It is St. Patty’s Day. Happy Irish ☘️ Day to everyone who celebrates. I’ll probably have a brew or two later while enjoying the NCAA Basketball Tournament and Rangers hockey along with the other big games with playoff significance.
It’s already been a unreal 48 hours for my favorite basketball tournament with Buffalo sending Arizona and their lying cheating coach home followed up by UMBC making history in becoming the first 16 seed to upset a 1 seed in the Men’s Division I tourney. An amazing accomplishment that came to fruition Friday night in emphatic fashion with the University of Maryland Baltimore County beating Virginia handily 74-54 in Charlotte. I once played on their campus floor with my Staten Island JCC travel basketball team. Very nice court and place. Congrats to them!
With it being a big sports weekend, you can tell I’m all over the map. The Rangers are playing out the string by continuing to play it straight up. Even if that means winning some games unexpectedly like the feel good comeback home win over the Pens in overtime, so be it. Of course, the more wind and points hurts their lottery chances. They have fallen out of the top 10 with the woeful Islanders continuing to disgrace themselves despite a better roster featuring John Tavares, certain Calder winner Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. It truly is astonishing to see how bad they are. But without a defense or consistent goaltending, they are truly dysfunctional.
While it may hurt to see the Isles with a better chance to move up in the Dahlin lottery, I like the fact the younger Blueshirts continue to play hard and show improvement for the future. We forget that these are pro athletes who take their job seriously. They want to win. Not tank. So, if any fan is upset by this, then you’re not much of a fan. I can’t root for my teams to lose. It’s not in me. I have pride. So do our players which makes me proud. None more so than Wednesday with the awesome 4-3 overtime stunner over NBC darling Pittsburgh.
A game in which Alexandar Georgiev made 37 saves including a clutch stop on a penalty shot to deny Hart candidate Evgeni Malkin with 10.7 seconds left. He has played well and looks poised in net. So, coach Alain Vigneault is rewarding him with a third straight start to give Henrik Lundqvist another night off. I’ve seen some fans whine over it due to wanting to see Lundqvist get five more wins for 30. That doesn’t matter. Personal achievements aren’t part of team sports when you’re not gonna make the playoffs.
Georgiev has earned the right to play. Let’s continue to see what the 22-year old can do. He has a calm demeanor and challenges players while making good saves. He very well could be the backup next season. I’m not one to celebrate injuries. But Ondrej Pavelec being out is a blessing in disguise because it allowed the organization to see what Gorgy can do. He hasn’t disappointed. He’ll get the start tonight at St. Louis.
There are other positives for Ranger fans with Neal Pionk continuing to improve. He picked up a career high three assists three nights ago and played well. He still must get stronger at boxing out but the skating and ability to find the open man is there. He should very much be a integral part of the back end moving forward.
John Gilmour has explosive skating and offensive instinct. I would like to see him hit the net more. His defense still needs work but his speed is unparalleled.
It’s a shame Tony DeAngelo got hurt. He was starting to improve by showing off his strong skating and playmaking. Now, he won’t be back till next training camp. Hopefully, he can make a full recovery from his injury and prove he belongs to further silence that clown Boomer Esiason. Some advice for Tony D. Don’t take the bait. Stay off social media.
Rob O’Gara is doing alright. He isn’t the best skater but has size and strength. He got a nice primary assist on a goal at Tampa for his first NHL point. It will be a uphill climb for the 24-year old left defenseman who came over from Boston with a third round pick for Nick Holden.
Ryan Sproul is back up in DeAngelo’s place. He will play third pair the rest of the way.
Pavel Buchnevich has 40 points. The 22-year old second-year Russian forward has four assists in the last two games. Both wins. He is a very good skater with a pass first mentality. He nearly set up Jimmy Vesey for another goal. They have chemistry thus far with Vladislav Namestnikov on a good skating, forechecking like. I wanted to see what Buchnevich can do with Namestnikov. It’s been good so far. If he can shoot the puck more in Year 3, there’s no reason to believe the talented right wing can’t put up at least 20 goals and 35 assists.
Buchnevich deserves huge accolades for what he did before Wednesday’s Rivalry Night game. He tossed over a signed stick to a Rangers season ticket member 12-year old Benjamin who got the thrill of his life. Amanda Borges interviewed him. What a positive outlook Benjamin has. He sounds like a coach.
That feel good moment was so cool. It’s one he’ll never forget. It also shows what makes hockey players such great athletes. Buchnevich made the kid’s night. It was very cool that Benjamin was wearing a Buchnevich KHL Cherepovets Severstal jersey that his grandfather bought him. I really enjoyed his story on how he became a Buch fan.
Mika Zibanejad enters playing some of his best hockey. He tallied twice including the game-tying and game-winning goals in the nice win over Pittsburgh. He’s really been flying with Chris Kreider (career high 4 points) and Jesper Fast (11th goal-a point in the last 4 games). They work well off each other. Kreider’s electric speed at a lighter weight since returning from a rib resection has made a huge difference. He looks great. It’s a lot of fun to watch that line.
Ryan Spooner has 13 points (2-11-13) in nine games while playing almost exclusively with Kevin Hayes (5-1-6). Mats Zuccarello now is on that line and back to his normal self with four goals in the last four to hike his team-leading point total to 48 (14-34-48). While it hasn’t been a consistent year for him, Zuccarello is only 11 points off last season’s pace. He has a outside shot at matching that total with 11 games remaining.
If you want to get excited for the team’s future, here’s a couple of highlights of Filip Chytil and Ty Ronning scoring goals.