Hockey Returns to The Garden, Rested Rangers host Bruins on ESPN Plus and local affiliates, Boston University wins Beanpot over Northeastern, Toffoli dealt to Flames, trade possibilities

Hockey actually will return to The Garden later tonight. Incredibly, the Rangers are finally playing a hockey game on Tuesday when they host the Bruins. Too bad it won’t be on MSG.

UPDATE: Apparently, its one of those games where it can be seen locally on MSG or NESN. But for the rest, it’s ESPN Plus. Hot tip to Sean McCaffrey for the correct information. It’s also a 7 PM start time. Funny. But I checked the schedule last night. Glad to be wrong.

In another genius move by the NHL schedule makers, the first game in an eternity two weeks (ridiculous) can be seen on ESPN Plus. Whoopty do. I honestly hate how many of these games are being streamed. Sure. There’s a market for it. But is this really what they signed up for?

Editor’s Note: As noted above in the update, this only applies to outside markets. Sorry for the mix-up.

Fortunately, there’s a good option for non ESPN ➕️ subscribers to view the games you want to see. I don’t want to advertise it in this space. My issue is it’s not as fun streaming a game on a phone. Not everyone has your state of the art $2000 laptops or God knows what modernized devices there are. It sucks.

I don’t know how the ratings are. But it just feels like a gimmick. Of course, I have to hear from future boy all about how much better it is. Technology.

Whatever happened to predictability, the milkman, the paper boy and evening TV. …” Full House moment for Bob Saget. It’s been on a lot. What can I say. It certainly applies these days. Danny Tanner would agree. Then the comedian who played him would tell a dirty joke. That in itself made Saget unique. He played a TV Dad, but was the opposite in real life. RIP 💜

I could go on about how I miss seeing these games on regular TV. Yes. I went there. Believe it or not, a good chunk of Rangers games used to be on the old Channel 9. Growing up in the 80’s was fun. The Yankees were on WPIX Channel 11. The Mets on WWOR Channel 9. I had a black and white TV without a remote control.

This is supposed to be a hockey blog. Or was. So much for that. I actually watched the Beanpot Final and really enjoyed it. Thanks to NHL Network for picking up the championship game courtesy of NESN. That was a great broadcast. No biased bull crap that you get with Bruins games. Just good play by play and analysis. It was nice to see Billy Jaffe doing color. He does pregame, intermission and postgame for the Bruins. How is he not doing games for a team?

Regarding the game that was aired on NHL Network, what a clinic. Boston University and Northeastern put on a show for the fans at TD Garden. For three periods, the two rivals didn’t give an inch. It was hotly contested. If you like team defense and checking with goaltending, this was spectacular. Boston University got a goal from Dylan Peterson with 2:48 left in the third period. He was the hero for the Terriers, who won their first Beanpot title since 2015. It was their 31st title.

You had over 17,000 fans there for the big game. A Boston tradition. If you wanted a perfect advertisement for fans to watch college hockey, this was it. Cheering sections for both schools with bands playing and dueling chants. It looked like an incredible atmosphere. They didn’t have one last year for obvious reasons. This was great.

I even got acquainted with a few names. You had Northeastern freshman goalie T.J. Semptimphelter making plenty of key saves against the better attacking BU. They really dictated the pace throughout. Although Northeastern picked it up in the second half, they didn’t generate enough chances on winning Boston University netminder Vinny Duplessis. He did wind up with 19 saves with most of his 10 third period stops coming after Northeastern pulled Semptimphelter, who won the Eberly Award for the goalie with the highest save percentage (.972). He stopped 69 of 71 shots including 29 of 30 last night.

Some of the players I noticed were prospects who have been drafted. That even included Rangers’ former ’18 seventh round pick Riley Hughes. The junior is the older brother of 18-year old 2022 Draft Eligible forward Jack Hughes. Yes. Another one. No relation to the Jack in New Jersey. They played on the same line and were noticeable during some shifts. I liked what I saw from the younger Hughes, who was around the net and fired a couple of shots towards Duplessis during a six-on-five.

The best opportunity the Huskies had was when during a wild sequence, Aidan McDonough got two chances at forcing overtime. After his first shot was denied by Duplessis, the puck somehow came back to him. With Duplessis scrambling around, McDonough sent a shot just over the net. If it had been on goal, he likely would’ve scored. He leads the Huskies with 17 goals and 25 points. Vancouver selected him in Round 7 in the ’19 Draft.

One Northeastern forward who caught my eye was Sam Colangelo. A slick skater who is good at creating offense, the Ducks’ 2020 second round pick was one of the most dangerous players for the Huskies. A member of the USA gold medal World Junior Championship team last year, he’s having a good sophomore year. Colangelo entered last night with 20 points (8-12-20) in 19 games. It looks like Anaheim might have another good young prospect who’ll be part of their future.

On the Boston University side, you had Luke Tuch working hard during most shifts. The younger brother of current Sabre Alex Tuch, he has some size and strength. A solid player on the cycle, he isn’t shy about delivering hits. He also took a big one after dumping the puck in. The younger Tuch was taken by the Canadiens in the second round of 2020.

I also liked Flyers former ’18 first rounder Jay O’Brien. A right center who transferred from Providence College last year, he’s a playmaking pivot who makes things happen. He’s fared well. Since joining the Terriers in ’20-21, the 22-year old O’Brien has 17 goals and 19 assists totaling 36 points over 35 games. He was 9-11-20 entering Monday’s big game.

Peterson’s winner was set up by Jamie Armstrong. He made a great pass across for a tap in from Peterson to finally get a puck past Semptimphelter. It was a terrific play. Usually in such a tight checking game, the goal comes off a bounce or deflection. Instead, BU got a pretty one to avoid overtime.

When the buzzer sounded, it was quite a celebration by the Terriers. You could tell how much it meant to the players. Now, I get the hype behind the Beanpot. You can bet I’ll be tuning in for every game in the future. It was the best game I could’ve watched on a light night for hockey.

When the Rangers take to the ice tonight, they’ll enter in third place with 64 points in 47 games. During their time off, both the Hurricanes and Penguins passed them in the division. Pittsburgh leads the Metro with 68 points in 49 games while the Canes are second with 67 in 46. Now, there no longer is a big difference in games played. The Pens play game 50 later against the Flyers. Carolina plays the Panthers tomorrow.

The time off allowed Adam Fox to get healthy. Ditto for Filip Chytil, who should be a go. During a recent team practice, he was back at center on the third line. Barclay Goodrow looks to be option A to fill the role of Kaapo Kakko on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. Goodrow has been an interchangeable player. A good addition that Gerard Gallant can use in different roles.

Alexis Lafreniere stays on the top line playing the off wing with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Lafreniere admitted that the extra time off helped him continue to make adjustments to playing the right wing. Having scored in the previous two games (both wins), he noted that he wants to shoot the puck more. Lafreniere is on his one-timer side. An unselfish team player, he’s still learning in Year Two.

Having Fox back for the blue line should help steady things. He’ll rejoin partner Ryan Lindgren on the top pair and be back running the top power play. That’ll move Jacob Trouba back to power play two which is a better fit. Especially since it’s more of a shooting mentality. Trouba pairs with K’Andre Miller, who is making strides in his second season.

It appears that veteran Patrik Nemeth will return to the lineup. If so, he should be teamed with rookie Braden Schneider. The former first round pick has been steady since his promotion from Hartford. The poise with which he plays is something that can’t be taught. It’ll be interesting to see if Nemeth can be more consistent. He’s been the weak link in the top six. That signing never made sense.

For now, you’re looking at Libor Hajek and Zac Jones as the fourth pair. Both have filled in admirably with the younger and more skilled Jones impressing Gallant. He likes his poise and skating. Even though he’s undersized, Jones is a player to watch. It’ll be interesting to see what the organization decides between now and March 21. Do they upgrade the third pair by going after a proven vet like Mark Giordano or the suggested Vladislav Gavrikov, who is signed with Columbus through next year at an affordable contract.

The Rangers know they might need an upgrade at the right wing spot in the tip six. With an unknown injury keeping Kakko out for extended time, that’ll give Chris Drury more chances to work the phones.

One candidate went yesterday with the versatile Tyler Toffoli getting moved by the rebuilding Canadiens to the all in Flames. Montreal got back a 2022 first round pick and 20-year old Swedish prospect Emil Heineman. A ’23 fifth was also included as part of the deal. I like it for Calgary. They’ve made it clear they want to go for it in Johnny Gaudreau’s walk year with Matthew Tkachuk also a key restricted free agent this summer. They have a very good roster. Why not take a shot. They should be a tough out in the playoffs.

The Habs did okay with the return of a late first and Heineman, who sounds like a hard-working prospect. He represented Sweden at the ’21 WJC scoring once in five contests. This season, he has 11 goals and five helpers for Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League. Montreal will have more players available including left defenseman Ben Chiarot.

In terms of some potential options if they decide to go after a top six forward, there’s J.T. Miller in Vancouver, who’s said to be shopping many players aside from core pieces Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Thatcher Demko and Quinn Hughes. That means Brock Boeser could also be available. Miller was basically hinted at by Larry Brooks, who had more stuff leaked to him from the Blueshirts. He actually believes Chytil and Nils Lundkvist are a good starting point to acquire Miller. I disagree. Neither are proven. I think the Canucks would ask for better prospects along with the expected first round pick for their top skater. Miller has another year left on his deal.

Other candidates include Claude Giroux, Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist and Vladislav Namestnikov. The latter two more top nine forwards who won’t be as expensive. Solid complementary players. That wouldnt be a bad way to go. Kakko likely will return. Whether he can improve his production remains to be seen. Adding quality depth up front is a necessity. That way we don’t have to ever see Dryden Hunt used in the top six. Plus Goodrow is better suited on the third line.

I’m not sure I’d go all in on this year. The Rangers have done better than expected. But are they ready to seriously challenge? I wouldn’t mortgage too much of the future. If they want to trade Vitali Kravtsov due to the relationship as part of a move that can help, I understand. Ditto for a defenseman like Tarmo Reunanen, who doesn’t seem to have a future in NYC. The Rangers boast a surplus of defense prospects. They can’t keep everyone.

I’ve seen some suggest moving Alex Georgiev. No way. He is the reliable backup behind Igor Shesterkin. If they want to move on from him with his contract up, they can in the off-season. He’s a RFA. Keep Keith Kinkaid in Hartford with Adam Huska. Kinkaid is insurance.

In regards to Boston, they’re without Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, whose latest lunacy resulted in a six-game suspension. I like The Rat. But he should seek help. Get a therapist. These incidents reflect poorly on him. He’s too good a player to be so ridiculous. At some point, enough is enough.

The Rangers must smother top B’s finisher David Pastrnak. He’s been on fire for a month, quietly creeping up the leader board. A presence on the power play and at even strength, Pastrnak is on a serious hot streak. They’ll want to pay close attention to him.

Taylor Hall has picked it up recently. He plays on the same line with Pastrnak. Those are the Bruins’ most dangerous forwards.

Goaltending has been an issue lately. Ever since all-time Bruin Tuukka Rask retired due to his hip not reacting well to games, Boston has struggled. Linus Ullmark is the number one goalie. He’s had a solid first year. Jeremy Swayman is the future in net who’ll continue to split time.

The Boston defense is led by Charlie McAvoy. A physical presence who can use his size to finish checks, he also is a good skater that can contribute offensively. While players like Fox, Cale Makar and Victor Hedman get all the accolades, McAvoy is one of the best defensemen in hockey. He might not put up the gaudy numbers of the other three, but McAvoy us a complete player. His importance to the B’s can’t be underestimated.

Boston hasn’t played well recently. That means they should come in with something to prove. Do they stick with Swayman, who shutout Ottawa over the weekend? Ullmark is the starter.

This is the second meeting of three between the classic Original Six rivals. The Rangers took the first meeting in Boston 5-2 on Nov. 26. The third and final game isn’t until April 23 at MSG.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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