The Rise and Fall of the 2011/12 New York Rangers Part I: Greg’s Thoughts

One goalie leaving, the other in his prime. Could this be a passing of the torch?

This is going to be a two-part series, the second of which will feature some guest writers and their take on the surprising rise and disappointing fall of the New York Rangers in this 2011/2012 season.

The NHL playoffs can be described as one word: relentless. The pace is non-stop, the play is aggressive, and there is never a moment’s peace where one can step back and take a deep breath. On that basis alone, one could argue that the New York Rangers have been in the playoffs for the entire season, starting before the season actually started. Playoffs are full of endless trials and tribulations, elated moments of victory and agonizing moments of defeat. It does not matter how it ends, and people rarely think about how it even begins. For the Rangers, it started with a 10,000 mile trek across Europe for some pre-season match-ups with local teams, culminating with two season-opening games in Stockholm, Sweden against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. When they returned to North America, they then had to go on an elongated break and even more road games, as Madison Square Garden’s phase one transformation had not yet been completed. It took a while for the Rangers to get going, but once they did, there was never a break. Even with some bumps in the road along the way, the Rangers managed to lose three regulation games in a row only twice in the regular season, and then once in the playoffs. They did all of this while being watched by HBO’s cameras 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the month of December, and then had to prepare for a mini-Stanley Cup game, as I refer to the Winter Classic, against the Philadelphia Flyers in Citizens Bank Ballpark, in front of 50,000 fans, a game which they won with a late comeback and some stellar goaltending.

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New York Rangers Playoff Musings: Team Depth, Struggles, and Wade Redden

With the New York Rangers only one loss away from being eliminated from the Eastern Conference Finals, the farthest point in their playoff lives since 1997, all the what-if questions will now start to rear their ugly heads. While in a few weeks, regardless of the now ominous outcome that seems likely to unfold, we will all sit back and say this season was a success, and an immense one at that, but for now, positivity must be shelved to address the current problem: why are the Rangers having such a difficult time in these playoffs? While I was angry the last time I wrote about this team, something I do not do much anymore on this blog, I just want to make it clear that no matter what happens, no one can question this team’s heart and character, but unfortunately, heart and character do not win hockey games on their own, they act as a compliment with skill and help drive teams toward winning.

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Eastern Conference Finals Preview: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

Well, this is what we were all waiting for: the series of the year. While fans of the New York Rangers rooted wholeheartedly for the Florida Panthers, and, dare I say it, Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds, the New Jersey Devils’ fans cheered on the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals with a passion. All the ill-wishing was for naught, however, as it is only by destiny and the fate ordained to us by the Hockey Gods (with a little consideration for league economics; did you hear that sound at about 10:15 Saturday night? That was the thud of NBC Sports Corporation executives jumping up and down) that these are the two teams which will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, the prelude to the Stanley Cup. These two teams met there once before, when the Rangers defeated them in seven games back in 1994, thanks to a double-overtime winner by Stephane Matteau, but that moment is long gone now, except for the Devils that hold onto the final shred: the only player still currently playing that was on either team, Martin Brodeur. That was his first full season, and now many think this one will be his last—either way, you can be sure that the Rangers would love nothing more than to see Brodeur’s career begin and end with a Conference Finals loss at their hands, while Brodeur will do everything in his power to have the last laugh this time.

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Rangers vs. Devils: Are You Ready for a War?

Just a quick post after tonight’s New York Rangers’ victory over the Washington Capitals to get to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997. My third round picks will be coming up tomorrow.

Maybe it was fate. Maybe the Hockey Gods just wanted their preeminent league to make a ton of money as the best possible match-up for this series marketing-wise came into place. It does not matter. I am not going to offer a prediction just yet in regards to the series, but what I will say is, it is going to be a war. A guerrilla war—the cut, slash, and run kind. It does not matter who you root for or how confident you are in your team. If you are a true fan, you just may lose a few years off your life in the next two weeks. Both teams want to win, but each could accept losing…if it was not for the opponent at hand. The stresses experienced in these playoffs will only be magnified because of who each respective team is playing.

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Saturday’s Game 7 for the Rangers: The Hottest Ticket in Town?

Despite some questionable coaching decisions and lackluster performances in each game following a very important overtime win, the New York Rangers are farthest into the playoffs than they have been since 2007, when they lost to the Buffalo Sabres in six games. The first six games of this series has been a see-saw match, as no team has yet to win two in a row, and the largest margin of victory has been two goals. The team that has scored first has won every game, even after in the first five games, the opponent has tied the score at 1-1; the only exception so far being last night, when the Washington Capitals found themselves with their greatest lead of the series at 2-0. The Rangers have a habit of never making things easy. Though the playoffs are not what they used to be—the mantra of “just get in” has worked wonders—as seeding seems to mean absolutely nothing anymore, the Rangers had a hard time beating the Ottawa Senators, and have now taken the Capitals to the brink. Having lost the last two playoff match-ups against this very same team, the Rangers desperately need to get their act together with their backs against the wall on Saturday night. This series has been a microcosm of their season, where nothing ever came easy, and the Rangers always emerged on top. After two thrilling overtime wins and some spectacular play from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, all would unfortunately be for naught if the Blueshirts cannot close out the Capitals in Game Seven two days from now, a game that has become the hottest ticket in town…quite literally.

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2012 NHL Playoffs: Round Two Predictions

Well, as usual, my first round predictions were forgettable to say the least, getting only three out of the eight overall outcomes right, and none in the exact number of games played. As you know, there is a definition of insanity that can be seen as, “Repeating the same action over and over again, expecting different results.” That said, it’s time for my second round predictions. May I have better luck with these:

Eastern Conference

(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals: Rangers in 7

(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils: Flyers in 6

Western Conference

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings: Kings in 5

(3) Phoenix Coyotes (4) Nashville Predators: Predators in 7

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New York Rangers: First Round Heroes and Zeroes

First off, congratulations to both the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers for a thrilling, stress-inducing, and hard-fought seven game series. It truly epitomized what hockey was all about when the playoffs roll around: scoring, toughness, excitement, and timely goaltending. While all of us, I am sure, had a few minutes [or hours] removed from our lives because of how close all the games were, would you have it any other way? Of course not! The Rangers did what they were supposed to do, and it was not easy, but they find themselves advancing to the second round to face the Washington Capitals, a team I did not want to face in the first round at all, because the Rangers’ last two playoff exits have come at their hands. You could look at the situation in one of two ways: 1) The Rangers are due for a playoff win because the law of averages states that Washington cannot continue the success they have had, or 2) The Capitals just have the Rangers’ number and are in their heads, therefore they will win yet again. Either way you want to look at it, there is not time for much thinking, as Game One is tomorrow afternoon. Not having much time off will probably go to benefit the Rangers more than hurt them; after winning such an emotional game, it would be good to get right back out there as soon as possible, rather than sit around.

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2012 Winter Classic Confirmed: Rangers and Flyers Showdown

The logo from the 2010 NHL Winter Classic.

This morning, it was Tweeted by Larry Brooks of the NY Post that it will be the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers facing off in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic. The game will be played in the City of Brotherly Love, but to my knowledge, the venue is still not know. Rumors had been circulating about this matchup for months, but now it has been confirmed. This will be the Flyers’ second showing in the popular New Year’s Day game, that will actually be played on January 2nd this year. They took on the Boston Bruins in the 2010 game that was played at Fenway Park.

Though I suppose most people wanted to see the New Jersey Devils or New York Islanders in there, a game involving the Rangers on this stage needs a team that is actually relevant to the league and has a fan base. The Flyers will bring that, and perhaps the rivalry between these two teams is even greater than the ones against the Devils and Islanders at this time. The Rangers make sense being in here, and probably should have been used earlier. No matter how successful they are, New York is always an attractive market, and it is a shame that they could not have the game at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, because this event needs the lights of New York City.

Nevertheless, we got what we all wanted here, as this is sure to be an intense matchup. But that is not all. The Rangers and Flyers will also be participating in the acclaimed series 24/7, which began last year on HBO, and went behind the scenes into the daily and gamely lives of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The show was a smash-hit, made even more so by a certain profane tirade by Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau. With John Tortorella, and presumably Sean Avery, if he is still on the team, for the Rangers, and the slew of enforcers under the helm of hot-tempered coach Peter Laviolette, this should make for some good entertainment. I suppose I will have to order HBO now; combine this with To Appomattox that is supposed to be out next year, and this channel is going to have some nice programming.

One last item regarding 24/7, and that is how shocked I am that the Rangers are actually involving themselves with this. It is well known that their PR department are a bunch of control freaks who like to present a pristine image to the hockey world, and this series could put a damper on that. I would not be shocked if they ask the production team to censor certain parts. Not trying to be negative here, but it’s the Rangers so who knows…

New York Rangers Season Ends with Dismal Loss to Capitals

Another disappointing, up-and-down season of New York Rangers hockey has come to a close. For the second straight playoff year, the Rangers are eliminated by a superior, but beatable, Washington Capitals team. It pains me to say, but for a team that had their backs against the wall this afternoon, they put forth a heartless and uninspired effort (until the final minute), and fell by the score of 3-1. The Rangers failed, all series long, to take advantage of a rookie goaltender, but just like they do in the regular season, they make rookies and journeymen look like superstars. To say the Rangers played bad for the entire series would be lying. The Blueshirts were in every game, for the most part, and the largest margin of victory for either team was just two goals.

For the Rangers, they knew their season was over along with the double-overtime 4-3 loss in Game Four. To blow a three goal lead in the third period is inexcusable, and there was no chance of recovery, despite head coach John Tortorella telling the media that the Rangers would be “ready to play today”.

For the Rangers’ big-money men, Henrik Lundqvist did all he could do to give his team a chance to win. Had the team in front of him been able to clear a puck in Game One, and not totally collapsed in Game Four, then I may be writing about how the Rangers defeated the mighty Capitals as the underdog. If I was him, I would have walked into the locker room and quit. Chris Drury played as well as I expected him to, but Marian Gaborik was a different story. Where was he, exactly? Except for his tap-in goal in the last game, he was invisible. There were really no instances where he was even noticeable, which pretty much went along with his regular season. If this is just one bad year, so be it, but if this is what we can expect for next season to, then I hope to God that this was his last game as a New York Ranger.

As for who stays and who goes, if I had to give you that list now, more than half the team would be on their way out. I will wait, probably until mid-May for that round-up, and my sentiments might not even change that much. These Rangers played hard all season, there is no denying that. With their roster and injury troubles, perhaps it was a miracle they even made the playoffs at all, but they did, and then fell flat on their faces. The one bright side out of all of this is the learning experience for the abundance of youngsters in the lineup—that will be really valuable down the road. So maybe this year was not totally lost after all. As they say, you have to lose before you can win. Even Pierre McGuire said on NBC that though fans may be upset, the future for New York is really bright.

So I will end here, with my last post-game recap of the season. I want to first apologize for the downsizing in hockey coverage, but also thank you all for sticking with me all season long. It was a pleasure getting to writing for you and getting the chance to interact with so many amazing fans. We can only hope for a better season to come, one without so many harrowing disappointments.

I’ve been watching hockey since I was five or six years old, and I still get emotional during the handshakes at the end of an elimination game. For five games, these two teams beat the crap out of each other, then they shake hands and hug. That’s what I love about hockey.

Recapping the Rangers’ Double-OT Loss Through Status Updates

Because I am at a loss for words after tonight’s double overtime loss to the Washington Capitals, I am not going to write a post-game recap. Instead, I am going to let my Facebook status updates do the talking for what was a highly entertaining and intense game, despite a heartbreaking loss by the New York Rangers. I would also like to note, that the Rangers are once again partially done in by the referees, and both in the same situation. In Game One, a failed whistle with a puck in the crease resulted in a late-game tying goal to send the game to overtime 1-1. Tonight, in the third period, Henrik Lundqvist had the puck covered along the goal line, and even though the referee was right behind the net, he did not blow the whistle. The Capitals would score their first goal, to get the score to 3-1, before their onslaught would continue, all triggered by one goal.

Here they are, in chronological order; my documentation of Game Four:

  • Hey Boudreau, can you hear us now you fat [expletive]?

(10 likes, 2 comments) Posted right after the Rangers scored their first goal, which elevated the already rocking Madison Square Garden crowd. This coming after fans chanted “Boudreau Sucks” and “Can you hear us?” earlier in the game.

  • Boudreau is so hungry he’s eating his words tonight.

(10 likes, 0 comments) This went up after the second period ended, with the Rangers holding that famed (and dreaded) three goal lead. I was more confident now than ever before in the series, but even so, I reminded myself that these were the New York Rangers I was rooting for.

  • I think I’ll take that drink now…

(3 likes, 0 comments) How appropriate this one was, posted right after the Capitals scored their second goal. Somehow I just knew the Rangers were not going to get out alive. They just could not stop the collapse, and the offensively superior Capitals took it to them hard.

  • To overtime we go. These idiots are hell-bent on giving me a heart attack.

(1 like, 2 comments) Self explanatory.

  • And Ranger fans wonder why their life insurance policies are more expensive? Holy [expletive]…

(5 likes, 1 comment) This came right after Lundqvist stopped Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway, probably the most nerve-wracking moment of the game, and one that took a year off my life.

  • Wanted: Stephane Matteau

(7 likes, 5 comments) With the game going to the second overtime, how could I think of anyone else?

  • If this game goes any longer, I am going to need a bottle of Just for Men.

(3 likes, 4 comments) Lucky me, the game did not last much longer.

  • This epic game ends like that? What a crock of [expletive]. [Expletive] you Marian Gaborik.

(2 likes, 4 comments) This cannot even get across my frustration with how this game ended. All the drama, all the intensity, just thrown out the window because Gaborik decided to swipe at a puck that Lundqvist was about to pounce on. At least Mr. Invisible decided to score a goal tonight, his first in 13 games, and actually looked pretty good. But I’m sure this will be his usual one-game wonder. I just hope he’ll be invisible some place else next season.

  • To make up for the shots the Rangers did not get in overtime, I would like to take a few of my own. Anyone wanna join me?

(1 like, 3 comments) Not to advocate underage drinking, but the offer still stands. To quote a great man, “Oy vey!”