John is angry
As we’ve hit the final day of the regular season, it’s time to look back and think about surprise teams, great plays and big news from around the league. As our boys in blue look ahead to opening up the playoffs against Philly Thursday night, several teams around the league are getting their golf equipment ready and leaving hockey for the summer. Of those teams are nearly all of the Canadian teams (except for Montreal) and a bevy of shocked fanbases. Ahead is a season reflective musings for this sunny Sunday on the East Coast.
Worst Display by a Fanbase: The Edmonton Oilers had an absolutely abysmal season, finishing with just 67 points after acquiring a new head coach (Dallas Eakins) and a new captain (Andrew Ference) in the offseason. In an effort to show their displeasure with the team, a fan decided to throw their sweater on the ice. Twice. Goalie Ben Scrivens voiced how disrespectful that is, which it is, as it shows a lack of appreciation for all of those years that the teams before the 2014 squad had won. Scary thought: the Oilers wouldn’t even be the worst team if they played in the East. Scarier thought: when their talent clicks and they start to do well. I wish I was tech-savvy and could embed the video, instead, watch it here.
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With the playoffs on our doorstep, reminding us that our Rangers have yet to clinch a spot, it’s time to continue our look ahead at teams that we’ll definitely be seeing through late April at the very least. Though the focus has been mostly on the west, the East is also somewhat settled up. The reigning Eastern Conference champs, the Boston Bruins, have been in destruction mode all season and don’t seem to be letting up.
The Bruins, cashing in with 113 points as of today, are making quick work of nearly everyone who comes their way. Much like last year in the playoffs, they’re a terrifying group to look at, which is useful as the Rangers come down the home stretch and need them to make work of rivals like the Flyers. With their defeat of Philly yesterday, they clinched the best record in the East and home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference finals, something that’s a huge deal as they’ve got the best home record in all of hockey.
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Muscle for the 2013-14 Rangers
During Friday night’s melee against the Blue
Rangers Jackets, we certainly saw something we weren’t used to seeing since the departure of our captain at the very latest; we saw heart and a team playing with passion. We also saw an instance of a hard, borderline hit which rocked one of our players so hard he hasn’t played since with a questionable timetable to return. Though I feel I can speak for everyone in saying we never want to see this, what we saw afterwards was refreshing.
The passion came about with a fight – a quick 30 second dance – between a seasoned fighter and a guy who’s got 5 prior career NHL fights. Benoit Pouliot made his best effort to avenge an apparent concussion on John Moore, holding his own and pinning down Derek MacKenzie. For me, an unashamed Pouliot fan, this was exactly what I love to see: a guy unafraid to potentially get his butt handed to him in an effort to let the other team know they can’t mess with our guys. But is that really the right way?
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With the Rangers playing the Rangers rejects (or is that the Blue Jackets playing the Blue Jacket rejects?) on Friday it seemed like a good chance to throw up a Musings ahead of Friday’s game in Columbus. So, let’s get to it.
The fact that there is even a debate as to who won the Nash deal (so far) is proof enough that Nash has underwhelmed so far in New York. Nash was by far the best player moved in the deal but while the ex-Rangers in Columbus have developed quite well Nash has left the Rangers fans always wanting more.
Given the likelihood of Brad Richards leaving in the summer, you think the Rangers would live either of Dubinsky or Anisimov back? Dubinsky has 41 points so far, as he’s playing major minutes and a good two way game for Columbus while Anisimov is on 19 goals for the season and playing a very solid year to date. Both would still be solid players for the Rangers.
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Your Presidents’ Trophy frontrunners…
Being an enthusiast of following several teams closely, it’s only natural that playoff fever has hit me a bit earlier than for my nervous Rangers do or die fan counterparts. The great part of watching several teams is that you gain a perspective which you don’t get when your head is so far gone in hating that one guy on your team or figuring out why that other player isn’t getting enough ice time. It also educates you on the other conferences and divisions which your team will hopefully see down the road in May.
Throughout this journey of a season (isn’t it wonderful to have a full season again?), we were all graced with Olympic hockey which created a perfect opportunity for the casual hockey fan to learn about other teams. Who the heck is Bobby Ryan and why are we upset he isn’t being selected? Who is Cam Fowler? What is Blake Wheeler? All of these questions led to learning and eventually seeing these guys play.
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The Rangers were home for a matinee matchup yesterday against the Sharks, who came in battling the Ducks for top position in the Pacific Division. The Rangers were fresh off a win against Winnipeg which featured Carl Hagelin’s first career hat trick and Henrik Lundqvist’s 301st career win, which tied him with Mike Richter for the lead on the Rangers’ all time list.
The first period opened with an onslaught of offensive pressure from the Rangers. Despite 14 shots in the first 11 minutes of the game, Antti Niemi was on point enough that the Sharks were able to capitalize on only their 4th shot of the game. To add insult to injury, this goal was a shorthanded breakaway goal that was scored by Logan Couture as he deked and put a backhand shot over Lundqvist’s outstretched glove. This unfortunately was the only goal of the game, so let’s go over some points to take from it.
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The Rangers came home early Sunday afternoon looking to build on their win in Carolina on Friday. With an original six team in the building, the Rangers forgot about the struggle of daylight savings and worked towards a streak. Rangers who have been relatively silent woke up to produce, and we saw yet another goal based off of the hard work of the fourth line. Having been at the game, I’m not able to give a Dave-like goal breakdown, but let’s go over some of the main points of the game.
– The first goal was certainly not pretty, with John Moore breaking his stick and Boyle using his body in the front area of the net. Moore’s pass found its way to Boyle, whose wrist shot beat Howard. The goal was an effect of physical play.
– The Rangers had the edge in the first period, despite a bit of sloppy play by both teams that we can only assume is due to the (feels like) 11:30am start time. Unfortunately, the game looked like both teams were exhausted, probably fueled by the silence in the stands. The Rangers won 3-0, but it felt like a snoozefest.
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Each year, the New York Rangers throws a benefit for the Garden of Dreams Foundation which allows the players and fans to interact in a mock casino setting. All of the proceeds go to the Garden of Dreams, so the steep price tag goes for a great cause. After buying the ticket as a generous birthday gift to myself, I only hoped it would live up to my expectations. Fun fact: it did.
A lot of the experience is exactly what you’d expect – upon arrival, you’re handed a cup with a voucher for chips, introduced to items for auction, introduced to the team, introduced to the bar, and sent off on your own way. You’re given the option to mingle with the team, alumni, NYR staff, and MSG staff, as well as fellow fans. The players set up at table games – some dealing, some playing – and are extremely approachable for photos and conversation.
Since it would be unfair to give you a detailed minute by minute breakdown of the night – things do get hazy when you’re drinking wine — instead I’ll just give out random awards to pieces of the night with some wonderful iphone photography sprinkled in.
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With no more NHL games scheduled for two and a half weeks, all of the focus will be in Sochi as our former teammates will become the opponent, playing for a handful of countries over two weeks for prestigious Olympic gold. Over the past week, there have been some injuries and replacements made which have had some implications for team relationships here in North America.
Dave and the boys did a great job here keeping the focus mainly on the Cally non-trade, as the New York metro area is most directly affected by Callahan’s agent and Glen Sather (and his cigars, I suppose). The two most important injuries to track were recent – Max Pacioretty – and a long time ago – Steven Stamkos. Seeing the correlation between the NHL and the Olympic selection is pretty eye opening in each case.
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Last Sunday, instead of posting about happenings around the NHL, I was out on the field doing first hand work for a post. I shuffled up on the 4 train to Yankee Stadium not to watch the boys in pinstripes bat around and eat some delicious garlic fries, but instead, in the dead of winter, to watch some good old-fashioned pond hockey. Pond hockey on a baseball field, in front of 50,000 people. Big pond, eh?
The experience, from beginning to end, was absolutely incredible. Having not been lucky enough to experience the Winter Classic in 2012 in Philadelphia, I had no idea what to expect going in. Days of stalking the weather report didn’t do much justice – 5 degrees here or there means nothing when you’re debating 3 or 4 layers of leggings – especially when you’ve got to factor in adrenaline based on the amount of Henrique jerseys in the vicinity. Needless to say, the morning was filled with nervous excitement.
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