Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. 49 down, 33 to go.
To open tonight, I must ask of you this following question:
Come this time next week, Superbowl Sunday, will the Rangers remain as the first-place team of the weak Metropolitan Division?
(And historically, this division has never been weaker than it is today.)
Since this blog will have other refreshers and reminders for you tonight, here’s another – the current standings – and as all 32-teams in the league gear up for the homestretch of the 2023-24 regular season campaign:
For “Lavy’s Lot,” the team will host the 2022 Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche, on Monday night at M$G and will then see the 2020 & 2021 Stanley Cup champions, a recent Rangers’ rival too, the Tampa Bay Lightning, 48-hours later on Wednesday night.
(And do I need to remind you how the Rangers fared against the 2023 Stanley Cup champions this season, the Vegas Golden Knights? Maybe I’ll hold off on this “Rangers’ Refresher” – and let you look up these two brutal losses sustained – and within a time-span of one-week to boot! UGH!)
Once these two home matches are completed, the team will then play guest in the Windy City against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night – a lowly team that gave the Blueshirts some headaches during their first game played against one each other at M$G earlier this season – but to be fair – the Rangers did win that 1/5 game by a final score of 4-1 – and where the winner was truly never in doubt.
And yep – for yours truly, so much for sleeping next week!
(As noted many times before, I’m now on a new work schedule, with unfriendly hockey hours of 3PM-11:30PM. However, and as I have been doing – I will be going “dark” on social media come 7PM on game nights – and will then watch back and write about the game on this site once returned to my lovely abode.)
Conversely, the second-place Hurricanes, two-points back of the Rangers but with a game in-hand too, have three tough games themselves prior to Sunday’s San Francisco vs K.C. kickoff in Las Vegas – although they will have the home-ice advantage in this trio of contests.
On Tuesday, the Canes will take on the red-hot Canucks – and a Vancouver club who are now featuring Elias Lindholm in the middle. After that, the Avalanche will travel down from New York to Raleigh, NC for a game on Thursday night.
Last-up for the “Storm Surgers?” The New Jersey Devils, a team that just like the Hurricanes, were projected to win this division at the start of this season.
On paper (and we all know how that means nothing), the Rangers do have the easier schedule – but only because the Blackhawks are one of their three opponents.
However, and in a role-reversal from the start of the season – it are the Hurricanes that are heating up right now – and while the Rangers are reverting back to their old ways.
(Quinn’s fault! Gallant’s fault! Am I right?!?!? UGH!)
And for the love of the hockey gods – what’s Rangers’ general manager, Chris Drury, waiting for?
Before getting into the news and recent developments in Rangerstown, USA; up first, some reminders and refreshers – and especially for the fans, who like the team themselves, may have needed a break too from hockey during this past week.
A plug for our good buddies over at “The Blueshirt Underground Show,” who will be hosting another one of their usual entertaining and fun Ranger “watch parties” on February 24th, when the team takes the short drive down I-95:
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make this event, because like others, and like I did last year – I’m supposed to be going to this game – but as they say – “card is subject to change!”
In other words, and unlike last year – I’m not so sure if I’ll be able to get last-minute tickets on the cheap.
Going into this season, and expecting the Flyers to be at the bottom of the division, I thought that I could waltz myself into great seats for only $100 or so – but with John Tortorella flipping the orange-and-black script – Broad Street isn’t empty as it was at this time last season – and where no Flyer fan is selling off their season-tickets for pennies on the dollar either.
However, and having attended one of these BSU watch parties before, I can tell you from a personal point-of-view that these events are always a blast.
Plus, and for the fans who care about such things – you never leave these (free-to-attend) parties empty-handed either.
If you want more information on the event, then visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/blueshirtunderground
During the break, I posted two blogs – and where tonight I’m going to follow-up on some things that I said when writing them.
Here are the links in case you missed them:
The league’s (sometimes) annual All-Star weekend has now come and gone – and where really – there’s not too much that came out of it.
In fact, the biggest non-Lindholm development from the weekend was stuff that I talked about earlier this week – and really – ever since Jeff Gorton, formerly of the Rangers, first landed in Montreal.
Following the Calgary/Vancouver trade, where the big prize saw Elias Lindholm move from the floundering Flames to the best-in-the-NHL Canucks; a day later, we saw another pre-trade deadline cannonball splash, as Sean Monahan, now formerly of the Canadiens, is now currently a Winnipeg Jet.
In order to land the center, the Jets parted ways with a 2024 first-round draft pick and a 2027 conditional third-round pick.
If there was anything truly “surprising” from these pair of swaps, then it was the fact that it were only the Canadian general managers (and one Canadien too for that matter!) who wanted to get a five-week jump-start ahead of the March 8th, 2024 trade deadline.
Again, and as noted in the two blogs linked above – I never wanted Lindholm as a Ranger to begin with – and certainly not at the price that Vancouver paid for him.
And if you thought that there was a shot in hell that Gorton was going to do business with “Et Tu, Drury?” – well then you were out of your mind.
However, what Drury, the Rangers and their fans have to take away from these two deals, is that in order for the Blueshirts to receive a major star prior to the deadline, then they’ll most likely have to part ways with a first-round pick too.
While I know that many are making much ado about the Rangers potentially coughing up another first-round pick; to me, it doesn’t matter, and for these three reasons:
— The Rangers are operating under the “WIN NOW” mentality – so it’s about winning the Stanley Cup this year above all else.
— The Eastern Conference, and now more so than ever, is wide-open – and you gotta be in it to win it.
— Historically, it’s not like the Rangers are exactly wizards during NHL drafts – and even when they land (or are gifted) a first- and second-overall pick – it’s not like these players completely change the fortunes of the team either.
That last sentence rung completely true, a slap-in-the-face reality check too, during the NHL All-Star game, where you had other first-round (and first-overall picks too) dominating the weekend, including Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Nate MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, et al.
But of course, the Rangers, and unlike other teams fortunate enough to have a first-overall pick, never had the opportunity to draft a franchise center.
And as noted before in many of my writings – this shouldn’t surprise anyone either – as historically, it’s just part of “The Rangers’ Way!”
And what a transition back to the NHL All-Star Game too!
If there was anything that truly “excited” me about the NHL All-Star weekend, then it was the fact that three of my favorite goalies of today, Cam Talbot (LAK), Alexandar Georgiev (COL) and CZAR IGOR (NYR) all made the cut.
Talk about a vote of confidence in the Benoit Allaire “Goaltending Guru Tree,” no?
While of course, CZAR IGOR didn’t belong to be there, and while Talbot himself is struggling and being out-played by his back-up these days too (and his head coach, Todd McLellan, was also fired over the weekend); personally, I just got kick out of these three backstops being there.
As noted earlier, and from a Rangers’ perspective too, the only thing that I truly found enjoyable was all of the videos that the team shared featuring Leo Trocheck. (You can find all of them on the Rangers’ YouTube page.)
And that’s who these weekends are designed for – the kids (and kids who don’t see their fathers as much as they should due to the travel required in their line of work) – and perhaps as evident by those jerseys that were seemingly designed by a second-grader too.
Even away from Trocheck, I also saw videos that other teams posted of their players and families, and where of course, I also enjoyed seeing the Talbot twins having fun with their “GOALBUSTING” dad in Toronto.
While I will give you the results of these three games in just a second, if there was anything else that made me chuckle, then it was Justin Bieber himself – a lifelong hockey fan – but as you may have guessed – a singer whose catalogue doesn’t really appeal to yours truly.
As a man who shares many adages on this site, here’s another – “TIME FLIES.”
Take a look:
As you should know – there’s no way to assess/grade/review an NHL All Star Game.
And if you need an explanation on why that’s the case, then this site isn’t for you.
Following a Friday night where not only did Alexandar Georgiev triumph in the goaltending skills competition, but Connor McDavid won the whole shebang too – and a series of skill events which he came up with himself at that; come Saturday, the trio of three-vs-three All-Star Games were played.
Peter Laviolette’s “Team McDavid” prevailed, 4-3, in a shootout, over “Team MacKinnon” in the first game.
And to show you how meaningless and lackadaisical these games were, in this particular contest, MacKinnon’s team were up 3-1 with thirty-seconds remaining.
Laviolette, used to pulling his goalie these days, did so again here – and then saw something that never happens with the Rangers – two goals scored for within 26-seconds during the final minute of play.
That only happens against him this season!
Now at 3-3 at the end of regulation time, Bobrovsky then won the shootout over Georgiev.
In the other preliminary match-up, Team Matthews defeated Team Hughes, 6-5, and where much like the first game – and for the second-time in NHL All-Star history too – a shootout was required.
Trocheck, who picked up a primary assist in the game, and where former (and maybe future) Ranger, Frank Vatrano scored two goals himself, then saw his teammate, CZAR IGOR, go a perfect four-of-four in the shootout for the win.
Of course, CZAR IGOR also gave up three goals which blew an earlier lead in the game, thus needing both the comeback and the shootout to win – but again – you can’t take these games seriously to begin with.
In the final game, the $1M championship match, it were CZAR IGOR and Vincent Trocheck getting bragging rights over their head coach, as Team Matthews defeated Team McDavid by a 7-4 final score.
And if you’re Laviolette, and again, even if it’s something as small as this – then isn’t this what you’d prefer anyway – seeing your players get a confidence boost and good-feelings installed?
And of course, since the event was held in Toronto – Auston Matthews was then named as the weekend’s MVP.
Final thought about the All-Star weekend?
After watching Taylor Swift give Travis Kelce and his Kansas City Chiefs a huge shot in the arm this season, then maybe a Ranger, such as Kaapo Kakko, K’Andre Miller or Alexis Lafreniere, should date Justin Bieber?
Think about all of the PRIDE NIGHT jerseys that the Rangers would sell too – and for a team that wears blue – the only color of the rainbow that this franchise cares about is green!
Following the NHL All-Star weekend in Toronto – or at least following Saturday night; come Sunday at 2PM, the Rangers, and for the first time in over a week, reconvened at their practice facility in Tarrytown, NY.
My first thought?
I can see why many players want nothing to do with the All-Star Game – as not only is your annual vacation ruined – but you don’t even get a full day back home to get back into the swing of things.
I mean, while I’m sure that the Trocheck family had fun, and while I’m also sure that CZAR IGOR had his jollies too – these guys didn’t even get eight-hours back at home once returned to their estates (and from a different country no less).
The same applies to Peter Laviolette – but let’s face it – head coaches, and similar to this particular beer-bellied blogger – don’t get much rest to begin with!
But since the Rangers first game back is on Monday (they are only one of four teams, of the thirty-two, to return on Monday rather than on Tuesday like nearly everyone else) – a get-back-on-track, post-vacation, practice was necessary.
From all accounts, the line-up from practice (and the probable line-up for Monday night too) was what was to be expected, but with four reminders before giving it to you:
One, Ryan Lindgren missed the final game prior to the break (against Ottawa), due to an injury sustained the night before in the Vegas loss. He returned on Sunday, so he’s fine.
Two, Jacob Trouba remains suspended and will serve the final game of his two-game ban on Monday night against Colorado.
Three, both Jake Leschysyhn and Connor Mackey were returned to Hartford following the win in Ottawa – but as we’d later see at 5PM Sunday (more below too) – they were then recalled.
Four, Mrs. Panarin is due to give birth any day now to the couple’s second child – and where by the time you read this – she may have already baked her second human loaf of bread. In other words, there’s a chance that “The Breadman” may miss Monday’s game.
Here was the line-up:
FIRST LINE: Panarin/Trocheck/Lafreniere
SECOND LINE: Kreider/Zibanejad/Wheeler
THIRD LINE: Cuylle/Brodzinski/Kakko
FOURTH LINE: Vesey/Goodrow/Pitlick
FIRST PAIR: Lindgren/Fox
SECOND PAIR: Miller/Schneider
THIRD PAIR: Jones/Gustafsson
STARTER: CZAR IGOR
Following the light skate with no news outside of the Lindgren return taking place, the head coach then conducted his mandatory post-practice edition of “LAVY’S LOUNGE.”
Here it is for you below:
Despite talking for over eleven-minutes, not much was really said, outside of confirming the news that Lindgren is a-okay.
Laviolette made some jokes about the All-Star Game and then said that he was happy for Trocheck and CZAR IGOR. I mean, what else did you expect him to say?
As the Rangers move forward, the head coach also said that the team was on a winning streak (one-game), but he did say this tongue-in-cheek, while saying that the break allowed his guys to recharge and gear-up for the homestretch.
Again, this was all obvious stuff.
Following both the practice and the press conference; a few hours later, the Rangers announced this:
UPDATE: Jake Leschyshyn and Connor Mackey have been recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack.
— NY Rangers PR (@NYR_PR) February 4, 2024
I was mildly surprised by these two moves and for these reasons:
— Obviously, these are “insurance policy” moves, as neither player participated at Sunday’s practice – but usually – “insurance policy” moves are made ahead of road games.
— But since Trouba is still out for one more game, the Rangers had no extras on the roster, and should someone get injured during Monday’s warm-up skate, then Laviolette wouldn’t have even been able to dress an 11F/7D line-up.
— Furthermore, and as alluded to above, there’s a chance that Panarin may not be available for Monday’s game too.
— These two transactions were also “salary-cap savings” deals, as by waiting until 5PM (and withholding both players from Sunday’s practice too), the team saved some pennies during the “salary cap accrual process.”
— But of course, what are all of these nickels-and-dimes being saved for remains as the biggest question at the moment.
With both Lindholm and Monahan now off of the table (and as noted – I didn’t think either would have ever happened – and despite others, including “reporters,” suggesting as much) – I’m left to imagine that another former Ranger now in a general manager position, Pat Verbeek, presently head-honcho of the Anaheim Ducks, is the most popular guy in the league.
While of course, Frank Vatrano is once again garnering a ton of trade deadline interest (and in hindsight – it would have been much better for this “WIN NOW” team to have retained Vatrano in the Summer of ’22 rather than re-signing Kakko), the other Duck attracting the majority of league-wide attention is someone who have I brought up many times before throughout the past few months on this site, “Ranger Killer” Adam Henrique.
And when you see the hauls that both Montreal and Calgary received, and as noted earlier – you have to think that a first-round pick will have to be included to land either one of these players – in the case of the Rangers – they’ll need both of these players.
If not, then they will still need to pay-up to someone else – assuming that the goal remains to win the Stanley Cup in ’24.
Again, and as noted earlier – the East is really wide-open – and where you have to think that other contenders are also interested in both Vatrano and Henrique, which in theory (if not reality), will only up Verbeek’s asking price.
The only advantage that the Rangers have right now is Chytil’s LTIR money, meaning that they can absorb contracts better than their foes.
But even so, that’s only a minor advantage at this stage of the season – and especially for a down-and-out Ducks’ team.
As a reminder, here’s what I’ve been pushing for the past month on this site – and all while pretending that I have what it takes to be an NHL GM too:
K’Andre Miller, a second round pick & Tyler Pitlick to Ottawa for Tarasenko (50% retained) & Jakob Chychrun (25% retained).
Kaapo Kakko, Zac Jones & a first round pick to Anaheim for Frank Vatrano (50% retained), Adam Henrique (50% retained) & a depth d-man of your choosing (Radko Gudas is the apple of my eye).
A fourth- and fifth-round pick to Minnesota for Pat Maroon.
Landing a quality center is going to be the hardest mission for Drury – as there are not that many players out there to fill the need – and especially now, with two of them off of the board.
But there are better options out there for a right-winger, and where my suggestion, a trade with Ottawa, may be more feasible than dealing with Verbeek and Co.
That all said, I’m not so sure about Drury’s current “wait-and-see” approach, because as the clock ticks closer-and-closer to the deadline, and based on what we saw this weekend – other teams aren’t waiting for March 8th.
Unlike the other contending GMs (and say what you want about the Rangers’ current predicament and free-fall – but they are still in first-place and this conference isn’t exactly full of juggernauts either) – Drury does have a ton of money to work with when attempting to get things done.
But until Drury pulls the trigger – it’s tough to see the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup in their present state.
And really, would it shock anyone if Alexandar Georgiev shuts out the Rangers tomorrow – while the name-brand Avalanche have a field day against CZAR IGOR and his excuse-ready Blueshirts?
(I can hear it from Zibanejad’s lips now – “We needed some time after the long break – but we’ll turn this thing around!”)
Up Next: Rangers vs Avalanche on Monday night.
One last time – “AS NOTED EARLIER,” I’ll be going dark on the Tweeter and Facebook machines starting at 7PM – but will watch and post my GAME REVIEW on this site sometime around 3:30AM Tuesday morning!
PLUGS TIME! (Buy a book and support my Rangers’ induced therapy bills. After all, I don’t run ads on this site!)
My fourth title and tenth book is now available!
“The Top 100 Villains of New York Rangers History,” is now available for sale!
For complete information, please visit: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/rangerkillers/
My second plug of tonight’s blog – the mandatory plug for my book, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden.”
As mentioned previously, the book is now available in hardcover, in paperback and in Kindle formats. To purchase a copy of the book, visit this link:
For those still looking for signed paperback versions of the book, I have re-ordered more copies. I now have a few signed copies for sale at $25 a pop (includes shipping price) through me directly. Here is all the information on that:
My four-volume set of books, “One Game at a Time – A Season to Remember,” is a game-by-game recount of the Rangers 2021-22 campaign.
My second title as an author, “One Game at a Time – A Season to Remember,” is now available in eBook, paperback and hardcover formats.
To obtain signed copies, visit: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/onegamebook/
To purchase all four volumes on Amazon, visit: Amazon.com – “One Game at a Time.”
The greatest volume-set of books on Rangers’ history today!
“Tricks of the Trade – A Century-Long Journey Through Every Trade Made In New York Rangers’ History,” a four-volume set of books that meticulously covers every trade made in franchise history, is now on sale.
All four volumes of the title can be purchased on Amazon.com and are presented in three different formats – eBook, paperback and hardcover.
To purchase Volume I: Conn Smythe (1926) – Craig Patrick (1986), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume II: Phil Esposito (1986) – Neil Smith (2000), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume III: Glen Sather (2000-2015), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume IV: Jeff Gorton (2015) – Chris Drury (2022), visit Amazon.com
To purchase signed copies of all four volumes, visit https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/tricksofthetrade/
Here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them:
New Kakko On The Blockko – But Does The Finn Have “The Right Stuff?” Rebuilding Flames Get a Haul From “Win-Now” Canucks in Elias Lindholm Trade, Should Chris Drury “Overpay” or “Stay?” James Dolan, Jeff Gorton, Larry Brooks, Trouba v. Johnson; Get Well Fischler, The Ridiculous Stadium Series Cash Grab & More
Filip Chytil Officially Shutdown For Season; Rangers Release Statement (And Where the “C-Word” Isn’t Mentioned), The Irresponsible Gary Bettman, Drury Makes Two Transactions, Lundqvist Beats Isles & More
NYR/OTT 1/27 Review: Wolf Pack’s Mr. Mackey’s Big Game Saves Blueshirts; Rangers Enter Break with a Much Needed & Most Unusual Win – But Nothing Has Changed, Trouba Suspended; Lindgren Injured, Power-Play Problems, Ride Quick’s Hot Hand, M$GN & More
If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:
Don’t forget to order my recently released four-volume set of books, “Tricks of the Trade!”
If you don’t order through me, all four volumes are now available on Amazon.com
For more details, check out: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/tricksofthetrade/
Thanks for reading.
LET’S GO RANGERS!
@NYCTHEMIC on the Tweeter machine