 hits topping all Ranger forwards. However, he’s also been turnover prone and has just five points. It’s probably not sustainable for him to stay on the third line. At some point, Vigneault must make a tough decision and see what Emerson Etem can add. He’s played only seven games with two assists.

Jarret Stoll has been a dependable face-off specialist going 88-and-64 so far. He and Dominic Moore (85-and-78) have split duty with each supplying diligent checking on the fourth line and on the penalty kill. Aside from a few shaky turnovers, Jesper Fast has fit in well.

That leaves us with the second line. To be honest, they haven’t been good at all. The problem is consistency. In particular, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider who have each been disappointments. In 19 games, each has 10 points. Stepan with five goals and five assists. Kreider with three goals and seven assists.

In the first year of a new contract, Stepan has under performed. Aside from a drop in production, he’s made uncharacteristic turnovers that have led to goals against like the shorthanded tally Valtteri Filppula scored the other night. He also continues to struggle on face-offs (108-and-140). For his career, he’s 44.0 percent. It would be refreshing if he ever improved. That way Vigneault can trust him. In the third period against Toronto, a clean face-off loss led to a tying goal from Dion Phaneuf. The Rangers still prevailed. But that’s not the point.

Stepan is a smart two-way center. He just hasn’t played up to his usual high standard. There have been more leaks. His penalty killing is still standout with Nash. Neither have scored shorthanded with the team still without one. Stepan hasn’t been as consistent. At some point, that must change.

After a poor start, Kreider has shown signs. He’s getting chances but has been unable to bury them consistently. In the loss to Tampa, Stepan led him on a breakaway which led to a penalty shot. But Kreider failed to convert shooting into Ben Bishop. He was looking five-hole but found nothing.

At 24, he is still learning. The former BC star stood up for Stepan following a dirty hit from Ottawa’s Zack Smith pounding him into submission. It was commendable. Kreider earned a instigator and misconduct. Puzzling considering the circumstance. For doing the right thing, he was punished. This is what you get with the silly instigator and programmed refs that don’t get it.

Despite only three goals, Kreider is second on the club in shots-on-goal with his 44 trailing only Nash (47). The remarkable aspect is those two have combined for five goals. The team has continued to win due to the brilliance of Henrik Lundqvist. He’s off to a sensational start with 10 wins, a 1.71 goals-against-average and .946 save percentage. He’ll surely be in to likely face Roberto Luongo in a great goalie match-up later.

The Blueshirts have been successful because they have taken advantage of opponents’ mistakes. They rank in the top five with a 10.7 shooting percentage. That includes a ridiculous 23.7 clip from Zuccarello and 21.2 from Lindberg. As a team, they average a shade over 28 shots-per-game. So, that’s not a issue.

If there is something that’s worrisome, it’s their lack of consistency on the fore check. If you go off Corsi/Fenwick, they have struggled with offensive zone attack time. Their most consistent forwards are Hayes, Kreider and Nash. All of who are strong puck possession players. Zuccarello is under 50.0 percent but is a superb skater who is dangerous in transition.

What does it mean? Just that there have been instances where they haven’t had the puck a whole lot. In home wins over the Caps and Blues, there were long stretches where they were pinned in their end. The Rangers are an experienced enough group to be able to limit chances and shots against while relying on Lundqvist. It remains to be seen if that’s sustainable in the postseason. Goaltending can be a strong equalizer.

At this point, there’s not much to complain about. While the statistics could be better in some areas, the one that counts is the won-loss record. The Blueshirts are in good position. A strong start should aid them in a tough division. With a favorite holiday approaching, Ranger fans have plenty to be thankful for.

Posted in NYRangers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lightning end Rangers win streak

J.T. Brown, Valtteri Filppula

Tampa Bay Lightning’s Valtteri Filppula (51) celebrates his goal with teammates, including J.T. Brown, during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won 2-1. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

The Rangers finally lost a game. It came against the hated Lightning by a score of 2-1. It came on just an awful sequence. Valtteri Filppula scored a shorthanded goal with 1:05 left in regulation. He finished off a 2-on-1 from J.T. Brown taking full advantage of a miscue between Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh inside the Tampa blue line.

Instead of pushing the puck down low, Stepan forced a bad pass to McDonagh which he mishandled. Filppula forced McDonagh into the turnover pushing the puck to Brown who broke in and was able to dish across a back checking McDonagh for a Filppula finish past a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist.

It was a excruciating loss due to the opponent. Against any other team, I wouldn’t mind. On a night Tampa stifled their offense, Dominic Moore supplied a tying goal with 6:17 remaining. Off a strong Jesper Fast fore-check, Moore was able to steal a puck from Anton Stralman, who had the puck hop on him. Moore made a nice turnaround shot finally beating Ben Bishop to tie the score.

It could’ve been a different outcome. After a strong penalty kill of a weak interference minor on McDonagh, Kevin Hayes drew another odd interference call on Brian Boyle with 1:26 left. What should’ve at least resulted in a point instead turned into zilch.

”We spent a lot of time in their end,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”Didn’t get enough for it. At the end of the night, this game is about two plays with the puck. Two mistakes that we made, and they made us pay for it.”

The first play he’s referring to was a Keith Yandle turnover which led directly to Ranger killer Alex Killorn beating Lundqvist from way out. With no pressure on him, Yandle attempted a poor pass up the middle which was intercepted by Filppula at the blue line. That allowed Killorn to walk out and fire home his third at 14:47 of the first period.

The second was the mishap between Stepan and McDonagh on the power play. A no no that late. Stepan deserves more blame because he forced a pass which handcuffed McDonagh. Brown and Filppula did the rest.

”It doesn’t matter how many games you win, when you play you want to win every game,” a disappointed Lundqvist said after finishing with 26 saves. ”This one, the way we lose, it’s extremely frustrating.”

The Rangers had a chance to match a franchise record best 10-game winning streak reached both in 1939-40 and ’72-73. It didn’t happen. They were held to 14 shots through two periods against the defensive minded Lightning led by Victor Hedman and Stralman.

Bishop also had a good game making some key stops including denying Chris Kreider on a penalty shot at 3:51 of the third preserving a one-goal lead. He also stoned Stepan twice. Bishop improved to 9-0-0 against the Rangers in the regular season.

”It’s got to turn around at some point,” Bolts coach Jon Cooper said. ”We had to get the break, and clearly that’s a big break. The first short-handed goal of the season to be a game-winner.”

His team prevailed despite missing several regulars including Ryan Callahan, Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette. That says a lot about the Lightning who have struggled due to the injuries. But they are a top team despite a 9-9-3 record which is still good enough for third in the Atlantic Division. They’ll be there next Spring.

For the Blueshirts, they now can concentrate on bouncing back with a game at Florida on Saturday. It’s no longer about a record winning streak. Just about getting back to fundamentals that’s made them such a good team.

Posted in NYRangers | Leave a comment

TSN Report: Hamonic on block


According to Hockey Night In Canada’s Elliote Friedman, Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic is on the block. The 25-year old is signed thru 2019-20. He’s currently making $3.75 million on a cap friendly deal that averages $3.857 million per year. Hamonic will earn $4.875 million in each of the final four seasons.

TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted out more details on the Hamonic situation. It sounds like it doesn’t have much to do with the Islanders who have relocated to Brooklyn. But rather a personal matter.

Apparently, Hamonic asked for a trade prior to the season. It looks like he wants to be closer to home. He’s from St. Malo, Manitoba. So that could mean Winnipeg. He’s from there and played for the Winnipeg Saints as a teenager before starring for the Moose Jaw Warriors and finishing with the the Brandon Wheat Kinds of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Dreger also listed Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver as potential suitors.

The Islanders have been quietly trying to move him. However, they are not in position to just seek prospects and draft picks. This is a team that wants to contend. You don’t just give away a top three right-handed defenseman for the future. Especially in their first year at Barclays Center.

“The problem with them trading Travis Hamonic,” one exec said, “is they want… Travis Hamonic,” in Friedman’s story that appeared on

Hamonic is a shutdown defenseman who gets the most minutes on the Islanders. He averages 23:20 per game and over 26 shifts. He’s their most effective blue liner at 5-on-5. When Hamonic is on at even strength, the Isles have attempted 38 more shots (338 SF 300 SA). He pairs with Calvin de Haan allowing Isles coach Jack Capuano to use Nick Leddy with Johnny Boychuk.

Hamonic has played all 19 games this season tallying three assists with 10 penalty minutes and a plus-five rating. If he is dealt, it will be for a similar defenseman that is dependable and can log key minutes. For who that might be remains to be seen.

Posted in Battle News, NY Islanders | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Department Of Player Safety failure perplexing


At this point, what requires supplementary discipline? Apparently, the NHL Department Of Player Safety remains inconsistent on dangerous hits like the one Senators forward Zack Smith delivered on Rangers center Derek Stepan in the second period of Saturday’s game in Ottawa.

Smith’s shoulder to an unsuspecting Stepan was the latest blindside hit that went without punishment. There have been enough replays. He caught a defenseless player with a high hit with shoulder to chin making head contact. Ruled a “two-minute interference minor” by refs Greg Kimmerly and Brad Meier, Smith didn’t get off easy with Chris Kreider immediately responding to a fallen teammate by pounding him into submission earning a instigator, fighting major and misconduct.

Maybe that was enough justice in the NHL’s view. But aren’t hits like Smith’s supposed to be under the radar? Stepan returned and finished the game after undergoing medical evaluation. He played last night in a Rangers 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs even scoring on an 86-footer that eluded Jonathan Bernier. Should his health be the underlying factor in why Smith faced no fine or suspension?

There’s a clear double standard when it comes to league discipline. They are still letting go of blindside hits that can cause serious damage. If a player is hurt, it usually is a determining factor. The other is reputation. During his seven-year NHL career, Smith has never been fined or suspended. He’s a physical player who takes the body. There’s no complaint about that. Most players do. Hits are allowed. But there’s a difference between good and bad. There needs to be more consistency from the NHL on what crosses the line.

According to TSN, already 16 NHL players have suffered concussions. Carolina defenseman Ryan Murphy became the 16th. That is the physical nature of the sport. It’s why the league must do a better job. Not every injury can be prevented. At times, hockey can be vicious. Look no further than the melee that occurred over the weekend between Winnipeg and Nashville. They combined for 156 penalty minutes.

When it comes to dangerous hits that put players at risk, the league must do better when it comes to protecting its players. The only way to educate them is by having a zero tolerance policy. Stiffer penalties and more suspensions would send a clear message. Otherwise, nothing will change.

Posted in Battle News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zuccarello puts on show for streaking Rangers in 4-3 win over Leafs

This Zucc's For You: Mats Zuccarello celebrates his game-winning goal with less than a minute left in the Rangers' 4-3 win over the Leafs. AP Photo by Seth Wenig/Getty Images

This Zucc’s For You: Mats Zuccarello celebrates his game-winning goal with less than a minute left in the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Leafs. AP Photo by Seth Wenig/Getty Images

How hot a start is it for Mats Zuccarello? Another three-point effort from the Rangers’ leading scorer was the difference in an exciting 4-3 home win over the Maple Leafs at MSG Sunday night. His team-leading ninth goal with 53.3 seconds left in regulation gave the Blueshirts a ninth straight win.

It’s the first time they’ve won that many in a row in 43 years. They’re now 14-2-2 with a league best 30 points. The 18-game start is the best in franchise history.

“He’s on top of his game,” coach Alain Vigneault said afterwards of the 28-year old Norwegian who’s become his team’s most consistent skater. “He’s been playing real well and his enthusiasm is contagious.

“There’s no doubt that he is well liked and well respected by his teammates, and I think everyone is happy that he’s playing so well right now.”

During the nine-game winning streak, Zuccarello has starred recording 12 points (5-7-12). Over a stretch that’s seen the Blueshirts outscore opponents 32-13, he has posted three multi-point games. That included his first hat trick in a Oct. 30 win over Toronto. In a recent 6-3 win over St. Louis, he had a goal and two assists. A day after being held in check in a 2-1 shootout victory at Ottawa thanks to Dan Boyle, he was at it again posting his third three-point game in the last eight.

The more they win, the more Zuccarello’s imprints are on the team’s play. It’s not just having a knack for scoring the big goal as he did when he backhanded home a Ryan McDonagh rebound past Jonathan Bernier at 19:06. It’s the play making too. He also set up two goals with brilliant feeds. The first was to a trailing McDonagh who converted a 3-on-1 to tie the score 44 seconds into the second period.

“When you (have) more confidence, you make those plays,” Zuccarello said. “It’s a nice feeling to be that confident. The whole team is like that. We have a good stretch here, so it’s a good feeling.”

Zuccarello’s uncanny ability to draw attention while finding open teammates has been a constant. With the game knotted again following a Joffrey Lupul put back late in the second, a attacking Zuccarello went around former Ranger Matt Hunwick and slid the puck in front for a Derick Brassard finish that made it 3-2 at 3:37 of the third.

To their credit, the Leafs didn’t give up. As they had throughout the match, they bounced back with captain Dion Phaneuf evening the score off a Tyler Bozak face-off win with 14:45 left. Phaneuf’s right point shot dipped under backup Antti Raanta who outside of that goal against, was steady improving to 4-0-0 with 23 saves.

With the game tied, the Rangers twice had to kill off penalties. The first was a successful kill of a Chris Kreider cross check in the offensive zone. The second was with Brassard off for hi-sticking. Dominic Moore made two shorthanded bids but was caught from behind on each.

As time approached a minute to go, the contest looked to be headed to a 3-on-3 derby. As I pondered whether this team could finally score in it, McDonagh had a nice rush and low shot which Bernier kicked out. Zuccarello was right there to backhand it home sending the crowd to their feet in familiar chants of “Zuuuccc! Zuuuccc! Zuuuccc!”

That’s the kind of special player he’s become. At first when it was suggested on Twitter that last year’s team might have won the Cup had they had Zuccarello, I disagreed. But the more you watch him, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that they would’ve at least gotten past the Lightning with a healthy Zuccarello. Whether or not they would’ve defeated the Blackhawks is too hard a question to answer.

Zuccarello has become the fabric of the team. He means so much. Who would’ve ever thought a pint sized Norwegian would be so vital? It’s still hard to believe how well he’s playing after the near career threatening injury sustained on a McDonagh shot in Game 5 of the first round against Pittsburgh. From a brain contusion and hairline fracture in his skull to the best forward on the roster.

It was already storybook. Now it’s a show from the most popular Blueshirt outside of Henrik Lundqvist. Simply amazing.

Notes: Peter Holland got the Leafs on the board first at 17:57 of the first. … Derek Stepan scored from 100 feet out when his long wrist shot from center ice went through Bernier at 13:55 of the second. Lupul tied it less than four minutes later when he beat Keith Yandle in front for a rebound of a Byron Froese deflection. … Dylan McIlrath returned to the lineup. He paired with Yandle mostly finishing minus-two with three hits in 17 shifts (11:00). They were also on for Phaneuf’s tying marker on a lost draw from Stepan. … After getting dominated early, the Rangers came out on top going 39-and-37 on face-offs. Brassard (12-and-8), Moore (7-and-4) and Jarret Stoll (9-and-5) all had good nights. … Rangers now have three days off before a two-game Florida trip with stops at Tampa Thursday and the Panthers Saturday.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Dan Girardi, NYR (assist, 4 SOG in 6 attempts, 2 blocked shots, +3 in 36 shifts-20:45)

2nd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (3rd of season, assist, 5 SOG, +3 in 33 shifts-22:03)

1st Star-Mats Zuccarello, NYR (9th of season, 2 assists, +2 in 16:52)

Paris, France In Thoughts: Prior to the national anthems sang by Heather Cox, there was a moment of silence for all the victims in the horrible Paris, France tragedy. The French national anthem was played. Polite applause followed.

Posted in NYRangers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment