Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. As Dorothy Gale once remarked, “There’s no place like home!”
It’s even better to have my much maligned laptop now stored away – and never to be used again until my next Rangers’ road-trip!
In case you’re new here; over the weekend I attended both of the Blueshirts games played in Buffalo and in Pittsburgh.
You can find my photo gallery of the Sabres/Rangers game here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/31123pix/
You can find my photo gallery of the Penguins/Rangers game here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/31223/
And while I didn’t attend the first game of the road-trip, the Rangers’ shootout victory over the Canadiens (GAME REVIEW here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/3923/ ); this much is true – of the nine periods that the Blueshirts have played since their four-day break – they’ve only looked, at best, half-way decent during one of them – their final twenty minutes spent in Pittsburgh.
The other eight periods? A flat-out tire-fire, where only captain Jacob Trouba, the fourth line of Tyler Motte/Barclay Goodrow/Jimmy Vesey, Alexis Lafreniere, and the two goalies, Jaroslav Halak and CZAR IGOR, have consistently played well.
While the points in the standings were nice – these past three games weren’t very encouraging for a team with their eyes on the prize.
There’s a lot for yours truly to catch-up on tonight and it’s my plan to cover all of it.
And this too – I’m glad that the Rangers, much like myself, were off on Monday!
Aside from telling you all about my trips, travel tips, the games, what I saw first-hand, giving you my opinions on the team, etc; I’ll also hit all of the latest news & notes that I missed from this past weekend.
For now, let’s try to do all of this in a chronological fashion and pick-up from when I last wrote to you, following the Rangers’ overtime win against the Sabres – and where I also want to expand on what I said on Saturday night.
(And for a photo gallery from my first night spent in Buffalo, check out: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/31023/ )
Just some final thoughts about the city of Buffalo before continuing on, where let me start with this – I loved my short-stay there.
And while I don’t say this very often – this much is true – I would have no problem living there either.
Heck, if I had unlimited access to money – then I’d return back to Buffalo on March 31st, when the Rangers do battle once again with their “WINTER CLASSIC RIVALS!”
I’d also pack some Pepto Bismol too – because while the wings were out-of-this-world & as good as advertised – so were my farts!
And yep – no other hockey writer gives you the straight dope like this!
After all, do you think that Wince Mercogliano is telling his readers from behind a paywall about his indigestion issues? I think not! After all, you can’t find such information on NaturalStatTrick.com!
Plus, I’m giving you this riveting reveal for free!
And one day – I’m sure that we’ll get EXPECTED EAST-WEST vs NORTH-SOUTH FART stats, as broken down by Sieve Vagistat too! (And those east-west farts can leave a mark!)
Moving on, as I think I’ve done enough toilet humor for one manifesto!
Going into my trip, I thought that Buffalo was a big city and that getting from Point A to Point B would take some time.
Not so fast.
Instead, nearly everything was located about five-minutes away from our Downtown hotel, including the arena, the casino, all of the famous chicken wing places, the grave of Millard Fillmore, the bars and my favorite stop of the trip, the Labatt Blue Brewery!
And if it wasn’t for the meddling snow and cold temperatures – we could have walked everywhere too.
(Don’t let my beer-belly size fool you – I don’t mind walking – I actually prefer it. Plus I’m mainly “water weight” anyway – as water is a major ingredient in beer – a fact that I found out at the Labatt Brewery! The more you know!)
What did kind of surprise me was that during all of our travels, we routinely passed many homes, but please keep this in mind as you continue to read – I’m only talking about what I experienced – which was about a three-mile radius in total – but these streets that I went down were located in the heart of the city too.
Disclaimer aside; as we drove past dwelling-after-dwelling, here was what every block looked like: a really nice & renovated home, two crackhouses, a foreclosed house, a shuddered by wood planks house, and rinse-wash-repeat.
From what I was told, the economy in Buffalo is shaky at best – and where like most major cities – gentrification is coming in.
While I didn’t see any foo-foo soy vegan restaurants, nor men with hair-buns carrying around $20 coffees in their hands either; you could see a lot of construction, where these new homes are starting to pop up.
One of my UBER drivers told me that following COVID-19; many people from NYC have moved to Buffalo and are slowly starting to push the riff-raff out – which is not necessarily a great thing for long-time & hometown residents.
While yes, gentrification increases property values; along with it comes painstaking property tax hikes.
For people who have lived in Buffalo all of their life – they may soon be forced to move from the only home that they’ve ever known.
It will be interesting to see what Buffalo looks like in five-years – and since I enjoyed my time there – I hope to be alive and see it first-hand!
As you’d expect, Buffalo is a two-sport town, where currently, the Bills have everyone’s hearts – hearts that were broken during this year’s NFL playoffs.
Due to Buffalo’s close proximity to Canada – hockey is the other sport – but since the Sabres are just weeks away from missing the playoffs for the twelfth consecutive year – fans are wishy-washy about their NHL club.
That said, once the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs commence – you can expect the Buffalo market to have the highest TV ratings in all of America – a trend that’s been around for years.
Despite the present woes of the Sabres – these fans aren’t down on hockey – as many Buffalo residents support local minor-league, collegiate and pee-wee teams.
The city is also a hotbed for high school hockey and as was evident this weekend – especially since the high school state championships were being held just steps away from where the Sabres call home. (My hotel was full of these players, their families and students of these respective schools.)
For this New Yorker, albeit one that lives 400 miles away from Buffalo; everyone I encountered was friendly – and for a “big city” – I couldn’t have felt more invited – and it was great talking hockey with everyone I met.
Perhaps Buffalo’s biggest draw for tourists are the finest delicacies known to man – the almighty chicken wing.
As talked about on Friday night – every local in Buffalo has their bar/restaurant of choice (just like NYC residents do with pizza and bagels – and sometimes “pizza bagels” too!) – while “The Anchor Bar” is considered to be the biggest “tourist trap” of them all.
For me, but keep in mind, I’m not picky anyway – I thought “The Anchor Bar” was just as good as “Gabriel’s Gate.”
While I could only imagine what Jon Taffer (of “Bar Rescue”) would say about the decor at “The Anchor Bar,” as the restaurant has about 78967676 different themes going on, including sports, motorcycles, etc; at the same time, when you have a reputation and/or a gimmick – it doesn’t matter what it looks like inside.
And based on what I saw – “The Anchor Bar” doesn’t need saving from Mr. Taffer anyway! The place is a goldmine!
The Final Take: Check out as many wing spots as possible and you be the judge! To each their own!
For me? I enjoyed both the local joint and the “tourist trap.” And the staffs and food at both places were an overwhelming A Plus-Plus-Plus – and really – that’s all that matters.
When it comes to Buffalo’s pregame bar scene – admittedly – there weren’t that many options – or at least not in comparison to NYC and the many other NHL cities that I have visited.
(And after this trip – I only have five more NHL cities to visit – Winnipeg, Vancouver, Dallas, San Jose and Columbus – but I would like to see the college rink in Arizona during the next two years, having previously been to Glendale.)
Since Buffalo tends to always be cold – there’s no tailgate scene to be found – nor is there a dedicated parking lot either, as instead, you have to use one of the many parking garages in the area. (We paid $25.)
Located about fifty steps away from the KeyBank Center, where the Sabres call home, is the Labatt Blue Brewery – with a restaurant/bar attached – a perfect spot for some pregame pops and belts.
For me – rather than eating – instead, I bellied-up to the small bar inside of the brewery – which wound up being a smart move.
As the restaurant/bar area became packed, shoulder-to-shoulder and wall-to-wall; I sat at the bar inside of the brewery, a space which sits about twelve people – and without having to deal with a barrage of “excuse me’s,” as people tend to constantly bump into you and/or make their way to the bathroom.
And yep – the beers I had at the brewery bar were the best I ever had – and as you’d expect. I’ve never had a fresher and better tasting Labatt Blue in my life – and I’m talking from the perspective of a highly-seasoned & experienced veteran!
The Final Take: If you ever go to Buffalo and should you be a beer drinker – then you have to hit up the brewery!
The KeyBank Center is the Sabres’ second arena. Originally built in 1996, the venue replaced the Sabres’ former home, their first home, “The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium” (1970-1996).
The current venue has now been around longer than the first one – as the KeyBank Center is now celebrating their 27th birthday.
It’s time for a third one.
While the KeyBank Center wasn’t bad or anything like that – it is dated.
With new arenas all over the league, including two new teams during the past five-years too (Vegas and Seattle); the Sabres’ home is now one of the oldest in the league.
As someone who has been to nearly every NHL barn – while the sight lines were impeccable – every other line was not – including the bathroom line – where you nearly spent the entire intermission waiting to drain the main vein. (And for female readers – those bathroom lines were just as long as one of these blogs!)
In addition, since the venue can hold over 19,000 fans (and this game was sold-out); getting out of there was no peach either.
As mentioned – Buffalo is a small city – so it wasn’t easy getting everyone out of there, as we nearly spent 45-minutes in traffic before reaching the highway.
I know that many fans rate these arenas based on both the food and amenities offered – but since that isn’t my jam – I really don’t have much information for you here. I can tell you that they sold food though!
The only things I care about, aside from the most important thing – the view from the seats – are the price for a beer and the bathroom lines.
While the beers were much cheaper than M$G; those bathroom lines were just as treacherous as the post-game traffic – or listening to the M$GN broadcast of a Rangers’ game.
The Final Take: While I don’t think that the arena is much to write home about (even if I’m doing so right now!); it is a throwback, a relic to the past – and where arenas like this one won’t be around much longer.
I don’t know this for a fact – but I don’t think there are many flights from Buffalo to Pittsburgh – if any at all.
And since it’s only a three-hour drive between the two cities – it’s much cheaper and faster to drive than hang around for a plane – especially planes in this area, where weather is always an issue.
Should you ever make the trip yourself (more times than not – the Rangers play the Sabres and Penguins on this particular Western NY/PA trip), then my advice is to do what we did – fly to one city, drive to the other, and then fly back home out of the other city.
The drive was a straight shot – 100 miles on the NY Thruway and then another 100 miles down I-79 in Pennsylvania.
Just make sure you have some good headlights on your rental car – as the bulk of these three-hours spent on the road come with no lamp lights on the highways.
And as far as Buffalo goes, and my trip in general…
The Final Take: An excellent time – and where health-willing – I will be back!
Once arriving in Pittsburgh early Sunday morning, and where Daylight Savings Time wasn’t to our benefit either; come noon, we had a meal at “Primanti Bros” – allegedly the restaurant/sandwich shop that the Steel City is most known for.
(I should also mention, that when compared to Buffalo – our stay in Pittsburgh was limited to just one night – where most of it was spent in the hotel.)
In a word, our meal at Primati Bros sucked, including the joint’s signature sandwich, the pastrami:
I don’t know what they eat in Pittsburgh on a daily basis, but if Primanti’s is considered to be one of the best spots to have a meal at – then you’re better off eating at either Jimmy Johns or Subway – two chain “restaurants” that were were both located steps away from this place.
My friend, “TEN O’CLOCK TOMMY,” tried ordering a chicken sandwich, but to the credit of our kind and honest waitress – she told him not to – as she said that it wasn’t that good and the chicken would be dry.
Keep in mind, sandwiches is what this place is known for.
He wound up getting a steak sandwich – where not only did it taste like something out of White Castle – but the sandwich presented the same aftermath once consumed.
I don’t want to rail on this place for the next ten-minutes, so let’s go to…
The Final Take: HORRID. AVOID.
If this place is considered as a “tourist trap,” which it most likely is (although I saw a lot of Pittsburgh natives eating here too); then you’ll feel trapped while eating – where the multiple birds flying around the restaurant through the open doors didn’t seem too sanitary either.
Following our wretched meal at Primanti Bros, and while on foot too; we then started making our way towards the PPG Paints Arena.
While not as cold as Buffalo; it was freezing outside, which is why we ducked into the first bar that we saw once seeing the arena.
We wound up settling down inside of “Cafe Fifth” – which you’ll see below – was about a three-minute walk away from the arena:
Unlike Buffalo, we didn’t really explore the pregame bar scene in Pittsburgh.
After all, “TEN O’CLOCK TOMMY” and I were pretty much running on no sleep – and since we were just wearing jerseys in the below-30-degree temperatures – we weren’t going to waste time exploring.
However, I don’t think that was a bad thing either, because very much like NYC – Pittsburgh has a major problem with the homeless – and much like the junkies that routinely litter Penn Station – these drug addicts can be very aggressive when demanding money from you.
While I didn’t eat at Cafe Fifth; from what I saw – the food looked good. Then again, when compared to my meal at Primanti Bros – that doesn’t say much either!
What I did find weird, was that despite an abundance of televisions and a ton of speakers to match – the bar was dead-quiet. The TVs were off and there was no music on either.
So much for that pregame ambiance!
And unlike my previous two road-trips from this season, Philadelphia and Buffalo – Ranger fans didn’t out-number Pittsburgh fans.
It was in Cafe Fifth where I first heard it, and no less than fifty times on Sunday, from the black-and-yellow fans themselves:
“WAA WAA WAAA! JACOB TROUBA IS A BULLY! HE HURTS MY FEELINGS! I NEED A SAFE SPACE AWAY FROM TROUBA! I NEED VEGAN GOAT MILK! WAA WAA WAA!”
Okay, maybe those words weren’t said verbatim – but that was the sentiment – a sentiment that soon carried over to the game itself too!
The Final Take: Not a bad place for a pop and a bite – but I never saw a sports bar so quiet.
The PPG Paints Arena, where I was told is also considered as “The House that Crosby Built;” is a modern venue, as it first opened in 2010.
And having spent the previous day at the KeyBank Center – the differences between the two arenas were night-and-day too.
In a word – the PPG Paints Arena was “pristine.”
It was easy to navigate, there weren’t many bathroom lines, and during game where St. Patrick’s Day was being celebrated – the Labatt beer was green – and it only ran you $12 for a sixteen-ouncer – not bad at all.
While the seats were more expensive in Pittsburgh; the $250 spent (eight rows from dead-center ice – and where these same seats at M$G can go for ten times as much), was well worth it – even if the game itself was not!
I’m about to approach the part of the blog where you know, I’ll talk about the Rangers; but until Trouba & Trocheck brought the BOOM – the fans in Pittsburgh were much quieter than their counterparts in Buffalo.
Just from my conversations with several fans, who again, all let me know how much they hated Trouba; there’s an eerie sense of dread from these folk – and where the thought of a “rebuild” was met with open arms.
After all, Sidney Crosby, who for a younger generation, has surpassed Mario Lemieux as the greatest thing to ever take the ice in the gloomy Steel City (and that says a lot); while still one of the best players in the league – the glory days are somewhat behind him.
At the very least, the days of the Penguins dominating the league are over – but when you win three Stanley Cups behind the heroics displayed from the famous #87 – what more can you ask for?
As you are very aware of – I’d settle for just one Rangers’ Stanley Cup win as an adult!
And while the Penguins will most likely qualify for the playoffs this season – would it surprise anyone if they were to be eliminated during the first-round for the fifth consecutive year?
But as long as Crosby and his cohorts, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, are still active – then it’s hard to see the Penguins going into rebuild mode.
The Final Take: This was an excellent arena and you couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
It’s my plan to soon talk about the actual stuff on the ice from a three-game sample size perspective; but if there was anything that I noticed from my seats during both of these games, then it was that if body language can speak volumes – these “words” were not that inspiring.
No joke – after every shift – and this was really noticeable from the superstars (sans Trouba) – it just looked like that everyone was frustrated, had no answers and were just generally defeated.
Even the bench was largely quiet – outside of the fourth line – as I constantly saw Vesey, Goodrow and Motte conversing.
On the other end, Patrick Kane seemed bewildered by all of the line changes. Panarin looks like a lost dog trying to find his or her way back home. Zibanejad looks as if someone told him his dog has died, while Adam Fox seems on the verge of tears without his buddy, Ryan Lindgren, by his side.
While both Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko have hit the skids; it was K’Andre Miller’s body and facial reactions that hit home the most, as #79 has yet to regain his groove from earlier this season.
Before getting everything Rangers, my closing thoughts on the city of Pittsburgh.
The Final Take: The Steel City lived up to its reputation – you would never want to live in it.
I can now confirm this to be the case – as nothing was going on, there was no vibrant activity to be detected and if you’re one of these people crying about Jacob Trouba’s hard, yet clean, hits – then you need something better to do in your life.
Let’s now talk about the Rangers – and let me take a deep breath and crack my knuckles before doing so.
Okay, I’m ready!
Both the archives of this site, and my tweets on the Tweeter machine (@NYCTHEMIC), don’t lie – nor will I flip-flop on what I’ve previously said.
However, I can’t bury my head in the sand either – and I have to call a spade a spade – the Rangers don’t look very good right now – an opinion shared by the head coach too, and as “THE TURKMASTER GENERAL” said following the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins from Sunday:
While you can check the main page of this site (or the archives) for what I’ve previously said; as a refresher, following the trade for Patrick Kane, I reminded everyone of how it took a while for Martin St. Louis to get going – another legend of the game – and who was also imported into New York at the end of his career.
While MSL, a former Stanley Cup champion, and who at the time of his Big Apple arrival, was well on his way to the Hall of Fame (he’s in now – as a first ballot inductee in 2018); he only scored one goal in his first nineteen games as a Ranger.
Come the playoffs, and yes, we all know about the sad passing of his mother too; that’s where he made his biggest impact – which is the reason why then g.m., Senile Sather, traded for him in the first place.
Currently, Patrick Kane has two goals as a Ranger – double MSL’s production – and with sixteen games still left to be played.
And much like #26, #88, and very much like every other superstar on this team – he will only be judged/remembered by what he does during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Prior, during and after the trade, I said that it would take some time for Kane to adapt to his new surroundings – especially since superstar players who have only known one team prior to changing jerseys – usually need some time when adjusting to their new and foreign to them, environment.
Simply put – it’s hard changing jobs and learning new systems – and understanding the personalities of your new co-workers too.
That all said – I don’t think that the Rangers have a “Patrick Kane Problem” – which is currently being suggested by the over-reactionary dopes & mopes that plague Blueshirts’ social media – which also includes several of the know-nothing beat reporters.
However, I do believe that the Rangers have a problem, a team-wide issue to address – their all-out regression – where only a handful of Blueshirts are exempt from this scathing commentary.
There are so many things on my mind right now that I don’t even know where to begin – so I apologize in advance if I start jumping all over the place – as if I was one of these methed-out lunatics that I saw in Pittsburgh!
However, prior to getting into the meat-and-potatoes, I do want to remind you of what I said about the team once Kane got here – due to both the salary cap and the loss of man-power – I felt that following the Rangers’ 4-2 loss from March 4th in Boston – everything would soon return to normal.
That hasn’t been the case – and where despite five points gained in their last three games played – things haven’t returned to normal at all.
In fact – it’s gotten worse – and where the concern levels have now returned to their levels from earlier this season, when the Blueshirts were six games under .500.
That says a lot.
Despite four-days off to figure it out, where the team also held two practices; in their first game back, the Rangers survived a shoot-out with the last place Montreal Canadiens.
And while this is an “Any Given Sunday” league – the team that the Habs skated last Thursday night wasn’t of NHL caliber – as due to their own situation – MSL’s club dressed a squad primarily full of AHLers and ECHLers.
The Rangers, with their hefty payroll and name-brand superstars, only won because of “puck luck” – as despite how lowly Montreal was – the Canadiens should’ve won that game.
However, the Rangers did win – a crisis temporarily averted – but where your eyebrow also started creeping its way to the top of your forehead – if not to the top of your dome!
Heading into Saturday and now in Buffalo – you knew the Sabres would play a tight game – and as all teams do after being blown out on home ice, as they were in the Swords’ 10-4 loss to the Stars.
Even with that being the case – the Rangers are supposed to beat-up on the bad teams – but for whatever reason – they always play to the level of their competition – no matter if the other team is good or bad.
In addition, while the Sabres have their own set of issues – the Rangers have their own too – where during most nights against non-playoff teams – it are the Rangers who look like a lottery-bound team – and not a Stanley Cup contender as many peg them to be – yours truly included!
Against a team that had given up ten goals two nights prior – the Rangers only managed one score in sixty minutes of regulation (a fluke goal at that) – where in another case of the team not clicking as one singular entity – on this night, it was the goalie, and not the skaters, who carried the team – as CZAR IGOR had one of his best games of the season – a season that’s been a mess when compared to his 2022 Vezina Trophy campaign.
(And as talked about on Saturday night – I thought the officials swung this game – and in a rarity – in favor of the Rangers.)
A 4 x 3 power-play goal, scored in overtime by Artemi Panarin, gave the team another two-points in the standings – but where the old cliches are now starting to lose meaning since they take place so often – “A win’s a win,” “Not every game is Picasso,” “Stolen victory,” “Take the win and get out of town,” “No one goes 82-0,” “Two points is all that matters,” and so on & so forth.
In other words – at some point – you’d just like to see the Rangers blow someone out – or at the very least – string a pair of games together where they play a full sixty minutes.
And both events taking place at the same time would be nice too!
For a team that was scoring touchdowns just less than a month ago; the Blueshirts are now struggling to score goals – and where their scoring ineptness rivals my daily 4-0 final score bets!
Following their stinky squeaker of a win over the Sabres; a day later, the team was now in Pittsburgh.
While yes, the Rangers entered this game playing their third game in four days – and with a time-change to boot – so did the Penguins – so in my eyes – you can’t use the schedule as an excuse – and we all know that I have done so in the past! (I have no problem calling myself out!)
Much like their previous two games played – the Rangers looked awful – and where really – only the third period from that contest could be considered as “decent.”
The previous eight frames were just as dreadful as a Primanti Bros sandwich.
For whatever reason, the mini-break and full practices didn’t take for the Rangers.
It’s also one thing to struggle when you’re not dressing full line-ups against Cup contenders and teams teetering with the postseason, such as the Capitals, Senators and Bruins – where of these three teams – only the Beantowners have a shot at the chalice – if not the best shot in all of the league.
However, to look feckless and somewhat devoid of life, as if they were paying tribute to Terry Schiavo, against teams like the Canadiens and Sabres? It’s inexcusable.
And while the Rangers held their own against the Penguins, where they didn’t really pick it up until the latter stages of the contest – the malaise continued – where unlike their two previous games against non-contenders – a playoff-bound team found-a-way against the Blueshirts.
But to say that the chemistry was thrown off ever since plotting for, and then acquiring Kane?
I don’t buy that.
Let’s now take a look at every player on the roster.
For all of the talk about the Rangers’ biggest two trade deadline rentals, Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane, and all of the line changes as a result (I’ll get more into Gallant in just a bit); one thing remained the same – the third line – Alexis Lafreniere/Filip Chytil/Kaapo Kakko.
And no – I’ll never consider this line as “The Kids’ Line” either – and for the many reasons that I’ve stated in the past.
Furthermore, as of this writing, Chytil has played in 311 NHL games, Kakko has skated in 223 NHL contests and Alexis Lafreniere, currently the best of the lot, has competed in 200 NHL tilts himself.
Chytil, ever since the arrival of Tarasenko, has yet to score a goal in front of #91’s pair of peepers.
That’s fifteen games in total – and where in only two of those games, did the Czech finish with a plus in the +/- stat.
Kakko, where as part of his Celiac Disease – he must have an allergic reaction whenever shooting the puck. (He didn’t put one SOG during this recent three-game road-trip.)
The Finn has only scored one goal in his last thirteen games played – a fluke “A-Rod” goal – a tally that was scored with just 28 seconds remaining in the Rangers’ 6-3 loss to the Capitals from February 25th.
And until Gallant had enough of “Aturnover Panarin;” this third line had remained in-tact until the third period in Buffalo.
For a line that has shown that they can will the team to wins in the past; presently, both Chytil & Kakko are as cold as ice.
And just to think – Larry Brooks, and others, in their infamous overreactions – thought that Chytil could receive a contract that pays him over $6,000,000 this summer!
For Chytil to receive anything close to that – he’s not only going to have to regain his touch now – but not lose it during the playoffs either.
After all, as one of the worst faceoff centers in hockey, and one that doesn’t play on the penalty kill either – if he can’t score – then what’s he doing?
And yes – I know – to compare these three to the FAT CATS on the team isn’t fair – but you also can’t just give them a pass either.
Only Lafreniere has shown up and has improved during the past few weeks – and his confidence is abundantly apparent – especially whenever on the power-play – where he’s now paying homage to Chris Kreider every game with all of his screens, tips and deflections.
There’s not one line in hockey that bats 1.000 every night, nor carry their team to wins game-in & game-out; but with no production from #72 and #24 – the Rangers top nine has been reduced to a struggling seven.
Is there a more frustrating and enigmatic superstar in all of hockey than the league’s highest paid winger, Artemi Panarin?
While he remains as the team leader in points and assists – many of these points are gained via the secondary assist.
We’ve talked about Panarin’s turnovers all season – a new and unnecessary wrinkle to his game that has become woefully obvious throughout this 2022-23 campaign.
When the Rangers were struggling in 2022, it was #10’s constant bouts with turnovers that produced a ton of enemy goals.
Following a stint where he heated-up, including a four-goal game sandwiched in-between; ever since the arrival of Kane, Panarin has returned to his status as the team leader in turnovers too.
His turnovers have become so bad (HOW BAD ARE THEY?); that I believe the NHL scorers/statisticians can’t keep up with all of them, and in turn, have forgotten to record several of them.
It’s also bad that when Gallant, following Chris Drury’s trade for Kane, said it was an automatic decision to reunite the pair of former Blackhawks together.
Not even three periods removed from the four-day break – and these two have already been broken up.
But how can you blame the head coach? How many forced cross-ice passes does he need to see? How many odd-man rushes and opposing goals does he need to watch following Panarin’s hellbent and dedicated madness with turning over the puck?
And while Panarin isn’t the sole reason why the Rangers lost in overtime to the Penguins on Sunday; he was a big contributor, as much like his turnovers – he’s also prone to brutal offensive zone penalties. (To be fair – what o-zone penalty isn’t brutal?!?)
I saw some people say that Gallant should scratch Panarin – but I can’t see that ever happening.
We all know that Panarin doesn’t listen to his coach, and perhaps isn’t very “coachable” either; but to bench/scratch him could create a mutiny – and no head coach wants that – especially not at this juncture of the season.
However, something has to give, as Panarin is starting to remind me of the old Gump Worsley quote:
“Which team in the league gives you the most trouble?”
While the two Ranger goalies don’t speak to the media very often (more on this story to come); would it surprise anyone if CZAR IGOR and/or THE HALAKNESS MONSTER ever said the same about Panarin?
The two longest-tenured Rangers on the team, the BFF of Zibanejad and Kreider, haven’t been producing as of late – even if CK20 did score the tying goal against the Pens on Sunday.
And while the lines have been rotated and tinkered with – I don’t think that you can blame the addition of Tarasenko for this – as it’s been VT91 who has shown the biggest nose for the net since his arrival. At least he puts shots on goal.
We all know the deal about two of the more beloved Blueshirts – both are streaky – and since both are on cold streaks – it’s hurt the team.
Even if it’s “only” been five games – it feels like Mika hasn’t scored in a dog’s age – and where it also feels that 99% of his one-timers are shot high or wide.
There’s also been several big moments where Kreider should’ve padded his goal totals, but for whatever reason – he wasn’t able to finish.
While these two remain valuable on the team’s penalty kill – for the money that they are paid – and for their respective roles on the team – pucks need to go into the back of the net – and not onto the boards and the netting above those wooden panels.
When the Rangers first acquired Patrick Kane, do you know what Vincent Trocheck said?
The second-line center, often compared to Ryan Strome, and where his lack of chemistry with Panarin has been a topic of much debate all season; “Nonna’s Bambino” said that he immediately began studying film of #10 and #88 in Chicago jerseys. Number 16 then added that he also studied Artem Anisimov, the former Ranger center, who at the time, was in the middle of that dynamic duo.
This telling interview told me that not only was Trocheck dedicated to winning – but he doesn’t care about his own individual statistics either.
Similar to Anisimov, Trocheck, without saying this verbatim, pretty much admitted that he’d take the backseat, focus on defense, and let his wingers do the lion’s share of the scoring.
And really, Trocheck is in the perfect situation to do so.
After all, he just signed the biggest contract of his career, a deal that will hold up as the most money he’ll ever make, when he signed a seven-year deal worth $39,375,000 ($5,625,000 per season – an annual raise just shy of one million smackers) over the summer.
Trocheck, who will turn 30-years-old on July 11th, has never won a Stanley Cup.
The time is now for him to do so – and since he’s not in a contract year, and with his finances already safely secured – it’s okay for him to let his scoring stats dip, as he tries to better the team.
We saw that yesterday in Pittsburgh, following his big hit on Malkin – a hit that then led to a goal for Kreider following Trocheck’s assist.
When it comes to Motte/Goodrow/Vesey – when healthy – this new trio, the fourth line that we’ll see in the playoffs should no more injury issues arise – has more than lived up to their billing.
And as mentioned earlier – they’ve been the team’s best line as of late – and the only line that Gallant hasn’t tinkered with.
When it comes to the two final forwards that I’ve yet to discuss; I think that Tarasenko has been fine and is doing what he can.
Kane is still adapting to his new environment in my eyes – where once away from Panarin – maybe he can focus on doing what he does best.
However, I do wonder how Kane’s “demotion,” where he’s now playing with Lafreniere and Chytil, will last.
In the past, the players that “formerly” compromised the recent Rangers’ third line had always deferred to the veterans, and as a result – their scoring totals fell off a cliff.
While Lafreniere may be playing the best hockey of his career at the moment; for a player like Chytil, who like Lafreniere, grew up idolizing and was a big fan of Kane; he can ill-afford to continue his goal drought.
However, I do think that Gallant’s recent line tinkering, like all of his previous roster moves, will only be temporary – as this recent jumble is just a way to give his team a kick in the ass.
However, with all of the offensive power that the Rangers possess – it remains untapped – and where unlike many – I don’t blame the head coach.
It’s not Gallant who tells Panarin to turn over every puck imaginable. It’s not Gallant who tells his players not to shoot the puck.
Players play and coaches coach, and for right now, the players aren’t holding up their own end of the bargain – especially the defense.
The Rangers’ rearguards haven’t been at their best lately.
And no – I don’t think that I’m breaking any news to you right now!
Adam Fox, once the odds-on favorite for the Norris Trophy, hasn’t been the same ever since Lindgren went down after the cheap shot from T.J. Oshie.
It feels like Fox is trying to do too much, especially when compensating for his new & temporary partner, Niko Mikkola – where at this moment – the Finnish d-man feels like another Jarred Tinordi, Patrik Nemeth, Justin Braun, and you get the rest, type.
And to be fair to Mikkola – he is playing out of his comfort zone/role.
Originally slotted to be the team’s third-pair LD; he’s now playing top four minutes, often twenty minutes-per-game, with Fox.
If Lindgen’s injury is to the benefit of anyone, then it’s to his agent.
Double-nickel will be up for a new contract during the Summer of ’24, and if these previous seven games are an indication of anything, then it’s to Lindgren’s skyrocketing value on the team.
As first said following Lindgren’s injury, and as I’m saying again tonight – he should have been placed on the LTIR – even if he does finally make his return on Tuesday night – three games ahead of the standard 10-game LTIR designation.
While I think that Ben Harpur has been serviceable in his role – and where I’d play him over Mikkola once Lindgren returns too; the other LD of the team, K’Andre Miller, remains as an all-out mess.
Even prior to “SPITGATE,” K’Andre Minus, who to his credit, does have a few highlight-reel plays/goals this season to his name – has looked completely overwhelmed.
And despite what he had said, and what many others had felt, yours truly included – his ten-day break, as a result of his suspension, hasn’t worked any wonders for him. In fact, it’s had the opposite effect, where he now looks rusty and out of sorts.
For a player seeking a new contract this summer, and where there is a recency bias whenever at the bargaining table – Miller has found a bad time to cool off and play his worst hockey of the season.
A strong finish to the regular season, and a stellar showing during the post-season will change all of that – and that’s what I’m rooting for.
If there’s been two constants for the Rangers’ defense, then it’s been Jacob Trouba, and the player nicknamed as “Baby Troubs” by some, Braden Schneider.
The pair of RD have often been the best defenders for the Rangers during these past few weeks – where obviously – Trouba has been more noticeable.
However, don’t discount Schneider either – and where I’ll go to another cliche – “you know a defenseman is good when you don’t notice him.”
While Schneider’s point totals have dropped off – he’s done what he’s expected to do – play defense.
Conversely, Trouba has personified the word “captain” as of late, as he’s leading the team in hits, blocked shots and has been a physical menace for all opposing teams – and as Penguin fans will cry to you all about.
The fact that he’s picking up the points is a nice touch too. He just needs his “protege,” his partner, Miller, to keep pace.
When it comes to the goaltenders, once again, the Rangers have stellar back-up goaltending.
In recent years, back-up goalies like Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta and Alexandar Georgiev have over-performed, and at times, have carried the team too.
While I wouldn’t say that Jaroslav Halak has carried the Rangers – there have been games where he’s been the best Ranger on the ice – and as he’s been during the bulk of his starts in ’23.
However, while you do need Halak to pick up some wins (which he has successfully accomplished); at the end of the day, the Rangers will live-or-die by CZAR IGOR – especially during the playoffs where goal scoring is usually reduced – and where the Blueshirts’ current scoring issues doesn’t help matters either.
There’s no point in replaying a broken record – but yes – CZAR IGOR, who several of you guys & gals are now calling “THREE-GORE,” hasn’t had a great season.
The former Vezina winner, as of today, is a middle-of-the-pack goaltender – and where he won’t receive one Vezina vote this season – and just one year removed from winning the biggest prize that a goalie can win.
And as opposed to last season – I don’t see him in the running for Team MVP either. (It will be interesting to see who wins that award. To me, Trouba is the guy – and where yes – the recency bias is a factor!)
You know the deal – I’m CZAR IGOR’s biggest fan – which is why it pains me to write this – but I can’t ignore what we’ve all seen.
His start and win against Buffalo was encouraging – but it was one game. (I thought he received a ton of luck, as evident by all of the <DINGS>, in Montreal.)
We need to see CZAR IGOR return to his former self – and where we also need to collectively cease to take deep breaths and say “oh shit,” whenever a puck is sent his way.
Whether it was becoming a new father or what – the majority of Shestyorkin’s games played this year feature a stat line of a save percentage under .900 and with three or more goals allowed.
If that continues in the playoffs; then no matter what the offense does, and where I can’t see these Blueshirts producing like the mid-80s Edmonton Oilers anyway – the Rangers will be cooked.
And unlike his predecessor, Henrik Lundqvist – CZAR IGOR does have a team that can score – which means, that in theory, he can afford a mistake or two – something that couldn’t be said during the peak of “The King’s” reign.
However, while Lundqvist most famously said, “Give me two goals and I got this;” it can’t be “Give me five goals and I got this” for Shestyorkin.
And in a league, where due to the horrible hard-salary cap system, where winning is punished and losing is rewarded – the window for good teams to cash in and win a Cup is very tight.
Who knows what happens in the future – but as of right now – this may wind up as being the best shot that both CZAR IGOR and this core will ever have at winning hockey’s holy chalice.
The Rangers can prevent a thirty-year drought should CZAR IGOR return to form – and on a consistent basis.
For whatever reason, there’s a large contingent of morons, masquerading around as knowledgeable hockey fans, that want the head coach fired not only after a loss – but whenever the team gives up a goal too!
And it doesn’t matter if it’s Gallant, or coaches like David Quinn, Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella prior to “The Turk” – ever since the age of social media – there are just fans who want every coach fired – no matter the circumstance.
The Rangers could have Scotty Bowman and his heyday Canadiens in New York – and after one loss – there would still be these same jackals, with saliva down to their ankles, screaming, “FIRE BOWMAN!”
Much has been said about Double G playing around with his lines this weekend. And as stated on this site – I was fine with it. Something has to give and to me, this is “THE TURK” giving his team a kick in the five-hole.
At this point in time – Gallant can’t start scratching and taking minutes away from these regulars – but he does have to hold them responsible. Changing up the lines creates that desired effect.
And despite what you might read from the Rangers’ “Millennial Basement Vacuum,” where ANALytics are encouraged and mothers remind these freaks to make their beds – the head coach is no dummy.
I don’t know if people expect Gallant to rip his team to shreds after every bad game or what – but if you’re one of these people – what do you think would come out of it?
The more and more you get on your own team – the more you lose them too. There’s a fine line to walk, and in a way (and unlike these blogs!) – less is more.
It’s like cursing.
If you’re somebody who uses the f-word all of the time, then not only do you sound like mook – but the impact of that vulgarity starts to lose its meaning.
In the same vein, if Gallant was to scream about his team after every game – it would get old – and the message would go right down the toilet – like a sandwich from the Primanti Bros.
By playing it cool-and-calculated, and picking his spots, the message from the bench boss will resound more.
While Gallant didn’t go balls-to-the-wall on his team’s wacky road-trip; the head coach also admitted that the state of his team needs to improve, when he said:
“We haven’t played well. I repeat, we haven’t played well, we admit to that, but we are still winning hockey games too. Tonight [Sunday vs. Pittsburgh] we still got a point against a real good team over there and battling hard. We gotta be better, we know that, I think everybody in that room knows it and they got a good sign in the third period. We move on from there and hopefully the next game in two nights time we play sixty minutes just like that.”
And while I still think that at the end of the day – whatever happens in the playoffs largely falls on the players – (and to be clear – I don’t think “The Turk’s” job is on the line or anything like that) – Gallant will ultimately be judged by how far the Rangers go during the postseason.
The Rangers’ schedule doesn’t get any easier from here.
Following all of these three games in four nights, with a day or two off in-between; the next seven games (nearly 50% of all contests remaining) will be played on alternating nights.
The Blueshirts next five games are on M$G ice – and featuring opponents that are pretty much the equivalent of a “Murderers’ Row.”
Up next are the Capitals, who have owned the Rangers as of late, followed by a pair of home games against the Penguins, as the NHL schedule makers continue to exhibit their brain-dead ability.
Following these three Metro clashes, the Rangers will then host the Predators – a non-playoff team – but one that beat the Rangers earlier this season.
In the fifth-and-final game of the last true remaining home-stand of the season; the Rangers will host the first-place Carolina Hurricanes – a team looking to prevent the NJ Devils from leap-frogging them.
And if that’s not enough for you, following the Rangers/Canes game at M$G on 3/21; the two teams will then rematch in Raleigh two days later.
In other words – the next five of six games are against top competition.
And once these games come-and-go, the Rangers still have tilts remaining with the Devils, a final game in Washington, and against the Lightning – and then eventually close the season on 4/13, now less than a month away, in Toronto.
The Rangers need to start figuring things out now – because in one more final cliche for tonight – “No one wants to limp into the playoffs.”
Before closing tonight, an update on two stories and a reprint/reminder of another.
I know this blog is very long so I’ll rapid-fire through these.
Up first, James Dolan’s battle against the N.Y. State Liquor Authority has intensified, as the Rangers’ owner won’t remove his facial recognition technology from his venues (and as stated on this site before – I don’t blame him).
Here’s what the NY Post reported over the weekend:
In my eyes, this feels like a “who will say boo first” type of an ordeal.
While Dolan and the SLA are publicly feuding right now – it benefits neither party from cutting off booze sales at M$G.
For the SLA, the bulk of their profits comes from sporting events. Losing sales from Knicks and Rangers games, the only two teams that are active right now until baseball season starts, would be a detriment for them.
For Dolan, who is currently $2B over-budget with his M$G $phere project in Las Vegas – losing these sales would be a major hit to his wallet – and should this go down – then you can expect ticket prices to increase – AGAIN.
It’s also a turnoff.
While I know that I just attended three of the last five games – that was an anomaly.
Barring something last second coming up – I think I’m done attending Ranger games this season.
It’s just not worth the cost – and admittedly – it’s much easier (and cheaper) to watch these games at home – and as evident by this weekend – write about them too!
And I also think this is an age thing for me. I’ll be 41-years-old in three months – and I’ve had my fill – and have done it all – outside of seeing a Stanley Cup victory while inside of an arena! I guess that’s my last true “bucket list item” – and where I will have no problem seeing this team win the silver from my couch!
While the high costs of tickets are now a factor (it’s just hard justifying paying these prices when I’ve previously sat in better seats for a fraction of the price at M$G) – I also think the M$G experience kind of sucks too – especially as someone who has seen how the rest of the teams/arenas in the league do things.
As you can tell, I much rather save my money for my road-trips – and create new life experiences – especially as someone who enjoys traveling.
Hands-down, I get more of a thrill by seeing the team on the road – and seeing other walks of life.
At this stage in life – if I never go to M$G again – then it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me either.
Put it this way – If I had a choice of receiving free season tickets (41 games) or going to ten free road games a year – I’d take the latter option.
In an update to a story that we’ve talked about several times before on this site – once again – the Rangers refusal to meet with the media after losses is now a headline – and where I think this “story” only gets more juice because of the current state of the team.
Funny enough, it was Larry Brooks, who didn’t attend this recent three-game road-trip, that broke the news, as on Sunday, following the loss to the Pens, the Hall of Fame scribe reported that Jaroslav Halak, as well as several of his teammates, refused to speak to the media.
How would Brooks know this if he wasn’t there?
Answer: His peer, the always clueless Mollie “Chuckles” Walker, filled him in.
And once Brooks broke the news, Wince Mercogliano threw a bitch-fit on Twitter, and in a rarity, “quote-tweeted” Brooks’ initial tweet – as if Brooks needed Mr. NaturalStatTrick.com’s support.
The other few-and-rare adults in the room, Arthur Staple (the Islander fan from “The Athletic,” and who has yet to follow-up on his story that Chris Drury is upset with Panarin – and who much like the players – he has refused my request for a comment), and Colin Stephenson (Newsday), have yet to comment.
As I’ve said all along – I see both sides of this – but I do side with the beat reporters.
It’s part of the job for the players to speak after wins-and-losses – even if 99% of the time – the questions these birdbrain beat reporters ask are elementary and worthless.
And save me the talk about English not being the first language for some of these players. The team has translators on their payroll.
After all – Panarin had no problem talking after his four-goal game!
His forty turnovers per game? Nary a word!
At the end of the day, while I think that the players need to speak whenever requested following a game; either talk all of the time or never at all.
You can’t just be front-and-center after a win – and then hide in the shower after a loss.
It’s why these guys are paid millions – they don’t have a normal job – and talking about their days at work is part of it.
But as mentioned before, in this new era, especially featuring weak reporters with no background in hockey, nor any experience to draw from either (sans Brooks) – it’s impossible for this current crop of beat reporters to foster relationships with talent.
Back in the day, the press, a sacred club that earned their coveted spots on this prestigious beat, would travel with the team.
In an era where the word “nutrition” was never muttered and when hockey wasn’t a 24/7/365 job – the players and the people who covered them would socialize together – and even when secrets were spilled as the adult beverages were spilled too – the press also understood the two words of “in confidence.”
Today – I doubt any of these young-and-dumb inexperienced beat reporters even drink beer, much less smoke cigars (they most likely drink White Claw while talking about the “high” they received while toking from a strawberry tutti-fruity vaping pen) – and where this is true too – the players aren’t sucking down beers like gavones either – and as their NHL forefathers used to do.
And let’s face it – unless you’re one of the few hardcores of this niche sport – which we all are – you probably don’t give a shit about this story at all – as all of this, much like most negative narratives driven by the media – is their new story to sell.
Hockey gods forbid these media members ever tell you what happened from the perspective of their own two eyes!
One last thought – this is all generational.
Speaking of generational, let’s close by talking about an award that’s prestigious no matter the era – the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.
A few weeks back on this site, I brought up how we were approaching the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award season.
On Monday, 3/13, the Rangers opened up voting for the award, as the club is now allowing their fans to name a winner.
To be honest, I am not a fan of this voting system – only because much like a high school class presidency race – it becomes a popularity contest – where in turn – deserving candidates are overlooked.
To vote on the award, visit this link below:
At this time, I want to share with you what I wrote last month – and where now – while I’d like to see either Ryan Lindgren or Jimmy Vesey win the award – with the award going back to its roots; since this is now a popularity contest – I believe that Mika Zibanejad will win it for the third time.
One award, exclusive to the Rangers, is near-and-dear to me, “The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.”
After all, I think every season, I’m the first fan, writer, blogger, whoever, to bring up up this award and list who I think should win it. Furthermore, it’s also why McDonald was listed in my “New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden” book.
As opposed to recent seasons, where there really wasn’t much debate on who should win (Kreider in 2022, Fox in 2021); this season, there are a bevy of candidates for the award – and where for the first since 1990, the only time when this happened – you could have co-winners too (John Vanbiesbrouck and Kelly Kisio).
The history of the award has been mixed in recent years. While in the early days of the award, you had role-player types win, over time, you saw more and more “superstars” win the prestigious hardware.
The last true “role-player” to win the award was Cam Talbot in 2015, the one-time Rangers’ back-up goalie who shined and dominated following a throat injury to Henrik Lundqvist – a former two-time winner himself.
This season, I can see the arguments for multiple Rangers.
Should the award continue down the superstar path, then no one is more deserving than Mika Zibanejad, who has won the award twice before (2019 and 2020).
Should the award go back to its original intent, then I can’t think of anyone better than Ryan Lindgren to win it for the first time.
And should the award go the dark-horse route, and truly honor the role-player of all role-players – then who better than Jimmy Vesey?
For the purpose of this blog, I recently conducted a poll on Twitter, where the fan voting basically broke down as 49% for Zibanejad, 49% for Lindgren and 2% for others, where names such as Filip Chytil, Barclay Goodrow and Jacob Trouba were brought up.
Gun to my head? (And why someone would put a gun to my head about this I do not know!)
Should all things stay the same – then I’m campaigning for co-winners – Lindgren and Zibanejad.
Either way, having so many candidates for this award is a good problem to have!
Thanks for sticking with me tonight, as I know I went really long, in my attempt to cover everything that I missed from this weekend!
Now I need to ice my fingers – and where there was no way in hell I could’ve done this on my crappy little laptop inside of my hotels!
And yep – back at it tomorrow – as we return to normal programming with a GAME REVIEW, following the Rangers latest battle with the Capitals.
My first 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:
NYR/BUF 3/11 Pictorial Review: Over 100 Pictures from Buffalo! Rangers Survive Another Stinker; Perhaps Get Help from Officials Too, CZAR IGOR & Skaters Can’t Click Together, Gallant’s Changes, Lindgren Returns Sunday & More
Rangers Ready For Winter Classic Rival; Lindgren & Motte Nearing Return, Pics from Buffalo Night One & More
If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:
Don’t forget to order my new 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