Kreider’s fifth career hat trick and Trouba’s three points lead Rangers to explosion in comeback win over Coyotes

What started out badly ended gladly. Following a dismal first period that saw them struggle mightily against an inferior opponent, the Rangers fell behind 3-1 to Arizona early in the second period. Buoyed by the leadership of Jacob Trouba and Chris Kreider, they scored six unanswered goals for a more satisfying 7-3 comeback win over the Coyotes at MSG.

Having not gotten back until 4 AM from Carolina early Saturday morning, it took a while for the Rangers to find their legs. The Coyotes were also playing the second of a back-to-back after getting shutout by the Islanders. However, they stayed in the area. It might’ve explained the poor start for the Blueshirts.

One thing about this team under Gerard Gallant in ’21-22 is they have strong character. Even being largely outplayed in Friday’s 6-3 defeat to the Canes, they never quit. They made it interesting before Tony DeAngelo put that one away late. The never say die attitude of this team is why they’re easy to root for.

Asked by Michelle Gingras during intermission about the first period, Dryden Hunt pulled no punches. “I think we underestimated them a little bit. That’s no excuse. They played last night too,” he said about his former club.

When Trouba had a pass accidentally go off a linesman right to Clayton Keller, who was able to just get his shot past Igor Shesterkin for a 3-1 deficit early in the second period, it could’ve been curtains. Especially when Ryan Strome took one of his needless stick fouls by slashing Keller to put the Coyotes on the power play.

That came at the halfway point of the game. Sensing their team was in trouble, fans started chanting, “Igor, Igor!” It worked. With a visibly Trouba showing frustration on the bench during a stoppage according to MSG’s John Giannone, he then led by action. During a crucial penalty killing shift, it was the fiery Trouba who jumped up and lead the play up ice.

On a three-on-two rush, Trouba and Mika Zibanejad combined to get an initial scoring chance that Coyotes’ starter Karel Vehmelka stopped. However, some extra effort from Zibanejad got the loose puck over to Trouba, who immediately fed Kreider for his second shorthanded goal of the season. That momentum turning play made it 3-2 with 8:30 left in the period. The crowd followed it up with “Let’s Go Rangers,” chants.

After Kreider’s first of three on another big night, his teammates followed up with a much better effort. Skating without Kaapo Kakko (upper body) and Filip Chytil (lower body), it forced Gallant to change his combos. Kakko was a scratch while Chytil didn’t return after the first. The experienced coach opted to load up the top line by moving Artemi Panarin onto it with Zibanejad and Kreider. The decision worked.

Due to Kakko being out, Julien Gauthier was reinserted into the lineup before the game. The little used forward who’s fallen behind veteran Greg McKegg in the pecking order, would come up large. Although he was primarily used on the fourth line, it was his goal from Hunt and Kevin Rooney that tied things up with 4:34 remaining. The play was made possible thanks to a great outlet from Shesterkin up ice. Gauthier got his third to really provide a lift.

On the next shift, Johan Larsson went back at Adam Fox. After an initial Fox shove, Larsson lost his cool by knocking Fox down and then giving him an extra cross-check to the back. Kreider immediately responded by getting in his face. He wisely didn’t take an even up call. For some reason, they only assessed Larsson two for roughing. Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti would later sarcastically reference that.

On the power play, they made it count. Keeping the momentum going against a wounded opponent, Zibanejad won an offensive draw back to Fox, who of course stayed on the ice. Hockey player. He got the puck to Panarin up top. Rather than try for a fancy play, this time he took a smart wrist shot that Vehmelka had trouble picking up due to the screening Kreider.

It went in to give Panarin his first goal in seven games. His last coming versus Florida on 12/29. He missed the beginning of the New Year due to COVID Protocol. As remarkably productive as the Bread Man is, he needs to score goals. Getting his 11th and only third power play goal might lead to more goals off his stick. He has a good enough shot to get 30. A feat Panarin has reached three times including Year One on Broadway.

Now having scored three consecutive times with The Garden buzzing, the Rangers didn’t let up. Instead, some more superb work from Zibanejad resulted in a pass across banking off potential trade target Jacob Chychrun right to Kreider, who buried the gift for number 28. That goal moved him ahead of Alex Ovechkin into first for the goal scoring lead. By night’s end, they’d be tied at 29 apiece.

Kreider’s second of the game was unassisted. But as he stated later, most of his tallies are team goals. That’s due to the simple approach he now has. In a recent one on one interview with New York Post columnist Larry Brooks, the highly intelligent Kreider spoke at length about how at various points during the first part of his career, he over thought things.

Now, he just goes out and plays. There is no better player at scoring in front. Whether it be via redirections or rebounds, Kreider is the master. It is nice to see him get rewarded. It reaffirms why I wanted to keep him. I’m glad Jeff Gorton and John Davidson did. Where would they be without him?

With Shesterkin again repeating what he did in a similar come from behind home victory over the Leafs, the Blueshirts put it away in the final period. Less than two minutes into the third, K’Andre Miller got the puck to Trouba for a long wrist shot that chased Vehmelka. It was the second goal for Trouba, who really has led this team in every way possible.

Remember when that trade and contract looked like a disaster? No longer. The combination of his physical and defensive play along with the more aggressive offense has made him invaluable. He’s really helped carry Miller, who’s still learning in his second season.

The only remaining question was would there be a hat trick. Up 6-3, the Rangers weren’t about to let the Coyotes back in the game. Although Alexis Lafreniere took two more undisciplined penalties for tripping which is something he better fix, the penalty kill was up to the challenge. They blocked shots and cleared pucks. Shesterkin only faced six shots in the period. After getting peppered in the first with 16, he only saw 13 more the rest of the way.

With Alex Galchenyuk off for interference on Rooney, Kreider got his fifth career hat trick. It came pretty easily. Panarin worked the puck over for Fox, whose low shot off backup Scott Wedgewood was intentional done. Sure enough, it caromed right to Kreider for an easy tap in for number 29. The 29 goals are a new career high. Hard to believe he did it in 41 games. His previous best was 28 which he reached twice.

Plenty of hats littered the ice. Kreider was all smiles along with a happy bunch of teammates who appreciate the style he brings. He plays the game more instinctively and puts himself in the right position. His continued increase in leadership has seen him become a good penalty killer. He never had scored shorthanded before until recently. Now, he’s a complete player. It is a joy to watch a homegrown player taken in the first round have this kind of success. Good for Chris Kreider!

The game was a bit testy late. Nobody went after Larsson for his cheap crap on Fox. They did it by hitting the Coyotes where it hurts most. On the scoreboard. Ryan Reaves also exchanged words with the loathsome Liam O’Brien. He was upset at Patrik Nemeth for no reason at all. He tied him up against the boards during a late shift before they finally blew the play dead. God forbid the refs realize not every puck is playable.

O’Brien is a clown. He did score a goal early on. Go figure. He likes to mix it up. I’ve seen him fight. If he was looking for one, Reaves could’ve flattened him. It’s not worth it. Neither is Larsson.

The Rangers were able to recover from a bad start. The starts have been an issue that’s crept up lately. That’s something the coaching staff will want to correct. Next up are the Kings. We know what happened in LA. They played one of their worst games. The Kings are stiffer competition. Here’s hoping for some payback. Brendan Lemieux makes his return to MSG. No video will be played. He’s still an annoying ass. Yet has seven goals. Ha.

As far as the reported rumor from the well respected Jeff Marek on Hockey Night In Canada about the Rangers supposedly making an offer for Chychrun which would include exiled former first round pick Vitali Kravtsov, we’ll see. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to acquiring another smooth skating left defenseman who can contribute offensively and provide better balance to a unit that has questions.

Not if it is at the expense of Braden Schneider. They want to include a defenseman, make it Miller or Zac Jones even though I prefer Jones to Miller despite the size difference. If they can keep both and trade Matthew Robertson, that’s a win.

I do wonder what exactly Chris Drury offered. Kravtsov is a given. He’s never returning. Part of it is his fault for acting entitled. But some of the blame lies with the Rangers. They didn’t handle Kravtsov right internally. He’s not Swedish or Finnish. I guess they have something against Russian skaters.

Look no further than how they treated Nils Lundkvist. He had no NHL experience and got an automatic spot in the top six at the start when Schneider and Jones were more impressive. Now, he’s down in Hartford trying to rebuild his confidence. They also didn’t feel a demotion for either Kakko or Lafreniere could further their development. Big mistake. It’s all about propaganda with MSG. That’s the Dolan way.

We see other teams get their young players to have more early success by putting them in the best position to succeed. There’s plenty of examples. I’m too tired to bother. Why was Kravtsov treated differently? He looked like he belonged in his stint last Spring. The skating is better than either Kakko or Lafreniere, who still need work. It’s perplexing.

I hate doing this after a nice win. But this blog isn’t here to paint all roses like others. While I’m happy with the team, questions remain about the organization when it comes to development. I expect Chychrun to be a Ranger. It’s been rumored for a while. Unless they can get more out of Kakko, Lafreniere and Chytil, who finally was starting to play better on the wing, they will need to add a proven scoring right wing.

There’s two months until the trade deadline. Also when Spring hits. I can’t wait.

Three Stars 🌟 🤩 ✨️

3rd 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, NYR 3 assists, 7 for 15 on face-offs, +3 in 18:46, very impactful

2nd 🌟 Jacob Trouba, NYR 2 goals plus 🍎, 8 SOG, +4 in 24:22

1st 🌟 Chris Kreider, NYR 3 goals for 5th career hat trick, tied for league lead with career best 29, assist, +3 in 18:49

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Strong quotes from Zibanejad and Kreider tell the story of an ugly Rangers’ loss to legit Hurricanes

Two nights removed from a strong come from behind win over Toronto, the Rangers were listless in a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes that wasn’t as close as the final score. They were dominated for long stretches by a legit playoff contender who taught them a lesson.

The play was so lopsided on the first period that the Rangers barely registered any real shots on Freddie Andersen. The official shot total was four. But half came off dump ins. Those don’t really count.

While they could do nothing against the very fast attacking Canes at five-on-five, the Carolina hosts had no trouble coming at the Rangers in waves. It didn’t matter that Gerard Gallant opted to start Alex Georgiev in Raleigh. The loss wasn’t about the goalie. But rather how dominant the Hurricanes were.

It was a point not lost on Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Even though they each had a goal and assist with Zibanejad getting another on the power play while Kreider got number 26 on a rebound, both veteran leaders were very truthful about their opponent.

“I don’t feel like we got up to the level we needed to,” Zibanejad explained after his first line was so ineffective that Gallant benched Kaapo Kakko in favor of Ryan Reaves to add more grit. “This was maybe the best team we’ve played against, they took advantage of our mistakes.” 

He wasn’t kidding. The Hurricanes are a very tough team who can aggressively forecheck you to death with their speed, skill and superb passing. Add in the grit and depth they possess and it can be a long night if you’re not on your A game. They hit the Blueshirts right in the mouth like a well oiled football team which is ironic with Divisional Weekend on tap.

One of the big storylines was Tony DeAngelo facing his former team for the first time since the off ice incident with Georgiev that lead to his dismissal last year. Unlike his stint with the Rangers where he did have on ice success, DeAngelo is all business now. However, I’m sure he absolutely loved every second of his big game against his former team.

DeAngelo has moved on from last year’s controversy. He now fits perfectly while teamed with Jaccob Slavin on the Canes’ top pair. He’s seamlessly replaced Dougie Hamilton for much cheaper. How did Tony D do? He was the game’s First Star with two assists and a power play goal that was highlighted by an on ice postgame interview where the fans chanted his name. Not bad for a guy they ran out of town for ridiculous stuff that had nothing to do with hockey.

As if to confirm that he’s a key part of the success of his new team, DeAngelo let go of a point shot that Vincent Trocheck redirected for a power play goal to give them a 1-0 lead. The Canes not only can beat you at five-on-five where they got four of their six goals on 34 shots. But also on the man-advantage as well. They were a perfect 2-for-2.

With the Rangers in witness protection during an ungodly stretch where they didn’t have a single shot on goal for 14 minutes, the Canes pounced on an Adam Fox mistake in the neutral zone to go up two. With Sebastian Aho closing fast, Fox lost his balance and then the puck. Aho turned it into a two-on-one with rookie Seth Jarvis, who was able to receive a nice feed and easily beat Georgiev for a 2-0 Carolina lead at 17:21.

By the time Jacob Trouba sent a long shot on goal before the buzzer sounded, the Rangers were down two and outshot 11-4 while being thoroughly outplayed. It was one of the worst periods of the season. This came in Game 41 at the halfway mark against a serious contender. The Canes aren’t the Leafs, who were called “soft,” by their coach Sheldon Keefe.

The start of the second wasn’t any better. Off a face-off win from Steven Lorentz, the puck came back to DeAngelo at the right point. On a set play, he passed across to the middle for a one-timer from former Ranger Jesper Fast that whistled by Georgiev with traffic in front. It was 3-0 Carolina at the 3:33 mark of the second period.

Continuing to have their way and seriously threaten to blow the doors off the shell shocked Blueshirts, they had some close calls to making it a four-goal lead. But Georgiev hung in there while his team defense really struggled. The play up to that point was so lopsided. Henrik Lundqvist spoke between periods about being more physical. Slow the Canes down.

It took a clean hit from Barclay Goodrow on Teravainen to turn the momentum. He landed a shoulder to chest hit that sent Teravainen to the ice. Jesperi Kotkaniemi immediately stepped in and got into it with Goodrow. Instead of receiving the instigator which both Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti harped on, Kotkaniemi was assessed a double minor for roughing while Goodrow got two minutes. It still resulted in a power play.

The Rangers needed just six seconds to score on it. All it took was Kreider out-working the Canes to a loose puck. He retrieved it and moved it up for Artemi Panarin, who then threaded a perfect pass across for a wicked Zibanejad one-timer past Andersen for his eighth power play goal at 6:35. It isn’t hard to picture both Zibanejad and Kreider each getting 20 PPG by season’s end. That’s how good the power play is. Kreider has 13 already. It’s possible the way both are going.

Buoyed on by the Zibanejad tally, the Blueshirts picked it up. It was at this point that Reaves replaced an ineffective Kakko on the top line. Kakko wasn’t getting it done. I think Gallant wanted to use a different look. Reaves is much bigger and stronger. He brings a physical element. That line hadn’t done much. After missing a few shifts, Kakko found himself on the fourth line. Gallant later indicated it wasn’t a punishment. Kakko was eventually returned to the first line.

It’s true that both Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere haven’t done enough at this early stage of their careers. For high draft picks who were thought to be no-brainers, neither is there yet. Kakko remains stuck on five goals while Lafreniere has eight. But it’s only Kakko who plays in the top six. Lafreniere is playing a different role on the third line. At what point will the team decide it’s time for an upgrade? I doubt either are going down.

On what was a disastrous shift for the second line and top pair, they got caught running around like chickens in their end. A no no against the Aho line. With the Canes playing Harlem Globetrotters of keep away, eventually a loose puck came to Aho in front. Neither Fox or Dryden Hunt could check him. It was an easy goal that made it 4-1 at 14:46. Hunt simply cannot be in the top six.

A failed power play really hurt. Gallant burned his timeout to keep his top unit out. Unfortunately, they absolutely did nothing. Not one shot on Andersen at a critical point. I thought he would’ve been better off sending out the second unit. Whatever.

Even worse was the final minute. Somehow, the fourth line and third pair got caught on by the Canes’ second scoring unit. It wasn’t long before all five skaters were gassed with neither Patrik Nemeth nor Braden Schneider able to move. While they got caught behind the net, Andrei Svechnikov fed the open slot where an unchecked Nino Niederreiter buried it for a 5-1 Canes’ lead at 19:32. It would’ve been nice if a forward could’ve took him. Nothing doing.

“Carolina commits to what they’re doing, they do it quickly, they’re predictable for one another so they’re going from high-to-low and they know they’re getting pucks to the net and they do that over and over,” Kreider told reporters afterwards.

“As wingers we have to do a better job getting out into lanes and not only blocking shots but discouraging them, especially when we know what’s coming. That’s going to make it easier on our D to break the puck out. Not getting hemmed in helps, too. That’s something we have to go back and look at but I think we all could have done a better job in our own zone.” 

To their credit, they didn’t give up. They never do. A Kreider power play goal on a rebound from Fox and Zibanejad made it 5-2 at 5:09 of the third period. Then, Greg McKegg got his first versus one of his former teams when he put in a rebound at 6:23 from Reaves and K’Andre Miller. Suddenly, it was a 5-3 game.

There was enough time left. But a furious Rod Brind’Amour took a timeout and lit into his team. After a few Ranger opportunities including one from a flying Kreider, they settled down and played better defensively. The closest the Rangers got to making it 5-4 was Schneider, who took a Panarin feed and just missed getting his second goal. For a 20-year old rookie, he reads the play well and knows when to jump in. He was a positive in an otherwise forgettable night.

It was with over three minutes left that Lafreniere took a needless slashing minor. Frustrated as he was in the box, that feeling increased when DeAngelo put the exclamation point on his three-point performance by blasting his seventh by Georgiev with 2:33 left. That made it 6-3. He gave the Rangers bench the business. I don’t blame him.

It had to feel extra special to have that kind of game versus the team that threw him away. I wonder what he was thinking after he scored on Georgiev. We’ll never know. He took the high road in the on I’ve interview and said he loved that team. He still has some close friends on this side. I would bet Strome is one of them. At the end of the day, he’s a good player. I’m glad he’s moved on.

I saw quite a few ridiculous assertions from unrealistic fans who have the Rangers winning the Cup. DeAngelo was extra motivated due to Georgiev starting over Igor Shesterkin. This loss is on Gallant. Yada. Yada. Yada. Shut the hell up! Can some of these delusional buffoons with their ridiculous hot takes ever give the opponent some credit?!?!?!?!

Carolina is a very good team. I think they’re the best overall that I’ve seen. If both Zibanejad and Kreider can see it, it really makes one wonder WTF these people are smoking. You win and lose as a T-E-A-M. Friday wasn’t their night. It wasn’t mine either. Some idiot punk side wiped my parked car in the shopping center. I couldn’t believe it.

Here’s the point. Bad losses happen. It’s a sport. The Rangers can rebound tonight against the Coyotes with Shesterkin. So do things like the horrible luck I had with my car. Thankful for the two young ladies who told me about it. I’m fine. The car will get fixed. It’s not the end of the world. Shit happens.

I’d like to take this time to send my condolences to the two families of NYPD officers who passed away tonight. It’s a horrible and very sad tragedy. 😥 Very upsetting for New York City. This has to end. Clean up New York!

I also want to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Clark Gillies. 😥 He was a great New York Islander who played on all four Stanley Cup teams. He sounded similar to Adam Graves. Gillies passed away at age 67 following the Islanders’ win over Arizona. A Hall Of Famer whose number is retired, that’s a tough loss for the Islanders family. They might be our number one rival. But the hockey community is an extended family. Best wishes to his family and former teammates.

Not going to bother with the three stars. It’s late enough. I wasn’t even sure I’d do a game story after what happened. I had to wait for the cops to come so I could speak with them to decide what was the best cause of action. Too bad they didn’t get that punk’s license plate. Oh well.

We know the three Stars anyway. DeAngelo, Aho and pick one between Svechnikov and a few other Canes. They sent a message. The good thing is it happened now. The Rangers will see them three more times including March 20 and twice in April. Let’s hope they can learn from it.

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Hockey needs more players like Marchand

Brad Marchand is a polarizing star player for the Boston Bruins. Appropriately nicknamed The Rat due to his history of getting underneath opponents’ skin, he is a bundle of energy that you either love or hate.

There’s no in between with Marchand. A winning hockey player who is a big part of the Bruins success including scoring some big goals as a rookie during their march to the Stanley Cup in 2011, he knows how to push the envelope.

His in your face physical style has made him a fan favorite in Boston for a decade. A talented player who combines great skating with finesse, grit and skill, the 33-year old from Nova Scotia shows no signs of slowing down.

He entered Thursday night’s home game versus Washington leading the Bruins in scoring with 43 points (20-23-43). That includes penalty minutes (53). It wouldn’t be The Rat if he didn’t get into it with upset opponents. Sometimes, it’s gone overboard with some of his antics leading to injuries to players and suspensions. That’s why he’s hated by most opposing fans.

The thing about Marchand is he is the definition of a smart player who can deliver in the clutch. Whether it be with a huge goal or splendid pass to an open teammate, he is a game-breaker. With two shorthanded goals in ’21-22, nobody has scored more shorthanded goals than The Rat since he entered the league in ’09-10. He has 33 over that span.

As part of one of the game’s best scoring lines, Marchand is the straw that stirs the drink. It’s astonishing what he and Patrice Bergeron have accomplished along with premier finisher David Pastrnak. They have been referred to as the Perfection Line. While it isn’t the greatest nickname, it’s probably in reference to how dominant the cohesive trio can be at even strength. They can beat you off the rush or the forecheck while being relentless.

That kind of sums up Brad Marchand. It’s hard to believe he was a third round pick in ’06. Somehow, the Bruins stole him with pick number 71. It was a draft class that featured Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Jordan Staal, Phil Kessel, Claude Giroux and Erik Johnson who all went in the first round. So did Semyon Varlamov. Interestingly, the Bruins also selected Milan Lucic in the second round with pick 50. The picks of Lucic and Marchand along with getting Bergeron in Round Two at number 45 of the famed ’03 Draft helped shape Boston into one of the league’s elite teams.

That kind of advanced scouting helped the Original Six franchise break a four decade Cup drought when they came back to defeat the Canucks over seven games in 2011. They also had the clutch Tim Thomas in net making money saves en route to the Conn Smythe. Many people forget how great the two-time Vezina winner was for the B’s. His replacement became a former Toronto first round pick named Tuukka Rask, who they stole for Andrew Raycroft. Oops. If that doesn’t explain the Leafs, what will?

While Bergeron has been front and center since debuting as a teenager in ’03-04, Marchand is right behind as the third longest tenured Bruin with Rask rejoining the team recently. Gone are the days of Lucic terrorizing opponents with his tenacious style. He still plays in Calgary. Even fixture Zdeno Chara is no longer in Beantown. He’s now with the Islanders still keeping opponents honest at 45. Remarkable.

Be that as it may, a look at the current Bruins and it’s Marchand who’s their best player. That isn’t meant as disrespect towards Bergeron, whose remarkable two decade career will one day be recognized by the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Ditto for Pastrnak, who finally is on a tear having scored two more goals in a 4-3 home win over the Caps last night.

In that same game, Marchand was on the receiving end of a questionable hit from Washington’s Garnet Hathaway. As he skated for a loose puck in the corner, Hathaway caught Marchand in a prone position leveling him with a high hit into the boards. Fortunately, he wasn’t shaken up. However, he was seen favoring his shoulder on the Bruins bench. He left the game with an apparent upper body injury.

Ironically, the same Marchand who has a great personality off the ice, was in a great mood before the game. Following warm-ups, he took a fan’s phone and recorded a video message while heading back to the locker room. Here’s how it looked.

This is part of who he is. A true character, Marchand will let fans in on what he’s thinking. He was recently mic’d up for a TNT game. While doing a pregame interview with the studio, he spoke about having to be careful with the microphone. Then in the next breath candidly said, “Shit,” to laughter.

He is the kind of engaging personality the game can use more of. While most hockey players give standard blah responses to questions including Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, it’s the larger than life stars such as Alex Ovechkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Marchand who provide fans with more entertaining answers. Ditto for Ryan Reaves, who is a bundle of fun.

One wonders what will happen to that fan’s phone. They’ll get it back and probably include a surprise. Obviously, Marchand didn’t expect to get hurt. But injuries happen. Somehow, that wasn’t a boarding penalty on Hathaway, who does have a history. Instead, they gave him an interference minor due to the puck being gone. It looked like it could’ve been more.

One could argue that this time, the shoe is on the other foot. Especially given the type of player Marchand’s been. Let’s say he misses time due to the shoulder. Will Hathaway get off scot free? It’s very likely. They might not see it as a bad hit. But it wasn’t smart. That can be perceived as reckless.

Another area Marchand excels at is being the king of social media. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, he’s always good for some entertaining remarks. After the Bruins were blown out by the Hurricanes 7-1, the Carolina Hurricanes Twitter account were up to their old tricks. That prompted an interesting response from The Rat.

I love his openness. He is an equal opportunist. I find Marchand refreshing in a world that’s so quick to jump down the throats of big stars when they dare post something controversial to challenge the establishment. Take his view on the NHL pulling out of Beijing.

While I get why he feels that way due to where he is in his career, the league had no choice. Once so many games got postponed due to COVID issues, it became unrealistic for NHL participation in the Winter Games. Marchand made a point that he’d have gone anyway even if the NHL were still playing games due to Taxi Squads. He probably isn’t alone. Don’t forget Ovechkin wanted to go play for Russia a few years ago.

The unique part about Marchand is he is one of the best players. His production along with hockey awareness and grit make him a tough player. If he wasn’t The Rat, maybe he’d have been up for the Hart Trophy before. He sure is valuable to his team. It’s been his play along with Pastrnak that have helped Boston recover from a disappointing start.

As long as he continues to perform at a high level, one day Marchand should also make the Hockey Hall Of Fame. He’s a remarkable player who plays the game hard. He won’t always please everyone. But remains a star whose game is fun to watch. Just like his voice. Once a Rat, always The Rat 🐀.

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Reaves sparks comeback with two goals, Rangers prove a point with five unanswered in good win over Leafs

Ryan Reaves was made for moments like this. The larger than life veteran right wing provided the spark for a stirring Rangers 6-3 comeback win over the Maple Leafs on home ice. His two goals got a rusty team that hadn’t played since Saturday, back into it.

With familiar coach Gerard Gallant keeping the fourth line energizer out late for a possible first NHL hat trick, Reaves heard the chants of “Reavo, Reavo,” from happy fans at The Garden. It was well deserved. The game’s First Star got a loud ovation and then a postgame interview with the NHL On TNT. He enjoyed every moment of it.

In a game where they looked lost early on as the Leafs scored twice in the first few minutes, it really felt as if the Rangers would have one of those nights. For a team that got back to full strength with Alexis Lafreniere returning from protocol, it didn’t seem that they had it. Sloppy turnovers, undisciplined penalties that put them behind two right away.

If you wanted a turning point, perhaps it was the crucial penalty kill of a Reaves’ tripping minor that followed a Chris Kreider trip which led to an easy Mitch Marner power play goal. While a less than sharp Igor Shesterkin fought the puck to make some key stops, it really didn’t turn until a big shift from the fourth line.

After being outshot 7-0 and 9-1 early on, the Blueshirts got back on track thanks to a momentum turning shift from the fourth line of Reaves, Kevin Rooney and Greg McKegg. Interestingly, McKegg stayed in the lineup over Dryden Hunt, who was cleared to return. That’ll have to wait. On a rare forecheck, McKegg had a key hit and made the pass for a wide open Reaves that saw him score his first as a Ranger to pull within one at 12:52.

That goal in which an excited Reaves pumped his fists in the air, really woke up the building. They hadn’t had much to cheer for before then. Suddenly, it was the Rangers carrying the play. They outshot the Leafs 10-2 the rest of the period.

However, not before they got caught napping. On a shift from the Auston Matthews line, Marner transitioned the puck quickly to a driving Matthews who got off a soft backhand that Shesterkin let out a bad rebound right to Michael Bunting for a two-goal Leafs’ lead once again with 2:10 left. That could’ve been a back breaker. But a refocused Rangers didn’t allow it to be.

It would’ve been easy to throw their sticks up and not scratch and claw their way back. Especially in a first where Patrik Nemeth was taken off a puck and Ryan Lindgren threw the puck away causing an Ilya Mikheyev goal that put Toronto up at 2:44. They could’ve done the same after a bad Kreider minor that lead to John Tavares circling around K’Andre Miller and then William Nylander centering for a Marner power play goal for 2-0 at 3:30. Similar following the bitter end to the first on the rare Shesterkin gaffe that made it 3-1.

Not this team. Not under this coach. Not this year. Instead, the Blueshirts got right back in it through yeoman work and the steadying influence of Shesterkin. He only stopped the last 27 Toronto shots. That included some gigantic saves including a pair on breakaways with none better than his glove stop on Nylander at a huge point of the third.

With the top guns having issues getting going, it was obvious that the best line was the fourth. They forechecked and won all kinds of board and puck battles versus a good opponent. Even if the Leafs were missing key defenseman Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl, the Rangers had to take advantage of it. They hardly worked consistently in a discombobulated first where both sides were sloppy.

As if to prove a point, Reaves made a good defensive play to take away the puck inside the Toronto zone. That hustle would eventually lead to Reaves getting to a loose puck and surprising Jack Campbell with a wrist shot that caught him just off his near goalpost to sneak in for his second of the game at 2:58. Miller and Jacob Trouba picked up assists on the play that again made it a one-goal game.

Even as they were right back in it, the Rangers had to overcome their own mistakes. That included a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Not a penalty you want to take against the firepower of the Maple Leafs. Fortunately, the penalty kill kept the dangerous Leafs to the outside. Astonishingly, Shesterkin still had to come up with a tricky mask save on a long Matthews shot. Bookmark it. It was critical.

As the second moved on, the teams were playing an exciting style. It consisted of a lot of skating which led to scoring chances. One thing that was noticeable is Campbell was shaky. He made the saves, but was leaving rebounds. Shesterkin had a few tough ones, but his play got stronger as it went on. You felt that if the Rangers could get one more puck by Campbell and tie it, they’d win. They had the better goalie. No disrespect meant to Campbell, who’s been superb for the Leafs. They’d be nowhere without him. You could echo that for Igor and a couple of other big names in the league.

The Blueshirts finally got it tied thanks to one of their top lines. Behind the checking line, the play of the newly formed second line that features Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome and Fil Chytil were coming on throughout. In fact, Chytil got a chance on a power play. But Campbell made a glove save to deny him. He’s continued to look better since Gallant moved him off center. This experiment seems to be working so far.

On a forecheck with under three minutes left in the period, a Chytil keep allowed the play to continue. Eventually, Panarin kept it moving for Strome, who centered for a pinching Fox who scored the tying goal with 2:11 remaining. He went five-hole on Campbell for his sixth from Strome and Panarin at 17:49. The goal was the first for Fox since Dec. 4 versus Chicago. He was continuing to pile up points with assists. But sometimes, you need your top defenseman to pop a few. He sure got it done on Wednesday night.

Following the Fox tally, Strome was forced to take a slashing minor to prevent a potential Toronto goal that would’ve killed the momentum. So, the Leafs were back on the man-advantage. Thankfully, the penalty killers got it done including a 20-second carryover to start the deciding third period.

Buoyed by the intermission, the Leafs were better in the first part of the third. They were dictating play. That meant more work for Shesterkin, who had to contend with 17 Toronto shots. That included a couple of point blank denials with him recovering in time to stop a good chance in front. If there was a difference in the third, it was Shesterkin. He stood tall.

The stellar play from the athletic Russian netminder gave the Rangers a confidence boost. With the game still tied past the halfway mark, Panarin made a good read in the Leafs zone. He pulled up and found space. Then passed the puck for a pinching Lindgren, who got off a shot that was blocked by Nylander. The Rangers got a home bounce with the puck going right to Strome for the game-winner with 9:10 remaining in the third. It was his ninth.

After Mikheyev bumped into Shesterkin after a key stop, the Rangers went on the power play. They went 0 for 2. It was moments later that the game hung in the balance. Following having a shot blocked inside the blue line, Panarin got another opportunity. However, he made a poor pass that was easily intercepted and pushed forward to Nylander.

In what amounted to the save of the game, Shesterkin stole a goal by getting his glove up enough to keep the Nylander shot out. Igor chants followed. He was so calm, cool and collected on the breakaway. That kind of confidence can really help a team. He didn’t have his best game. But when the chips were down, Shesterkin was gigantic.

Earlier on, Kreider got a breakaway. But he was stopped by Campbell who denied his wrist shot try. That was an excellent save. On what had been a relatively quiet night for the top line, Mika Zibanejad won an offensive draw following a Toronto icing. The puck came back for a Trouba shot that went right to Kreider for a layup at 15:33. His team best 25th gave him four goals in the last three games. Only Alex Ovechkin and Leon Draisaitl have more. What a season for Kreider. It’s well deserved.

Right after the goal that made it 5-3, the Leafs thought they had one on the next shift. A puck banked off Matthews and past Shesterkin to initially cut it to 5-4. However, the TNT video replay clearly showed a distinct kicking motion from Matthews. He kicked it with his right skate. Then attempted to get his stick on it. A clear indication it was a kick. The officials quickly reviewed it and overturned the goal. No goal.

The only thing left was whether or not Reaves would make it a memorable night. Could he get the hat trick. He had one shot at it prior. On a shift where he deflected a puck before Rooney was stopped by Campbell. It’ll have to wait. He got the game’s First Star and the interview which was hilarious.

With Campbell lifted for an extra attacker, Zibanejad won a defensive draw back to Fox who fired down into a vacated net for his second of the night. That made it 6-3 with 2:24 to go. A great way to finish off what started out as an ugly game. Instead, it turned out to be quite a night for Reaves and the Blueshirts.

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Hockey’s back…if you want it

To a degree today’s Devils game felt like Opening Day II, given the fact we only had one game in the previous ten days due to what’s hopefully the tail end of our COVID outbreak, and Canada building postponements. Plus the fact that the league announced their revised rest-of-season schedule today means at least now there’s a clear path going forward. A path towards what is another story, for the Devils it’s clearly another lost season – especially given the separation between the top eight and everyone else in the East. I was hopeful that a home game against Arizona with the team pumped to be back on the ice would at least lead to a big performance for one night, hence my second appearance at the Rock in the last month (and likely my last for another few weeks after the events of tonight’s game).

If today was another Opening Day it would go right smack along 2010’s meltdown against Dallas and 2019’s even more epic meltdown against Winnipeg in Devils opener infamy. There’s no other way to describe a game where the Devils outshot a bad Arizona team 20-2 yet only were able to get a 1-0 lead out of it, and within the next four Coyote shots on net they found themselves behind 3-1. I admit, I wasn’t all that concerned after the end of the first period when we outshot the Yotes 12-1 and only gave up the one shot on net in the final two minutes of the period. Normally that kind of period without ending the game is death to a hockey team, but silly me I actually still had a good feeling about this game. Call it Opening Day-esque optimism, I suppose. Maybe it was also due to the fact I actually saw a power play goal from Nico Hischier – what a novelty!

When my fatalism really started to kick in was when the shot total mounted early in the second period without us getting so much as a second goal. That’s when I half kiddingly started to wonder what the biggest negative shot disparity was from a team that actually won a game. For a while it looked as if I may get my answer after another brilliant performance from Mackenzie Blackwood, giving up three goals in the seven and a half minutes it took the Coyotes to get four more lousy shots on net. Seeing his performance against some random dude who I never heard of before today, who’s now stolen more games in one night than Blackwood has all year, just sheds further light on our short and long-term goaltending question mark.

Almost as bad as Blackwood’s performance was the fact Lindy Ruff didn’t even think about pulling him in a situation that’s pretty much an automatic goalie pull – three goals allowed on six shots in a game that was being dominated till then. I only briefly resisted the temptation to self-hook myself out of the arena – though it was only to stay long enough for the second intermission to give the team well-deserved boos off the ice after their early ineptness and their team-wide no-show following the first goal allowed – before I peaced out for the night. I got home just in time to see the final buzzer of a 4-1 defeat where predictably, nothing good happened in the third period.

I’m tired of harping on this but I need to keep harping on it until it actually changes…the lack of accountability anywhere in this organization is mind-boggling. From Tom Fitzgerald’s cliched nonsense about ‘the answers being in the room’ to the coaching staff continuing to run an ineffective Blackwood out there without so much as putting him on notice that this kind of lousy play can’t continue or we’ll find someone else out there to replace you. I’d have loved to hear something from the head coach after tonight or any number of dead-fish efforts akin to Sheldon Keefe eviscerating the Leafs tonight after their loss to the Rangers.

It’s not just Lindy though, the players have been for the most part coddled around here under John Hynes and Alain Nasreddine too. Other than Jesper Bratt anyway, and he’s only been the team’s best player this year. So I guess tough love was good for him but not anyone else. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising though, given ownership cares more about its next gambling sponsorship than the product on the ice, and there’s pretty much no independent local media to hold the team directly to account either. As distasteful as the confrontation between Jim Matheson and Leon Draisatl was (see Derek’s previous post), it would be nice to at least have some line of tougher questioning of the players and head coach after games like this. If nothing else at least have smarter questioning, like why do your two defensemen frequently jump to the same side of the ice in your own zone? At least smarter questions would make the fanbase more educated but this franchise – which doesn’t seem to worry about the product on the ice – gets a bit thin-skinned toward any form of criticism.

What might be the most worrisome is that I’m pretty much through giving a crap about this team, my reaction to the meltdown in the second period was literal laughter at all three goals. Tonight may well have been their last chance to re-engage me for the season, but now it’s back to being a ticket liquidation sale for whatever pennies I can get on the dollar and turning on something else. Having a dead team isn’t exactly going to help the atmosphere in the second half of the season, regardless if you just want to watch hockey for the sake of watching it. Neither is having half the concession stands closed, which made the lines at the other half ridiculously long considering there were barely 10000 people announced in the building. But hey you can bet on PlayUp from anywhere on your phone!

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Draisaitl gets into it with reporter, flashbacks to Tortorella vs Brooks, Oilers issues

During a press conference on an off day, Leon Draisaitl got into it with a reporter. The former league MVP who ranks second in scoring with 54 points (26-28-54), didn’t particularly care for Jim Matheson’s line of questioning yesterday.

After the Oilers superstar gave direct answers to initial questions regarding the team’s struggles, the interview session went off the rails. It was due to Matheson. A Hall Of Fame writer who’s covered the sport a long time, he started trying to bait Draisaitl. It lead to this heated exchange.

When asked on what the Oilers needed to fix, the 26-year old German mentioned that they have to get better at everything. However, that wasn’t enough of an answer for the testy Matheson. His follow-up question was a clear indication that he wanted Draisaitl to expand on what specifically needs to improve to start winning games.

Visibly frustrated by the question, Draisaitl said, “You have all the answers.” It was a sarcastic reply to a veteran reporter who isn’t well liked by Oilers players. Apparently, that response infuriated the salty Matheson. He then asked why Draisaitl was so pissy. The Edmonton star wisely took the high road.

Even more puzzling was Matheson indicating that he didn’t like the answer Draisaitl gave. So, he then asked one final nauseating question. Is it good when Draisaitl visibly shows his frustration during a game letting an opponent know he’s upset? The response was classic.

“It’s great. For sure,” he sarcastically said in a Canadian tone. It was the perfect way to respond to such a click bait question from a snarky reporter who lost his cool. Matheson wanted to become the story. Of course, the interview went viral on social media with plenty of responses from the hockey community.

My view is that sometimes, the media goes too far. We can flashback to Larry Brooks and former Rangers coach John Tortorella. He wrote a piece mocking Wade Redden that wasn’t in good taste. Redden stepped in and defended a teammate. As we know, Redden didn’t pan out for the Rangers after getting a big contract from then Team President and GM Glen Sather. However, he was a good teammate and never once reacted negatively.

That resulted in the classic exchange above. Hard to believe that was 11 years ago. I read the Brooks column. Seeing Tortorella defend his player was great. Coaches should have their players’ backs. Even if Redden struggled as a Ranger. He was justified in calling out Brooks, who acted arrogant during the postgame interview with other reporters present.

Of course, that wasn’t the only time Brooks and Tortorella got into it. When he was still coach of the Lightning, who he guided to a Stanley Cup in 2004, Tortorella again got annoyed with Brooks during a postgame interview. Here is the exchange.

In that one, I don’t blame Brooks who was there covering the series between the Devils and Lightning. At times, Tortorella could shutdown questions when it came to specifics. Here, he’s being asked what did his team do? He chose not to answer it. The thing is while other reporters moved on, the antagonistic Brooks couldn’t. That lead to Tortorella telling him to leave in different terms. It made for a funny moment that still is replayed.

The media have a job to do when they cover teams. That is understood. However, when you see some of the questions a Matheson or Brooks can ask, it can cause some testy responses. That’s due to their persistence. It shouldn’t get so heated.

Edmonton went from getting off to a great start thanks in large part to the dynamic duo of Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. The two best players in the world had the Oilers rolling despite not having the best goaltending. Eventually, injuries to starter Mike Smith have really hurt them. Mikko Koskinen hasn’t performed well. Now, they’re on young third stringer Stuart Skinner. The defense has struggled along with the supporting cast.

They’ve gone from being first in their division to being out of playoff position at the present time. Can the Oilers recover? They’ll have to acquire a goalie. What will veteran GM Ken Holland do between now and March 21? Will coach Dave Tippett hang onto his job if they keep losing games? The Oilers have been very patient so far. Is their patience running out?

Making the postseason is a must for the franchise. They can’t waste another year of McDavid and Draisaitl, who both got off to unbelievable starts. Of course, they rank among the leaders in scoring with Draisaitl and McDavid trailing the ageless Alex Ovechkin for the league lead. Jonathan Huberdeau has caught McDavid with a torrid stretch. Each are tied for third with 53 points.

Does Edmonton have enough to make the playoffs? They added former Maple Leaf forward Zach Hyman. After a good start, he’d struggled mightily. Following Draisaitl and McDavid in team scoring are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi. The rest of the secondary scoring is mind numbing.

They do have three defensemen capable of contributing including Evan Bouchard, Darnell Nurse and veteran Tyson Barrie. However, team defense is an issue along with stopping pucks. They’ll go as far as McDavid and Draisaitl take them. Expect them to get hot again. They’re too dominant not to.

One wonders why the media in some markets feel they can ask whatever they want without any repercussion. If you saw the entire clip between Matheson and Draisaitl, then you will understand what I mean. It didn’t start out badly. But the entitled Matheson pushed the issue. He got what he deserved.

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The Worst Trades in Rangers History: 3/14/96 Ray Ferraro to the Kings in a horrible seven-player deal

Over two weeks ago, I replied to a Tweet from well respected former NHL player turned successful hockey analyst Ray Ferraro. A very good player whose career proved to be one of the better gems of the 1982 NHL Draft.

Selected in the fifth round at number 88 by the Hartford Whalers, Ferraro proved he could make up for his smallish 5-9 size with good skating, skill and intelligence to go with hard work. In the first part of his NHL career, Ferraro scored 20 goals or better for the Whalers during five of his first six seasons spent in Connecticut.

That included a career best 47 assists to go with 30 goals and 77 points in his second season for the Whale. By age 24, he hit the 40 goal mark when he netted 41 to go with 35 assists for 76 points in 80 games during ’88-89. The breakdown was 11 power play goals and 30 even strength with a career best seven game-winners.

In fact, the Whalers made the playoffs in all but one of his seasons spent at Hartford. That included a tough second round series loss in the Adams Division Finals to the Canadiens. A closely fought series that the Habs won thanks to then rookie Claude Lemieux in sudden death at the Montreal Forum. Had they prevailed, who knows. Maybe Hartford also gets by the Rangers and plays for the Stanley Cup.

It was during Ferraro’s seventh year that Hartford made a big mistake. On Nov. 13, 1990, they traded him to the Islanders in exchange for defenseman Doug Crossman. Nothing against Crossman, who had a solid career. But he was near the end and strictly a rental for the Whalers, who after qualifying for the postseason were ousted in the Adams Division Semifinals by bitter nemesis Boston. Crossman didn’t play in the six-game series loss and left for Detroit.

Meanwhile, Ferraro became a fixture on Long Island. Although he spent only five seasons there, he was a reliable second center. First, behind Pat LaFontaine and then Pierre Turgeon, who came over from Buffalo as part of a blockbuster trade involving seven players on Oct. 25, 1991. Interestingly, Benoit Hogue and Uwe Krupp became key players for the Islanders along with centerpiece Turgeon. He and Ferraro eventually formed a good 1-2 punch at center.

After only going 19-16-35 over 61 games in his first season at Nassau Coliseum, Ferraro rebounded nicely by posting a 40-40-80 line with a plus-25 in 80 contests during ’91-92. Although they missed the playoffs, some good young talent was being assembled to help a core that featured Turgeon, Ferraro, Derek King, Hogue, Steve Thomas, Pat Flatley, Krupp, Tom Kurvers, Jeff Norton and David Volek. That included Scott Lachance, Vladimir Malakhov and a tough as nails kid from Lithuania named Darius Kasparaitis. There also were Marty McInnis and Travis Green.

Although he only got into 46 games during the ’92-93 regular season, Ferraro would be instrumental in helping lead the upstart Islanders to a pair of upsets over the Capitals and two-time defending champion Pens to reach the Conference Finals. After Dale Hunter’s deliberate cheap shot injured Turgeon following a goal, Ferraro took over as the leader. He would score a team best 13 goals during the run and set up seven more to total 20 points in 18 games. That included two gigantic overtime winners against the Caps in Games 3 and 4 of that intense second round series at a raucous Nassau Coliseum.

He was phenomenal during that playoff run. If he didn’t have the respect of his peers before, he certainly earned it with that virtuoso performance. After spending one more season on Long Island, Ferraro signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Manhattan rival Rangers. My initial reaction was shock. But here was a good player who could help the roster for ’95-96.

In an interesting off-season that also saw Team President and General Manager Neil Smith trade Sergei Zubov and Petr Nedved to the Penguins in exchange for Ulf Samuelsson and Luc Robitaille, the changes made were a bit puzzling. On one hand, they added a high character second line center in Ferraro to play behind Mark Messier. On the other, they traded away ’94 Stanley Cup champion Zubov, who was a key part of that team. While I liked getting the proven Robitaille, I didn’t understand the rationale for dealing the future Hall Of Fame defenseman. At the time, there were other off ice issues which were probably a factor in the deal.

Another strange move was signing former Devil Bruce Driver to help fill the void left by Zubov. Although I respected Driver, it was obvious he couldn’t replace what Zubov brought. Especially on the power play. Samuelsson was brought in to beef up the blue line. A slight overreaction to losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Legion of Doom Flyers. Can you even imagine acquiring players from three of your closest division rivals now? It would never happen.

As much as I disliked the Zubov part of the trade with Pittsburgh, I was looking forward to seeing what Robitaille could do. He was one of the game’s best ever scoring left wings. Most of it came while starring for the Kings where he produced at a record clip while teamed with Wayne Gretzky. Now, Lucky Luc would fill a role on the second line with Ferraro and Alexei Kovalev. It had good potential to improve team scoring behind a strong top line featuring Messier, Adam Graves and Pat Verbeek.

With two-way pivot Sergei Nemchinov still around for the third line along with rookie Niklas Sundstrom and ’94 hero Stephane Matteau, the Blueshirts were formidable. Especially with Brian Leetch patrolling a blue line that still featured Jeff Beukeboom, Kevin Lowe and Alexander Karpovtsev along with Samuelsson and Driver added. They had the reliable duo of Mike Richter and Glenn Healy in net. There was a lot to like despite the subtraction of Zubov.

For most of the ’95-96 season, the Rangers were playing up to expectations. The trio of Messier, Graves and Verbeek were producing at a great clip. In fact, both Messier and Verbeek each scored over 40 goals. With Graves riding shotgun to provide another strong season and Ferraro fitting in well alongside Robitaille and Kovalev, it looked like this team could compete for a Stanley Cup.

While Matteau never could live up to the hype after his memorable playoff performance in ’94, he was dealt to the Blues for Ian Laperriere. A younger center who played with high energy. Although he didn’t score much, Laperriere was becoming a fan favorite due to his big hits and willingness to scrap. If only his Rangers’ career had lasted more than 28 games. Perplexing stuff.

With the Blueshirts, Ferraro was having a good season. He had scored 25 goals with 29 assists for a total of 54 points and plus-13 rating in 65 games. Even skeptics took to him. He was a winning hockey player who worked hard to produce. Ferraro was a fast skater who made things happen. So, it was a good fit. He was working out well. Then came the mind boggling trade out of nowhere on March 14, 1996.

Having already added solid checker Bill Berg and former Canuck Sergio Momesso from Toronto, Smith pulled the trigger on a seven-player blockbuster trade with the Kings that didn’t make any sense. He packaged Ferraro, Laperriere, Nathan Lafayette and promising defenseman Mattias Norstrom with a fourth round pick to Los Angeles for veterans Jari Kurri, Marty McSorley and Shane Churla.

My first reaction was similar to Trader Neil getting rid of Zubov on a hot summer day in ’95. Why? They had just given up their steady second line center who was playing well with Robitaille and Kovalev for former Edmonton Oiler Jari Kurri. At one time, he was considered one of the greatest finishers as well as a tremendous two-way player. However, by that point of his outstanding career, Kurri was near the end. While I respected his obvious resume, it didn’t make sense. To his credit, he performed better in the playoffs.

As for McSorley, he had a reputation of a huge hitter who could flatten opponents with heavy checks and fight. He was tough and had size along with toughness. It was obvious what the Rangers were going for here. Another former Oiler who won with Messier in the 80’s before fitting in well with the Gretzky Kings, he was a disaster in the Big Apple. Some players just aren’t meant to play here. Unfortunately, McSorley’s Rangers stint was short-lived. The less said about it, the better.

Interestingly enough, Shane Churla actually was a solid addition to the fourth line. Along with Darren Langdon, he helped replace popular enforcer Joey Kocur, who they dealt to Vancouver for Kay Whitmore. Seriously. For parts of two years, Churla finished checks and dropped the gloves. Ironically, his only two goals as a Ranger came in the ’96 postseason. He contributed more than McSorley, who only got into four games before departing for the Sharks in free agency.

Following the deal, the Rangers weren’t the same team. As if to confirm it, they got humiliated by the Pens on March 24, 1996. They skated circles around them and easily won the game 8-2 at MSG on Dad’s birthday. No. We weren’t there thankfully. But I distinctly remember that game being embarrassing. They had already started to head in the wrong direction losing two of three following that awful trade. Pens bust Alek Stojanov scored. They got him from Vancouver for future star Markus Naslund. Oops.

After looking to have straightened out with three straight wins, the Rangers concluded the regular season by losing their last five and six of seven to drop to second in the division. It would prove costly.

Although they dusted themselves off the mat after losing the first two games on home ice to the underdog Canadiens by rallying to take the opening round series in six games, the Blueshirts drew the supremely skilled Pens in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It was a mismatch.

The game-breaking speed and skill of dynamic duo Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr was too much to overcome. After splitting a pair at the Igloo, it became a two-man show. The combination of Lemieux and Jagr took apart the slower Blueshirts. They absolutely dominated the series which the Pens won in five. Number 66 and 68 combined for 15 goals. Poetically, both Zubov and Nedved had the same amount of points (5) as Messier.

If you don’t think he had some input on that awful trade, you probably believe in the tooth fairy. It had his fingerprints all over it. He also hated Nedved the one season he came over from St. Louis as part of the compensation for Mike Keenan, who took Esa Tikkanen and Doug Lidster with him. Ironically, Nedved would have a better second act on Broadway. However, he wasn’t a good two-way player and those teams were a tire fire during the Dark Ages. Too bad it cost Kovalev, who predictably fulfilled his potential playing in Pittsburgh with Jagr, Martin Straka and Robert Lang.

As for Ferraro, he continued to be a good player for the remainder of his career. While there were some tough times in LA once they traded Gretzky to the Blues before he famously teamed up with Messier once again to help lead the Rangers to one final run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Ferraro would fare better with the then expansion Atlanta Thrashers.

In fact, during the ’00-01 season, he led the team in scoring with 29 goals and 47 assists for 76 points. The man who would affectionately become known to hockey fans as Chicken Parm due to working with John Buccigross and Barry Melrose on ESPN’S NHL2Nite, centered the Thrashers’ top line that included vets Donald Audette and Andrew Brunette. He recorded two hat tricks including the 11th and final one of his career on Feb. 13, 2001 versus Buffalo. He also converted on his only penalty shot that season when he scored in the third period against goalie Arturs Irbe on Feb. 21, 2001 during a 6-3 loss at Carolina.

In his final season, he played in 61 games before being dealt to the Blues for one more playoff push. Ferraro produced well down the stretch of ’01-02. He posted six goals and four helpers for 10 points in 15 games. His last postseason saw St. Louis reach the Western Conference Semifinals where they were eliminated by the eventual champion Red Wings in five. In 10 playoff games, Ferraro tallied three assists.

He retired at 37 following the conclusion of the ’01-02 season. For his 18-year NHL career, Ferraro registered 408 goals with 490 assists for 898 points in 1,258 games. The 408 goals place him in the top 100 all-time. That included 278 even strength goals which rank 96th. His 130 power play goals are 86th.

Ferraro had a very good career with six different teams. While much of his success came with the Whalers along with the most memorable with the Islanders, he was a good Ranger for the one season he played before the untimely trade. A trade that is one of the worst in franchise history. It might not be on the level of Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge. But it definitely ruined what might’ve been a memorable season. Instead, we’re left wondering what could’ve been.

Norstrom would go onto a solid career mostly with LA playing a mean style that would’ve been appreciated in NYC. Laperriere carved out a nice career for himself including in Philadelphia where he remains to this day as the coach of the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Kurri would spend two more seasons in the NHL with Anaheim and Colorado where he recorded his 600th career goal. He once held the record for most goals, assists and points by a European-born and trained player with 601 goals, 797 assists and 1,398 points. However, Jagr passed him in all three categories. Fellow Finn Teemu Selanne passed him in goals while Nicklas Lidstrom eclipsed Kurri in assists. He’s currently the GM and owner of Jokerit in the KHL.

McSorley spent four more seasons in the NHL with San Jose, Edmonton and Boston before his career ended on a horrible stick-swinging incident in which he injured then Canuck Donald Brashear. He was suspended for the remainder of the ’99-00 season. The incident lead to McSorley being charged and convicted of assault by a judge in British Columbia. He was given 18 months of probation. It increased his NHL suspension until February 21, 2001. After playing in 14 games with IHL Grand Rapids, he retired. He coached the Springfield Falcons in the AHL from 2002 to 2004. He now is an analyst on Sportsnet in Canada and still attends Kings games.

It’s strange how things turned out. When I look at how successful Ferraro is in broadcasting due to his engaging personality and willingness to tell it like it is, it is nice to see him stay in hockey as an analyst. He didn’t have to respond to my Tweet. But it always didn’t sit right with me how he was traded. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be the last player the Rangers mishandled.

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Will Kakko ever be a consistent goal scorer? Issues facing the Rangers as first half wraps up

The scouting reports were glowing. Many hockey pundits felt very strongly that then prospect Kaapo Kakko would become a good finisher at the NHL level.

“Kaapo Kakko is a very good player,” said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button following an impressive run to help Finland win at the 2019 World Championships. He posted six goals and an assist. “We saw what he did at the World Championships. That’s just one sample size of him. He’s done very well, he’s got very good skills and the ability to impact the game in a very different way than [fellow top prospect Jack Hughes].”

Entering that hyped 2019 NHL Draft, the consensus was even that Kakko could challenge Jack Hughes for the top pick. The Devils chose the playmaking American Hughes, who was a center. Since that decision, he’s made improvements every year. In his third season, Hughes has proven he can be a first line center. His 20 points (9-11-20) over 20 games on a struggling team without a proven finisher show the growth and maturity of an emerging star.

When the Rangers grabbed the Finnish Kakko with the second pick, they were only too happy to get a consolation prize who was considered to be a future 35 to 40 goal scorer. Given his size and preference to play on the right wing as opposed to the middle, the organization had every belief Kakko would become the player many touted for having a complete game.

Aside from scoring the golden goal to lift Finland over USA for the U20 World Junior Championship in 2019, Kakko performed well for TPS in Liiga back home. In an elite professional league, he scored 22 goals with 16 assists in 45 games. The 22 tallies surpassed Aleksander Barkov for a new record by a draft eligible player. There was a lot of cause for excitement.

“When you look at Kakko, he’s so strong, he’s so smart, he’s so good around the net and, really, we’ve seen a huge ascendence from him,” Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News said in the same draft piece that appeared on the Devils official website. “I think he’s going to be a force on the wing. I think he’s a player who can go right to the NHL and there’s a lot of upside there.”

It wasn’t like he was receiving accolades from people who weren’t considered knowledgeable on top prospects. TSN insider Bob McKenzie had Kakko ranked second among skaters behind Hughes for the ’19 Draft. Most believed in what the forward was capable of at the next level. He played professionally in Finland. This is the same league that produced Barkov, who’s one of the game’s best players. A great all around top center with the contending Panthers, Barkov has a Selke to his credit and is a terrific player.

Stardom might not have come right away. But Barkov took positive steps while being helped along by NHL legend Jaromir Jagr, who played on the Florida top line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha. Now, both Huberdeau and Barkov are two of the game’s best players on a very deep team that can score at any moment. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cats do in the loaded Atlantic Division that features the two-time champion Lightning, Maple Leafs and Bruins.

When it comes to the development of Kakko, it hasn’t gone smoothly on Broadway. After a forgettable first year where he only put up 10 goals and 13 assists in 66 games with a minus-26 rating, he still struggled in the scoring department in Year Two. Under former coach David Quinn, who mostly used him on the third line, Kakko tallied nine goals and eight assists while showing improvement defensively with a plus-3 rating in 48 contests. It was seen as a positive sign that maybe Year Three would be a breakout.

Even with a coaching change and more team success under Gerard Gallant, Kakko has continued to underwhelm offensively. While he has shown growth by getting more comfortable with the puck in the offensive zone by setting up better line mates in Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, it hasn’t resulted in the kind of production one would expect from the 20-year old right wing. In 35 contests so far, he has five goals and nine assists with a solid plus-6 rating.

It isn’t so much about his overall play. That has been fine. Kakko is a responsible two-way player who is good at takeaways and stronger defensively. The puck possession skills are noticeable. When he’s on the ice at even strength, Kakko is okay. It helps that Gallant has provided him with better players. Though he seemed to have more success with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin before they moved him up to the first line with Zibanejad and Kreider.

He does get power play time. Although he mostly sees second unit due to the regular Rangers’ five man unit that features Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, Strome and Adam Fox, Kakko did fill in for Panarin on the number one power play. Of his five goals, four have come at even strength with one on the man-advantage. Overall, 12 of 14 points are at even strength.

Even though he hardly saw any power play time or favorable line combinations his first two seasons under Quinn, who was a lot quicker to bench a young player for mistakes, Kakko is averaging 16:09 of ice time in his third year. That’s close to two minutes more than the first two seasons.

It would stand to reason that his production should increase. Instead, they’re near the halfway point of a successful season and Kakko has five goals and 55 shots on goal in 35 games. The shooting percentage of 9.1 percent is actually down from ’21 when he was at 11.1 with nine goals on 81 shots last year.

One could argue that he’s still a very young player that’s learning. He doesn’t turn 21 until February 13. That’s a fair point. We don’t know how Kakko will perform in the second half. With upcoming tests against the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes this week, it’ll be interesting to see how Kakko and the team fare. Those are two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers will play Toronto for the third and final time on Wednesday after having split the previous two meetings. They have yet to face Carolina, who has the best win percentage in the Metro Division. It’s the first of four meetings with the other three once the weather warms up. That includes one on March 20 right before the NHL Trade Deadline.

In terms of where Kakko is, he still has much to prove. On a team that’s 25-10-4 and currently first in their division, the Rangers boast only three players with double digit goals. They’ve relied heavily on Kreider, who paces them with 24 goals including 12 on the power play. A hot streak has Zibanejad with nine goals over 11 games to rank second behind Kreider with 14 overall and seven on the power play. Panarin is third with 10.

Somewhat curiously, 2020 top pick Alexis Lafreniere is tied with Barclay Goodrow and Strome with eight goals. He has better hands than Kakko, who hasn’t displayed the finishing capability many believed. The difference is Lafreniere is mostly in a supporting role. Though recently, he had some success while working with Strome and Panarin filling in for Goodrow before entering COVID Protocol. Both forwards could be ready to return by Wednesday.

If you’re looking closely at who’s producing at even strength, it’s Kreider with 11 goals followed by both Panarin and Lafreniere with 8. Zibanejad has 7. The trio of Goodrow, Kevin Rooney and Strome all have 6. All four of Fox’s goals have come at even strength. Jacob Trouba has five of his six at even strength. Kakko and Fil Chytil come in at four apiece. Both could be keys to the second half. That’s assuming Kakko improves and Chytil doesn’t get moved before the deadline. He’s looked better since being moved to the wing.

The big reason for calling out Kakko is that when you really look at the Rangers, they aren’t scoring enough at five-on-five. The power play has covered up that area enough along with the stellar play of Igor Shesterkin. Here’s the dilemma. When the playoffs hit, fewer penalties are called.

That means the focus will be primarily at even strength. An issue this team has. They’re too much on the defensive. Part of that is due to the rotating third pair and the inconsistencies of K’Andre Miller. A defenseman who’s in his second year. He can either be steady or uneven as evidenced by a recent bad stretch. Is he really cut out for second pair or is the organization hurting itself by limiting potential better options? That remains to be seen.

Unlike many people who report or blog by using fancy statistics, I don’t do that as much. I watch with my own eyes and look closely at what each player is doing on their shifts. While I will use possession stats as a reference that now includes a breakdown of five-on-five and even strength along with start time, I try to watch their positioning. If there’s an area Miller can work on, it’s not getting beat to the outside. This has been a frequent occurrence. You can cite every Corsica statistic imaginable. He isn’t there yet.

Most defensenen take time to develop. One characteristic I wish Miller had more of is a physical edge. He isn’t going to finish many checks. Similar to former Ranger and current Red Wing Marc Staal, he tends to use his reach to help recover and break up plays. That’s fine as long as he’s not getting caught and beaten. Something that must be addressed by the coaching staff. He has a steady partner in Trouba, whose grit and experience come in handy. But he can’t do everything. A point lost on the analytics community.

Will they ever try Zac Jones with Trouba? Or take another look at him on the third pair? I don’t mean playing with Libor Hajek either. Whether it’s alongside veteran Patrik Nemeth or the very poised 20-year old Braden Schneider, whose defensive positioning is very impressive for a recent first round pick, the organization needs to explore other options. They can’t be totally satisfied with things.

The record is more a reflection of the heavy lifting Shesterkin, Kreider, Zibanejad, Panarin, Fox, Trouba and underrated Ryan Lindgren have done. Strome is in the mix too since he is the second center who has good chemistry with Panarin. They’re still minus a true top six forward. The same can be echoed for the first line.

If you’re this team, what do you do? There’s still over two months until the trade deadline. With enough cap space to add a key player or two that could fill holes such as another finisher or steady veteran defenseman as an upgrade, that will fall on Team President and GM Chris Drury. He’ll have to decide along with Gallant if they’re all in. If it’s a Tomas Hertl or J.T. Miller that become available, will they be willing to pull the trigger? What about a Broadway reunion with Staal to upgrade third pair? He has a no-movement clause.

The real key to this season could hinge on Kakko, Lafreniere and Chytil with the latter uncertain to stay. Kakko is in Year Three. Of the forwards mentioned, he has the best opportunity to improve his production. That means scoring goals more consistently. The work ethic is there. The hands haven’t been. He must get to the hard areas more so he doesn’t go through any more scoring slumps.

If he is going to become a reliable scorer, then he must start looking shot more aggressively and instinctively. They need him to. If not, the organization will have no choice but to look elsewhere for scoring help.

If they want to do better than one round when the competition intensifies this Spring, they need to become a better overall team at five-on-five. It can’t only be the top guns. Others must step up. We know what battle tested vets like Goodrow will bring. But there must be better productivity from the kids to succeed.

The present and future of the Blueshirts depends upon it.

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Kreider’s late goal helps Rangers escape with one-goal win over Flyers, Chytil ties it, A look at a classic Lundqvist game from the 30 in 30

It wasn’t a Picasso or Renoir. It didn’t have to be. The most important detail from Saturday night’s game is the Rangers got the win. They sure didn’t make it easy.

At the end of the day, they’re two points better in the standings which indicate they’re first in the Metropolitan Division. That’s all that matters. Following a go-ahead goal from rookie defenseman Cam York, who of course scored his first career NHL goal versus the Rangers to keep with tradition, they answered immediately. Filip Chytil’s game-tying goal helped swing the momentum.

Chris Kreider continued his great first half by getting a piece of an Adam Fox shot for his team best 24th with 6:30 remaining to help lead the Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Flyers at Philadelphia. That was enough to close out a tough five-game road trip that included stops at Vegas and the California trio with a 3-2 record. Road Warriors they are. They’re now up to 15-7-2 away from MSG. Impressive considering they’ve only played 15 home games where they’re 10-3-2.

No matter what, this team finds ways to win games. Even on a night they looked tired, the Blueshirts persevered to get the ‘W.’ On a night Gerard Gallant returned behind the bench along with Ryan Reaves and Julien Gauthier, the Blueshirts got it done.

In rallying for a 3-2 win in the final 10 minutes, they moved their record to 25-10-4 for a Metro best 54 points. That’s two more than Carolina, who also won earlier yesterday. They’ve played four less games and remain the favorite to win the division. Their .743 win percentage and 23 regulation wins are good indicators. The Caps, who also won over the Islanders, are third with 51 points in 38 games. They have fewer regulation wins (19).

It’s those three teams competing for the top spot with the Pens lurking behind. Their 2-1 overtime win at San Jose ended a short losing streak to give them 49 points in 37 games. They have 18 wins in regulation. It’s the Rangers, Canes, Caps and Pens that have separated themselves from the pack in the Metro. The rest are on the outside of the playoff picture. Let’s not waste anymore space on them.

It was important to get a win over a bad Flyers team that’s now lost seven in a row. The Rangers don’t want to be the team that loses to them. Even after the dismissal of former coach Alain Vigneault, Philly is struggling mightily under Mike Yeo. They have enough good players capable of playing better. But are still a mess. Look how they lost tonight’s game.

It started off on the right foot for the Rangers. With Claude Giroux off for hooking, the top power play went to work. Artemi Panarin got the puck up for Fox, who quickly moved it across for Zibanejad in his office. His one-timer easily beat Flyers starter Carter Hart at 5:54. The power play goal gave him nine goals over the last 11 games. He’s now up to 14 on the season. That is second behind Kreider. His seven power play goals also rank second behind Kreider. It would be nice to see Zibanejad get voted into his first All-Star Game. I cast two votes for him, Steven Stamkos, Roman Josi and Troy Terry.

Not that I care about the All-Star Game. I’m not too fond of the three-on-three format. It’s too gimmicky and is a cash cow. I get why the players love it. The winner splits the money. Call me old fashioned. I loved the traditional format. Whether it was East versus West or North America vs the World, that was fun. I also enjoyed the Skill Competition more that included the old targets where Ray Bourque used to dominate along with Mark Messier and Jeremy Roenick. Plus who didn’t love the hardest shot? Al Iafrate could absolutely rocket it.

Okay. Enough of the glorified exhibition that’ll take place in Vegas. They already revealed the rosters. Now, there’s a vote in where fans can determine which four players make the cut. There are some good choices including Nazem Kadri. I wonder how much people will be into it. It doesn’t lack excitement. But the jerseys could use a bit more creativity. I preferred the cool colors of the 90’s.

I sure spent a lot of time on the All-Star Game. As for the rest of the first period on Saturday, a Ryan Strome forced pass handcuffed Chytil at the Flyer blue line. Had it been a higher percentage pass, maybe they get something going. Instead, the poor Strome pass lead to a turnover and Flyers goal that tied things up.

After Chytil lost the puck, Scott Laughton started a quick transition up for Travis Konecny, who had Patrik Nemeth scrambling back along with rookie Braden Schneider. His shot rebounded off Igor Shesterkin right to Oskar Lindblom, who was able to steer it in for his fifth at 11:45. It was a quick hitter for the Flyers with Lindblom able to beat Schneider to the loose change.

The game remained tied during the second period. Despite the Rangers controlling play with 12 shots to the Flyers’ seven, they couldn’t get a puck past Hart. He held his team in. The play was mostly at five-on-five. Each side had a power play they couldn’t cash in on. I did notice our one man-advantage where the first unit did zilch. It was the second unit that included even K’Andre Miller and Gauthier that produced a good shot from Jacob Trouba that Hart handled. He also denied a tough Chytil high offering from the slot.

With Hart having stopped 19 of 20 shots while Shesterkin was 12 of 13 through two periods, it was anyone’s game entering the third. To be blunt, it was the best one the Flyers played. They were the aggressor. Capitalizing on sloppy turnovers from our side, they were hemming the Rangers in. Shesterkin came through with some big saves. That’s why he’s one of the best goalies this season.

The way the Rangers mishandled pucks and struggled to defend in their end, it was only a matter of time before the Flyers went ahead. Sure enough, Konecny turned around Reaves and then made Miller look like a statue to force Shesterkin into a tough save. The clear came right to York, who had looked good throughout. He let go of a wrist shot that snuck past Shesterkin through traffic for his first NHL goal with 9:49 left in regulation. The goal was unassisted.

While I was killing both Reaves and Miller for their ineptitude, the Rangers got it right back. It hadn’t been a good game for Strome. However, off a rush he found Panarin wide open at the side of the Flyer net. The patient Panarin centered for a cutting Chytil, who buried his fourth of the season to even the score. The goal came just 37 seconds following York’s goal. It was a momentum-turning goal.

Before that scoring play, it looked like the Flyers would win and spoil the conclusion of the five-game road trip. But Chytil was able to finish to extend his point streak to four straight since being shifted over to right wing. A place he should stay. I suggested it last year. He isn’t a center. Playing the off wing opens it up for him to use his speed and create. He’s also fitting in with Strome and Panarin. A positive.

With momentum back on their side, they would then get the winner. It came less than three minutes later. On a poor defensive sequence from the Flyers, they allowed a Kakko forecheck down low. He wisely got the puck up for a Fox low shot that somehow Kreider redirected past Hart for his 24th at 13:30. He’s been money this season. Especially on deflections. A terrific play by a skilled player, who ranks fourth in goals only trailing Leon Draisaitl (26), Auston Matthews (25) and Alex Ovechkin (25).

There isn’t much else to say. It’s been a remarkable run so far. Kreider has led the way in the scoring department. He has done it by example by putting in the hard work in front. He has played better overall as has been evidenced by his defensive improvement including on the penalty kill where he scored his first shorthanded goal the other night. O Captain! My Captain!

The Rangers still had to close it out. In a third where they were outshot 15-7, Shesterkin made the key stops en route to his second win in a row since returning. He stopped 26 of 28 shots. His teammates did enough to protect the lead late.

There was also this misguided Tweet from well respected former Islanders Stanley Cup champion Butch Goring. I don’t get it. It seems he’s mad and sad over the Rangers’ resurgence.

For someone who’s become a good color analyst on the Islanders telecasts, this seemed out of character. It lacks class. Some might say it’s classic Islanders. A former player no less who was very successful for them after coming over from the Kings to help their dynasty.

Why would he troll our fans? Ranger fans are annoying on their own and sometimes a bit insane. But we are extremely loyal. This doesn’t make sense. All Goring did was troll himself and become the butt of jokes. No wonder he trended on Twitter. Just ridiculous. Not very professional.

Whatever. In closing this post, I’d like to point to the 30 Days Of 30 the Rangers have been airing on MSG. That of course refers to Henrik Lundqvist, whose number 30 jersey will be retired later this month against close friend Mats Zuccarello and the Wild. They also boast former backup Cam Talbot, who Lundqvist had a good relationship with. January 28 will be here soon enough. It’ll be a celebration.

More than that, getting to watch these old games, it’s brought a smile to my face. It makes me recall a different time at The Garden. A better time to be a fan of this Original Six club who’s broken Rangers hearts plenty. But seeing games like a heavyweight match from 2008-09 against the mighty Pens or the Devils from ’13-14, who Lundqvist shutout to pass Ed Giacomin for a franchise record 50th in a 2-0 road win in Newark, has made me appreciate how damn special Henrik was.

We were lucky. The 2000 seventh round pick delivered on the promise former European scout Christian Rockstrom saw. Special is how I’d describe Lundqvist. He loved playing and most of all winning these games. I wish he could’ve beaten Brodeur in 2012. Maybe we’re talking about a Cup. The rivalry between the Rangers and Devils was at its best with the pair of opposite number 30’s in net. There was an unbelievable game where nobody scored at a home game after 65 minutes. It was so well played. Even though the shootout went to Brodeur and the Devils, that was one of the best regular season games I’ve seen.

It was strange seeing Jaromir Jagr in a Devils number 68 jersey. There he was driving the play with his team trailing on a Rick Nash goal that he banked in off Brodeur. Jagr was still a force at his advanced age while Brodeur gave the Devils a shot at the comeback. But a sprawling Lundqvist made 3 big saves including on Jagr before Derek Stepan scored into a vacated net for the 2-0 win.

The reaction from Lundqvist said it all. He celebrated it from his knees. Career shutout 50 to pass Giacomin. For better than a decade, he provided us with some memorable moments. It’s why the name “Hen-rik, Hen-rik!”, will be chanted once again at the end of the month. The greatest Rangers goalie to ever play. This is coming from a Mike Richter fan. Number 35 holds a special place in my heart for ’94 and his virtuoso performance to help USA win the World Cup in ’96.

It’s nice to see Shesterkin grabbing the mantle. The Rangers have been fortunate to boast some great goalies. That can always be discussed. If Igor can ever win a Cup, he’ll be mentioned among the greats. I’m still very much a Hank guy. He is class personified. He has scored a gig with TNT part time as he has with MSG where he’s a perfect fit at breaking down games.

If you haven’t caught some of the games they’ve shown of No. 30, please do so. It sure brings you back.

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All-Star Kreider leads the way as Shesterkin eats Sharks up for shutout in return, Braden Schneider scores in NHL debut

Following a brutal loss to the Kings on Monday night in Hollywood, the Rangers bounced back by besting the Sharks in an entertaining 3-0 win in San Jose. The victory allowed them to split the Western part of the five-game road trip.

Better than that, Chris Kreider backed up his second All-Star selection by leading the Blueshirts with a pair of goals to the key victory at the Shark Tank. Not only did he net his team-leading 22nd and 23rd goals. But he also scored his first career shorthanded goal which proved to be the game-winner. Even more, the leader of the club also sealed it with an empty netter for the 200th goal of his career. All scored as a New York Ranger!

After a disappointing 3-1 loss in LA where they were severely outplayed by the Kings, it was Kreider who made some strong points about not playing with enough consistency. A mistake prone game resulted in them hanging a loss on Alex Georgiev, who wasn’t to blame. It was uncompetitive like the Vegas debacle.

The 30-year old veteran led by example in the character win over a good Sharks team who similar to the game at MSG, competed hard. However, they couldn’t score on Igor Shesterkin, who like his performance in the home match was perfect in stopping all 37 shots for his fifth career shutout (3rd of season). Not a bad way to return following the annoying protocol that now has Alexis Lafreniere out of action along with coach Gerard Gallant.

Even if it’s understandable why the league is taking the conservative approach to players who are positive, the cases are asymptomatic and several are starting to speak up about the strict rules that keep them out for a minimum of three games. Both Ivan Provorov and Claude Giroux, who both recently returned for the Flyers, vented their frustration over minor issues with the advanced flu. That’s basically what Omicron is. Especially if you’re vaccinated as almost every player is. Whether they decide to adjust the rules, I don’t know. I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

In a league that has bent over backwards to cancel home games for the seven Canadian markets due to a border and attendance issue that impacts revenue, we will continue to see more cancellations. How they plan to complete an 82-game full schedule remains to be seen. It is what it is.

It’s as sickening as the false propaganda with these Vaccinate NYC commercials. Who are they kidding? At least that’s not half as annoying as JB Smoove and those God awful Caesar’s Sports Book ads. More like Sports Crook! They can take those despicable gambling ads and stick it where the sun don’t shine. Promoting degenerate crap is more harmful than helpful. Lying to an easily influenced younger generation when prop betting is as bad as it gets. Rant over.

As for the game which also prominently featured the NHL debut of Braden Schneider, it was an entertaining brand of hockey. If you love the combination of skating, rushes, goaltending filled with edge and scrums, this was a very fun game to watch. It had a bit of everything including a scrap when things picked up during the second period.

Unlike the game Shesterkin and Georgiev combined on for a shared shutout on Dec. 3, this time the Rangers’ starting goalie went all the way. He was tested throughout by the attacking style of the Sharks. It marked his first game since Jan. 2 when he shutout the Lightning with 38 saves. He missed the last four due to Health and Safety Protocols. Georgiev did a good enough job in the two wins while not getting much help in the two defeats.

What was so impressive is how calm Shesterkin looked. He had an 11 day layoff, but you wouldn’t know it by how well he played. The Sharks got three good scoring chances early on. Shesterkin denied two straight and then got enough of a Tomas Hertl opportunity to push his shot wide. Hertl was able to get that due to Fil Chytil getting knocked off the puck in the San Jose zone. That lead to Ryan Strome taking the game’s first penalty.

As dangerous as they can be with a power play that features Timo Meier, Logan Couture, Hertl, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, San Jose can also turn the puck over. Entering play, they had given up five shorthanded goals. The Rangers made it six. On a subtle defensive play from Adam Fox, he forced a turnover that sprung Mika Zibanejad and Kreider. Zibanejad passed for Kreider, who buried the first shorthanded goal of his career 11 seconds into the penalty kill. It was a huge lift.

In his first full year killing penalties, Kreider has shown good defensive instincts. He’s made smart reads and gotten chances due to his game-breaking speed. It felt like he would get one eventually. That he finally did was further confirmation of the standout player he’s been in this breakout season. Without the 23 goals with over half on the power play, where would this team be?

The chemistry Kreider and Zibanejad have is uncanny. They have such a comfort level. They nearly had another goal shortly after. If only Kreider had been a bit more selfish. He was in, but tried the pass across for Zibanejad that was intercepted. Shoot the puck! Especially with all the success he’s having. It’s a great development that Zibanejad is finally scoring. They need him to.

Although they were outshot 10-6, the Blueshirts held a one-goal lead after the first period. Shesterkin continued to stifle the Sharks. He was especially good at keeping his composure. Some of the stops he made weren’t as easy as they looked. That’s the sure sign of a great goalie. Imagine if he didn’t miss time. He could challenge Andrei Vasilevskiy in wins. There are many good netminders. For this season, the top three in my opinion are Vasilevskiy, Juuse Saros and Shesterkin. I could care less that Shesty isn’t an All-Star. It’s better off. Tristan Jarry (Pens) and Freddie Andersen (Canes) were selected.

Up by one, the Rangers got physical with the edgy Sharks. It was during the opening 20 minutes that Chytil got blasted by defenseman Mario Ferraro. He has the look of a tough skating hard-hitting defenseman who is a throwback. Even though a number of newer Blueshirts caught my eye, I thought Ferraro was the best San Jose defenseman in this game. He hits hard and blocks shots. Ferraro also pinched in for a chance that was denied by Shesterkin.

If there was one thing that really irked me along with other Ranger fans, it was the dirty hit from behind by Adam Raska on a defenseless K’Andre Miller into the back boards. I was disgusted that he only received two minutes for boarding. How ridiculous. Miller’s teammates including partner Jacob Trouba had his back during a scrum. This cannot be a two-minute minor penalty!

Do you think one reporter had the guts to ask Kris Knoblauch about that call? Kelly Sutherland is a good referee. He correctly called no goal on a tricky redirection that Shesterkin gobbled up without the puck going in. A play they later reviewed. My issue is with how the league interprets boarding. Why isn’t what Raska did a five-minute major? It should be reviewed by NHL Player Safety. Will it be? Unlikely because after Miller returned from concussion protocol, that meant he was okay. He’s lucky he can absorb such a reckless hit.

The battle level intensified. On another shift where they really went at each other, Meier didn’t take kindly to a Trouba hit. They josted and then Meier swung and missed. Both got minor penalties. Although I didn’t mind the officials letting them play, I felt Meier initiated it with his punch that caught air. There was no loss of man power.

In a very active period that saw both Shesterkin and Adin Hill come up with key saves, the Sharks went after Trouba. It was obvious they targeted him. Given his reputation for delivering clean hits, fine. But on a night where former first round pick Schneider debuted by playing like a seasoned veteran instead of a 20-year old rookie alongside Patrik Nemeth, Sharks tough guy Jeffrey Viel challenged Trouba to a fight. After taking his lumps, Trouba fought back before it was broken up with 6:36 left. Advantage Sharks.

Any time you take a dependable player like Trouba off the ice for five minutes, it’s a win. Rather than give Schneider a look with Miller, Knoblauch and assistant coach Gord Murphy kept him and Nemeth intact on the third pair. They probably didn’t want to put too much pressure on the kid. Certainly understandable.

Instead, they double shifted Ryan Lindgren with Miller. He also continued to take shifts with Fox. They worked Nemeth in when they could. But he mostly stayed with Schneider, whose steady presence made them an effective tandem. At no point did Schneider panic with the puck. He is polished. The Canadian kid makes smart subtle reads in the corners and doesn’t make any glaring mistakes like we’ve seen out of Libor Hajek and Zac Jones. I feel like Nils Lundkvist got a raw deal. But if they’re not going to play him, then it’s better he gets consistent ice time in Hartford.

Somewhat curiously, Trouba didn’t take a shift after returning to the bench. There were only two-plus minutes left in the period. Thanks to the stellar play of the goalies, the game remained 1-0 Rangers after the second. A one-goal game with a period left was a good place to be. But given that the Sharks can score at any moment, it was guarded.

Without Lafreniere, Chytil was again featured on the right wing. He played in a top six role on the second line with Strome and Artemi Panarin. Panarin had a rough game in LA. His line was caught on for two goals at five-on-five and were victimized on an empty netter. In this one, he was better. Chytil had his moments. After setting up a Zibanejad goal on Monday night, he recorded another assist on a milestone for Schneider.

On a brilliant play by Panarin at the San Jose blue line, he got the puck over to Chytil. He then fed Strome, who patiently waited before finding a pinching Schneider for a good wrist shot from the point that beat Hill at 1:27 of the third period. What a moment that was for Schneider. His first career NHL goal in his first game. It eerily reminded me of a goal he scored for Canada in the ’21 U20 World Junior Championships. He made a great read and hit the net. Congrats to the kid!

If you loved that, how about the surprising play of Anthony Greco? A Queens native who grew up rooting for the Rangers, the emergency recall was impressive on the fourth line. Wearing number 28, the 28-year old journeyman of only one NHL game was everywhere. Not the biggest in stature, the generously listed 5-10, 178 pound right wing was buzzing around Hill in the final two periods. In 9:44 of action, he had five shots including a couple of cracks at his first goal. But Hill denied him.

It wasn’t only Greco who stepped up. The Hartford gang all played their part. That included Tim Gettinger, Jonny Brodzinski and Morgan Barron, who looks like he belongs on the roster. They fit in seamlessly due to their strong work ethic. Familiarity with Knoblauch helps. He wasn’t shy about using them. The trait of a good young AHL coach with a bright future.

Greg McKegg also took a regular shift in a third line role. He also got some penalty killing time. The Rangers were 2-for-2. There wasn’t too much special teams. Three total power plays with each side taking the collar. Don’t forget the Kreider shorthanded goal. That allowed our side to get the upper hand and be in control throughout. It’s always better to play from in front on the road. Especially at a good atmosphere in San Jose. They have great fans.

Unsurprising was the amount of pucks Shesterkin saw in the third. The Sharks had a 17-12 edge in shots as both clubs attacked. When they weren’t at each other’s throats that is. For two teams that play on opposite coasts, you would’ve thought they were rivals. That’s how hardly fought the game was. Too bad there won’t be another one unless the unthinkable happens. Being that one of my closest friends is a loyal Sharks fan, I’d sign right up. It would be a dream.

Shesterkin made a strong stop on a driving Meier, who was able to get around Miller for a good scoring chance. He held the near goalpost and kept the puck out to bail out Miller, who’s hit a rough patch. It happens. He’s still learning. Luckily, Trouba had a steady game. Overall, he’s been the best defenseman this season. Not a knock on Fox, who is an All-Star. Trouba is playing the Ryan McDonagh role on this team. McDonagh does that in the shadow of Victor Hedman with the Lightning.

Leading by two, Trouba took an interference minor with exactly three minutes to go. Instead of going for the 6-on-4 that risks the opponent shooting for the empty net shorthanded, the Sharks instead used the first half to go with the more conventional five-on-four. I prefer that strategy down two. If you get one, then you can pull the goalie at even strength.

With Fox doing a good job on Karlsson and Burns throughout by limiting their time and space, the Sharks got nothing done. Eventually, they lifted Hill for the two-man advantage. The Rangers were up to the task. After Trouba returned, it became a 6-on-5. It didn’t matter.

On a smart defensive play by Kevin Rooney to clear the zone, Kreider was ahead of everyone. With only Karlsson trailing, he easily fired the puck into the open net for the exclamation point. Number 23 for the team’s MVP. When asked which goal he liked more by MSG reporter John Giannone in the postgame after scoring his 200th career goal, a grinning Kreider didn’t hesitate by indicating the shorthanded goal had more meaning. What a leader he’s become.

There isn’t anything else to add. The role players played well. Shesterkin shined in his return. Kreider continued his special season. And Braden Schneider showed more poise than any of the other kids while debuting with Nemeth. It was a very good win.

The Flyers are next on Saturday in Philadelphia. How tired will the Rangers be from the flight? You know it won’t be used as an excuse. That’s not this team. They really should win against an opponent who isn’t good. But they better show up ready. Until next time, see ya around.

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