NYR/TOR 3/2 Review: Original Six Marquee Match-Up Exceeds All Hype & Expectations; Refs Rob Rangers in Shootout Loss, Historical Similarities & Differences Between Two Aging Cores, All Strengths & Weaknesses Remain, GAG Line 2.0 Does All of The Heavy Lifting; “Mika Marchless” Does Nada, Rempe & Reaves Deliver in Anticipated Heavyweight Tilt; Both Come Out as Winners, Mr. Mackey Re-Signed, Laviolette, Kakko on the Blockko, Best M$GN Broadcast of the Season & More

While such a phrase as “best loss of the season” is an oxymoron, and also a collection of five-words that won’t sit well with most fans – how else can you describe the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs from Saturday, March 2nd? In a highly anticipated game between two of the heavyweights of the Eastern Conference, it took a referee-assisted shootout goal, as “scored” by Mitch Marner, to end what was otherwise an exciting night of hockey. And let’s face it – no matter your opinion on Marner’s goal – the Rangers had plenty of chances to win this contest prior to the third-round of the gimmick finale. That said, to hang your head over this loss would be ridiculous, but to be fair – a lot of what has plagued the Blueshirts this season was fully on display during this “Hockey Night in Canada” prime-time match-up too – and of course – I’m talking about Mika Zibanejad. At least “The GAG Line 2.0” continues to roll, but as we saw tonight – they need help from their fellow top-sixers too – and especially when the playoffs commence – as other teams will spend the bulk of their pregame planning against Alexis Lafreniere, Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin – and until Zibanejad, Kreider and the right-winger “du jour” can alter such planning.

Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. It wasn’t the finish that we wanted – but damn pal – was that one hell of a hockey game that we saw on Saturday night in Toronto.

Going into Saturday night, this contest, which featured two clubs where Conn Smythe served each team as both their first general manager and head coach in their respective franchise histories, was the most anticipated match-up on the NHL’s thirteen-game slate – and by far at that.

With much ballyhoo, hype and expectations prior to puck drop – by the time that the Leafs prevailed via the shootout – this game more than exceeded all of the buzz that had preceded it.

And I’m not even talking about the heavyweight tilt that many expected between Matt Rempe and Ryan Reaves either – but we’ll get into all of that below!

These days, this pair of Original Six teams, who both wear home blues and road whites, and so similar throughout their near one-hundred years in existence – but also different at times too – have perhaps never been more so alike than they are today.

When you look at these two high-octane franchises, and where both of these Original Six teams won the bulk of their Stanley Cups prior to “The Great Expansion of 1967” (and only one Stanley Cup victory since that year – and by now – you’re all aware of 1994 – and the Leafs’ championship drought too) – in the present day, each club has stuck with their respective cores that’s never been able to win – much less even reach the championship round.

In Toronto, it’s all about the “Big Four” (Tavares, Nylander, Matthews and Marner), while in New York, it’s all about another quartet, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin and CZAR IGOR.

For both cores, disappointing playoff finishes have also led to new regimes in the two biggest markets in the league.

And the less said about the Tampa Bay Lightning’s success against both of these teams, the better.

Hell, even when one of these Original Sixers (rarely) knock off the Bolts, and as the Leafs did last year – then they wind up on the wrong end in one of the most biggest chokejobs in playoff history – but we can talk about the Florida Panthers, who the Rangers will see next in their final game prior to the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, come the end of this tome.

These two NHL powerhouses, aside from their explosive offenses, also feature stunning rearguards and super special teams – although for the Rangers these days – it’s their penalty kill – and not their once-heralded power-play – that’s fueling the engine.

As both teams ready themselves for the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Saturday night’s marquee match-up was a perfect litmus test for each contender.

Come the end of it, the biggest thing that was learnt was that both of these blue-and-white teams can hang with anyone – but I think that we already knew as much.

While of course it’s true that following this game, that both the vibes and energy were much more positive in Toronto; at the same time, I don’t think that anyone in New York had anything to be ashamed of either – outside of Missing Mika – who we can talk about more come the GAME REVIEW segment of this blog.

I know that no one wants to celebrate a loss – and that’s not my intention either – but when you consider all of the hype, the fact that this was a road game, the other team is also paid to play hockey, a questionable review during the shootout, etc – then I think that you can keep your head held up high – and as a result – be positive about “gaining” a loser’s point too.

Mika March Madness? Well I guess that’s somewhat true if you only consider the fact that Mika is making every Ranger fan “mad” right now!

As you can tell from tonight’s blog header photo – I decided to run something positive – rather than accentuating a negative.

And while I’m not upset about this 4-3 shootout loss – yeah, I must admit – I really wanted this win – just so I could go over-the-top when praising “THE GAG 2.0 LINE!”

In one of the biggest games of the season, the best line (and if you are still calling them the second line like how many members of the Blueshirts’ beat do – then you’re a blithering birdbrain idiot like them), the first line, more than delivered.

Alexis Lafreniere scored the first goal of the game and then assisted on the second Rangers’ goal of the match, when he perfectly set up his center, Vincent Trocheck, on a tee. Picking up the secondary assist? None other than “The Breadman,” good old Artie Panarin, himself.

Trailing 3-2 late in the third period and now with their net empty, the GAG Line 2.0 did it again, where this time, it was both Lafreniere and Panarin assisting on Trocheck’s equalizer with 1:07 remaining in regulation.

And had the Rangers won tonight – then it would’ve been this trio who would’ve finished 1-2-3 as the “Three Stars of the Game.”

This line, which in reality is a “happy accident” – as it was only created out of necessity following Filip Chytil’s most recent concussion – continued their individual career-high seasons.

For the first-overall pick, he scored his 18th goal of the season while also notching his 21st assist.

And for all of the talk about Lafreniere’s summer activities (and I’m not exempt from such talk either) – then perhaps it’s high time for Zibanejad to play in some Quebec softball leagues this summer too!

Vincent Trocheck, who had another two-goal game tonight (and who can forget his last one – the Stadium Series game), not only scored his 22nd goal of the season – but also hit a milestone too – his 500th NHL point.


By now, you already know that #10 is having the best season of his career, and where not only can he finish with over forty goals this season – he will most likely eclipse the 100-point mark for the first time in his future Hall of Fame career too.

Elsewhere throughout the line-up, the 2021 Norris Trophy winner, Adam Fox, picked up his 39th assist of the season – where don’t forget – he also missed nearly a dozen games earlier during this campaign, following an illegal knee-to-knee hit from Sebastion Aho.

CZAR IGOR, the 2022 Vezina Trophy winner?

His black-and-white stat line doesn’t tell the full story.

For #31, he surrendered three goals tonight, and where it was tough to fault him for any of them, as the first one was a “puck-luck” and broken play goal, while the other two were the end result of deflections/tips and screens.

For Lavy’s Lot, once again, you couldn’t have asked for anything more from both the penalty kill (a perfect 3-3), nor from the bottom-six either.

And when Rempe, after receiving approval from his head coach, dropped the gloves with Reaves?

It was the cherry-on-top – and where I’ll have more about this fight below.

But of course, when you lose, then it’s not all rainbows and gumdrops either, as a lot of the same old shit remained.

As stated about 987678667967967967969 times on this site ever since the calendar flipped – for as good as the Rangers’ penalty kill has been, the power-play has equally been as bad.

Tonight, the Blueshirts’ man-advantage units finished 0-3 – and as you can determine – a power-play goal would have been the difference between a win and a loss.

I’ve already mentioned Missing Mika, where after tonight, and with the deadline coming up, I’m left thinking this:

If the NHL of today was still the same as it was in 1994 (no salary cap, the way the game was played, et al.), then would Zibanejad be “Mike Gartner’d” out of town?

I could see it now:

Zibanejad for Corey Perry – as Perry is not only a proven playoff performer – but like 1994 – he’s also an Oiler!

Another thought after watching this game?

With much talk about what the Rangers will do at the deadline, and following all of the Pat Verbeek stuff from Wednesday night too – then I’m glad that the Ducks’ GM didn’t scout Kaapo Kakko in-person – and as he did in the Blueshirts’ win against Columbus!

Like an early 1980s NWA territory Ric Flair “Broadway” sixty-minute draw, both the heel champion (Reaves) and baby-face challenger (Rempe) came out as winners in their fight that took place during the final stages of the third period. Photo Credit: SportsNet

There’s a lot to get into tonight, but two things before continuing.

One: For whatever reason, I saw a lot of the “GLOOM AND DOOM” and “SKY IS FALLING” Ranger fans race right back to their bridges and rooftops once the Leafs cemented their victory.

I just don’t get it.

After all, take a look at the updated league standings:

Photo Credit: ESPN

As you can ascertain from the graphic above, should the Rangers neuter the Cats on Monday night, then the Blueshirts will be right back to being the BEST IN THE WORLD – and where again – to be upset at the team for this loss is all-out lunacy.

Two: The main goal, where yep, you know it, brings us to my season-long daily disclaimer, and one that you have tattooed on your brain by now too:



The roster that you saw on the ice tonight, and most likely on Monday night too, won’t be the same when the Rangers host the St. Louis Blues on March 9th.

And while yes – this is somewhat an excuse – I do wonder if the trade deadline was a distraction tonight – and really, how can it not be?

At this rate, everyone and their mother, including everyone involved in the organization too, knows that change is coming.

But of course, I’m getting ahead of myself right now – and heck – I’ve given you all of my deadline ideas during the past few weeks too.

In other words, let’s now get into all of the pregame news & notes and then into tonight’s GAME REVIEW.

And oh yeah – I’ll also have a few words about one of the best M$GN broadcasts of the season – where wouldn’t you know it – the timing of one change couldn’t have been more perfect!

Some readers have written in to suggest that you can credit Connor Mackey for the Rangers’ turnaround this season. While I find it tough to think that a win against a lowly last place team (the Senators) is a true turning point moment, it’s hard to argue against the validity of these opinions – even if Mackey has never played since that game. Photo Credit: NYR

Just a little bit over a month ago (https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/12724/ ), the Rangers, who were playing .500 hockey for a period of six weeks, entered Ottawa, ONT for their final match prior to the annual All-Star Game and their league-mandated bye week.

As I said at the time, I didn’t really put too much into the Blueshirts’ 7-2 victory over the lowly Senators, because after all – a first-place team SHOULD handle business against a last-place team.

However, ever since that game, and now returned from their bye week, the Rangers ripped off a franchise-high ten straight wins in a row, were gassed out from an emotional busy week where they beat three of their biggest rivals in the process (Islanders, Devils and Flyers) in a loss that snapped the winning streak in Columbus and then got their revenge against the Blue Jackets in their rematch from this past Wednesday night.

Long story short?

Ever since Mackey’s call-up in late January, and in his only game played where he sparked the team to victory following his fight (and win) against Sens’ captain Brady Tkachuk, the Rangers have gone 11-1. And because of that, that’s why many fans believe that Mr. Mackey was the catalyst in the Blueshirts return to prominence – and where today – the club is now challenging for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Whether it was Mackey’s big fight against Tkachuk that brought back the Rangers to their winning ways from earlier this season is true or not can be debated (some, including yours truly, would argue that the team just needed a break – and as I said at the time) – but what can’t be debated is that he did everything he could in his successful Blueshirts’ debut.

Rangers’ general manager, Chris Drury, and as he always does, recognized Mackey’s effort, and since the defenseman, like many other Wolfpackers-turned-Rangers (and forever as brief or as long as their call-ups may be), was willing to sign at the right price (and just like Ben Harpur, Jimmy Vesey, Jonny Brodzinski and others all did), was rewarded with a new contract on Friday.

As is customary and policy, the Blueshirts, and unlike the other 31-teams in the league, didn’t announce terms of Mackey’s new deal, but it was later reported that the 27-year-old d-man signed a two-year deal worth $1,550,000 overall, which breaks down to the same annual salary that he’s earning this season, $775,000.

While Mackey didn’t receive a raise, the tradeoff, a guaranteed two-years, was worth it.

Officially, here’s what the Rangers said, courtesy of https://www.nhl.com/rangers/news/rangers-agree-to-terms-with-connor-mackey:

New York Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury announced today that the team has agreed to terms with defenseman Connor Mackey on a two-year contract extension.

Mackey, 27, has recorded two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 36 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) and a team-high plus-13 rating. He has also played one game for the Rangers this season (Jan. 27 at Ottawa), where he was a plus-1 in 16:27 of ice time.

In three AHL seasons between the Wolf Pack and Stockton Heat, Mackey has compiled 63 points (10G-53A) and a plus-25 rating in 116 games. In 2021-22 with Stockton, he led team defensemen with 36 points (5G-31A) in 53 games. He was named an AHL All-Star in 2021.

The Tower Lakes, Illinois native Mackey has played in 40 career NHL games over four seasons split between the Rangers, Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes, notching 11 points (4G-7A).

Prior to turning pro, the 6-3, 204 pound blueliner played three seasons at Minnesota State University, earning All-WCHA First Team honors in his final year.

Internationally, Mackey has represented the United States at the 2023 and 2021 World Championship.

While who knows if Mackey will ever skate for the Rangers again, having job security, especially in this economy, is one less thing to worry about! Photo Credit: HWP

Congratulations to Mackey on his new deal – because even if he was only at the start of the winning streak (and turnaround) – as noted – you could argue that he kicked off the entire thing.

In a good way, the head coach must be sick about talking about Matt Rempe in every interview!

Prior to the team’s Friday flight to Toronto, the other city in Ontario, the Rangers took to their practice ice in Tarrytown, NY.

Nothing truly “newsworthy” went down during the light skate – unless you consider Kaapo “Tradebait/Showcase” Kakko remaining on the BFF line as news.

Before hopping on the plane, Laviolette conducted another edition of “LAVY’S LOUNGE.”

Here it is:

Come Saturday morning and now in Toronto; following the sponsored “RISE AND SHINE” skate, where just like the day before, not much took place – the head coach spoke one more time to the media prior to tonight’s faceoff.

Here’s the pregame edition of “LAVY’S LOUNGE” for you below:

Everything that Laviolette said during the past 48-hours goes back to what I said a few weeks ago – he does a great job of staying cool, calm and collected – while also going out of his way to praise as many players as possible.

And yep – at this point, the head coach may as well use a tape recording of his thoughts whenever being asked about the top topic in town – and in all of the league too – Matt Rempe.

(This would also be the case following tonight’s loss to the Leafs.)

But this is a good problem to have, even if Laviolette, and ever since #73’s arrival, has said about 98756875667575 times whenever anyone talks about the big man – and where his fighting ability is always addressed on a daily basis.

Here was Laviolette’s line-up for the sixty-first game of this 2023-24 season – and the penultimate game prior to the 3/8 NHL Trade Deadline:

FIRST LINE: Panarin/Trocheck/Lafreniere

SECOND LINE: Kreider/Zibanejad/Kakko

THIRD LINE: Cuylle/Brodzinski/Vesey

FOURTH LINE: Rempe/Goodrow/Edstrom

FIRST PAIR: Lindgren/Fox

SECOND PAIR: Miller/Trouba

THIRD PAIR: Gustafsson/Schneider


BACK-UP: Quick

Healthy Scratches: Belzile and Jones


The following graphics and information come from ESPN.com:






35 3 32 .914 25 5 2 0 0 64:48 0


34 3 31 .912 30 0 1 0 0 64:12 0

Following writing about 5,000 words on the Rangers’ radio announce team on Wednesday night (you can find all of them here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/22824/ ); come Saturday in Toronto, Dave Maloney filled-in for Joe Micheletti. Without question, and without knocking “JUMPIN’ JOE” – the broadcast was notably improved – and where even Sam Rosen was at his best too. Photo Credit: M$GN

Without a shadow of a doubt – tonight’s broadcast was the finest work that the M$GN has provided this season yet.

Not only was Sieve Vagistat thankfully missing in action (Brian Boyle replaced him – as Henrik Lundqvist was off celebrating his 42nd birthday), but Joe Micheletti, who attended a 50th anniversary celebration of the 1974 NCAA champions, the Minnesota Gophers (and the 1972 Miami Dolphins, they are not!), was also absent.

The timing of Maloney on M$GN TV – and not radio – couldn’t have been more fortunate for me – but only because I wrote my “ODE TO MALONEY” just a few nights ago!

In other words, I don’t have to go balls-to-the-wall when appreciating the former captain again – but I can tell you – he made me look golden on Saturday – as everything that I just wrote proved true tonight.

Maloney, in a word, “CARRIED” tonight’s broadcast.

Not only was he informative, critical and knowledgable throughout; but he was also able to prevent Rosen from having his “senior moments” too.

Similar to “Clear-Sighted Assholes,” “EXPECTED STATS,” “I did this, I did that,” “East-West passing,” “Royal Roads,” and all of the other junk that we never hear whenever Vagistat is off-duty; omitted tonight throughout the game/broadcast was the usual garbage that Sam and Joe spew on a regular basis too.

For example, we never found out the names of the second-grade teachers of the opponents, who just had sex nine months ago, the blood types of the Leafs, the state of the Marlies and anything else that Rosen regurgitates from the foe’s media guide.

Maloney, a straight-shooter, and where in addition, his “FAN BOY” enthusiasm for his favorite hockey team was more than appreciated as well – kept the focus of this broadcast on the Rangers.

And whenever Rosen almost veered – there was Maloney to rear him back in.

Rather than two old coots shooting the shit at a senior home as Sam and Joe usually do; Maloney, the broadcasting jack-of-all-trades, brought out the best in Rosen – and reminded everyone why Rosen is in the Hall of Fame today.

Another reminder, although of the unfortunate variety?

Maloney reminded us that it should’ve been him eighteen years ago, and not Micheletti, who should have been John Davidson’s replacement.

But what’s done is done.

I always say “THANK YOU” whenever I see Boyle, and without Vagistat, on M$GN broadcasts! Photo Credit: NHL

To open tonight’s broadcast, Boyle echoed what I have previously said – the NHL All Star Game/bye week was exactly what was needed for both CZAR IGOR and the Rangers – and where the member of the alumni didn’t credit Mackey for the Blueshirts’ turnaround either.

After Boyle informed us that the Panarin guy is pretty good at hockey, the former #22 was very generous when naming Zibanejad as one of the Rangers’ best forwards this season – and where his omission of Lafreniere was FAKE NEWS too.

As a potential Reaves v. Rempe tilt was teased, going into the game, I thought it was a lose-lose situation all-around – and where truth be told, and perhaps this is my own ignorance too – I never considered the fact that a draw could be had – and as we’d later have.

What I mean by lose-lose, and for every party involved, is that a pre-staged fight, and during the first shift of the game as well, would be reckless for either side.

While I’ll get into this more during the GAME REVIEW – both Rempe and Reaves were also aware of the situation at hand.

When it comes to each fighter, for Reaves, a win over a Rempe that wasn’t at 100% would’ve been bad. A loss against a foe with two black eyes would have been even worse.

For Rempe, just fighting could have went against the wishes of his head coach – and again – more on this a bit.

A loss against Reaves would lead people into believing that #73 was a one-trick pony – and where his “trick” wasn’t impressive either.

On Rempe, Boyle said, “I don’t care who you are, fighting is scary. I didn’t challenge guys like he is doing. I had to learn it. It didn’t come naturally to me. I had to do it. The love I got from my team, it was like a drug. You felt so good. The bruises didn’t hurt, but you gotta be careful and protect yourself. It has to be the right time.”

Nothing against the 6’7″ Boyle – but he wasn’t that much of a fighter to begin with – and at the very least – wasn’t a natural (and by his own admission) as Rempe currently is these days.

Following John Giannone demanding that every woman, man and child bet all of their money on every game being played in the league (and where it still hasn’t been revealed if he offers his own kids this same advice); I turned my head to my other TV, where I had the SportsNet broadcast of tonight’s tilt on – and where Rempe was the top talk in Toronto.

Has there ever been a fourth-liner that’s taken over the league like Rempe is doing – and not even two weeks removed from his NHL debut?

After a nice package covering the most successful month in Rangers’ history (February 2024), Boyle had me cracking up when he mentioned that Toronto has priced out a ton of their hardcore fans and how their building, as a result, has never been quieter.

Not one word about how the Rangers & M$G have done the same.

Come 7PM, we went to Sam and Dave – and where I admit – by the end of this broadcast, I was surprised that Rosen, and not once, ever slipped, and belted out a good old hearty “OH JOE!”

Maloney was excellent tonight, and in a M$GN first, became the first broadcaster to ever use the word “innately” on-air when he said, “defending doesn’t come innately for either team” – which in a way – goes back to what I was saying at the top of this manifesto – both of these teams are carbon copies of one another.

When previewing the Leafs (and M$GN had to fill time, as these HNIC games start a few minutes later than usual), Rosen remarked, “MATTHEWS IS IN THE OUTER SPACE!”

Bless Sam’s heart!

Another “Bless Sam’s heart” moment?

When Rosen wondered if the Leafs could stop Zibanejad.

Maloney wisely refrained from answering – and in a sign of a respect – didn’t correct Rosen either.

Up next?

One of those games that you’d watch with someone who you were trying to get into hockey.

That’s how exciting this game was.


It doesn’t seem like Lafreniere’s “Summer of Softball” detracted from his off-season hockey activities these days – and as I was told would be the case from one of the Rangers’ beat reporters. And isn’t it amazing Suzyn how it was Kakko – and not Lafreniere – that seemed destined for stardom during the preseason too? The complete opposite has taken place some six-months removed from the six exhibition matches.


Following second line center, Stinka Zibanejad, losing the first faceoff of the game, it was notable that Schneider was paired with Trouba to start for some reason – but no less than three-seconds later – the normal defensive pairings remained in-tact/returned.

While Laviolette was never asked about this, I’m just deducing that the head coach wanted Trouba on the ice for defense – and once getting possession of the puck – then, and only then, he allowed the returning former Leaf, Erik Gustafsson, to get on the ice.

When Trouba returned to the ice at just 1:20 in – his defensive presence was needed – and as we saw – as the captain broke up a Matthews’ tip/deflection from the goalmouth.

As Maloney was breaking down what each team was doing, while never mentioning if he ever saw these players without their shirts on (and as Micheletti did last broadcast); Rempe, on his first shift, continued to display his strong forechecking abilities – and as he did here with 17:30 remaining.

REMPESTEIN also forced a turnover on his first shift too.

One-trick pony my ass!

As we hit the four-minute mark, we saw the Leafs’ top line just dominate in the Rangers’ zone.

This would continue for the remainder of the game.

No joke, anytime whenever the Matthews’ line was on, it felt like the Rangers were just unable to clear the puck, where as a result, this Toronto trio was able to get 3-4 scoring chances on each shift, following all of the failed clears.

Come 15:15 remaining, and the deer-in-headlights Kakko had all-day to shoot the puck. He hesitated which then allowed Ilya Samsonov to freeze a harmless shot that was sent his way from the Feckless Finn.

I only bring this up because Maloney brought up Kakko’s hesitation and offensive awareness issues too.

And hell, when I say it – everyone under the age of 25-years-old throws a bitch fit at me.

Maloney says it, and nary a word!

Another thing that Maloney brought up – and as I did earlier this week?

How Kakko seems more comfortable on the Rangers’ third line – rather than being stuck with the BFF line.

(Maloney would later criticize Kreider and Zibanejad for doing nothing – and how not many right-wingers work out with these two. KUDOS TO THE CAPTAIN!)

Come 13:47 remaining, and with the Rangers having to survive an early onslaught from the home team; Brodzinski won an o-zone draw which then set-up Vesey – and a save for Samsonov too.

When speaking about the former Hobey Baker winner, I thought that #26 had a heck of a game tonight – even if he didn’t pick up a point.

But it wasn’t for a lack of trying either – as all four of his excellent shots were stopped by Samsonov.

Laviolette must’ve shared the same opinion, because as the game progressed, Vesey and Kakko were later flip-flopped – which you can take as a Vesey promotion – and a Kakko demotion too.

As Rosen was telling us how Reaves has extended his career in Toronto (and where Rosen was less polite than me – as I still don’t understand how any GM could give #75 a three-year deal – and as the Leafs did this summer) – Reaves, most famously known for screaming, “SHESTY, RELEASE US,” screened his former buddy, which then almost set up the first goal of the game – but thankfully, CZAR IGOR was released and thus denied such an event!

It was also around this time where Sam and Dave, and for the first time of about 976789556767857865 times tonight, told us how a Reaves v. Rempe fight wasn’t necessary.

They were correct – but trust me – we’re not done talking about this yet!

Down to 12:32 remaining and Trouba was boxed for high-sticking the son of former Ranger, Michael Nylander.

Braden Schneider was the star of this particular penalty kill, as he had one clear, a shot attempt and then broke up a Toronto down-low play.

Once returned to full-strength, CZAR IGOR prevented Knies from scoring a two-vs-one odd-man rush goal.

Thirty-seconds later, and now with 9:00 left on the clock, CZAR IGOR, alert and tracking the puck well all game, prevented a bad goal allowed – as a puck deflected off of Lindgren – and almost into the Rangers’ net.

With Toronto pretty much dominating and dictating the pace – leave it to the GAG LINE 2.0 to turn the tables – and as Lafreniere did with 8:24 remaining:


This was a hell of a bang-bang play, as set up by Fox, as #23 found #13 all alone in the slot for a wrist shot that the French-Canadian actually finished on – and where maybe – and where I hope too – all of those previous finishing issues for Lafreniere are now a thing of the past.

Either way, and to quote Lafreniere’s first NHL coach, David Quinn – “LAFRENIERE HAS SWAGGER!”

You could see the confidence just dripping off of Lafreniere – like Micheletti’s hair off of his forehead.

Following this first goal of the game, Rosen reminded us that the Rangers were 15-0 whenever Lafreniere scored.

To be fair, while I guess it’s another “SAMMY WHAMMY” – this stat has been repeated several times this season – and like all streaks – it was eventually bound to be broken.

But hey, 15-1 aint too shabby either!

Also after this goal?

The following:

In hindsight (but I did say it at the time too), this felt like a great pro wrestling storyline between Rempe and Reaves.

To begin, and as seen as the clip above, Reaves asked Rempe, “you want it?”

Rempe, who backed-up every word that Laviolette has been saying this week, declined – as the situation didn’t warrant the fight.

For those who need such an explanation, it made no sense for Rempe to fight here because the Rangers were leading and there was no reason to give Toronto any momentum.

Another attribute of Rempe’s?

“MATURITY” – as someone with a lesser mental capacity would have just fought Reaves – which as a result – could’ve put his team at risk.

Following a CZAR IGOR save on Pajama Boy Tavares; down to 4:00 remaining and Vesey extended the Rangers’ zero for their last 9864789286457826457265786257462657826458627578265786246276457826457862357625626 breakaway attempts drought.

Had Vesey scored here, then CZAR IGOR would have picked up his second assist of the season.

But it wasn’t all for naught, as following the Samsonov breakaway save, and with the Rangers still attacking – Timothy “NO RELATION TO RYAN JOE – THEY SPELL THEIR NAMES DIFFERENTLY JOE!” Liljegren tripped the ghost in the #93 jersey.

Just fourteen-seconds into the Rangers’ power-play and they had went 0-1, as Trocheck was boxed for interfering with Calle Jankrok at center ice. (Keep this play in mind – as it comes up again in a few minutes.)

As I wrote on the Tweet-Tweet machine that the Rangers are better on their foreplay (4×4) than their power-play game anyway; at the same time, Maloney said that Laviolette always has his team practicing at four-vs-four – and how the Rangers are the best in the league at it.

Had Maloney not been there, then Sam and Joe would have told us if Auston Matthews wears boxers or briefs.

(Also high on Maloney’s work tonight? His former teammate, my pal and former M$GN correspondent, Ron Duguay – and for the proof – check out his tweeter account over at @RonDuguay10)

As the foreplay reached six-seconds remaining, and with 2:01 left in the period, Simon “Don’t Call me Chris” Benoit interfered with Goodrow at center ice.

I loved this call – as it told us that the refs were at least consistent – after previously calling the same exact infraction against Trocheck.

But like the first Rangers’ power-play – this one went scoreless too.

However, while Zibanejad still can’t score a goal to save his life – Trocheck almost did here – but with 20-seconds remaining – he rang a puck off of the iron that just missed from crossing the goal line by an inch – and where Kreider’s ensuing rebound then missed by two-inches.

And ugh – yes – this was a harbinger of what was to come at the end of the game too.

But while the power-play still finished 0-2 – to be up 1-0 at this point at the game, and especially on the road against this opponent – well that was, and to quote the missing Micheletti, “FABULOUS!”

And yeah, this too:

For all of the changes that Laviolette makes to his line-up in-game – I am still perplexed, and especially after what the head coach saw in front of his own two eyes as the game progressed – why Mika remains on PP1.

It’s high time to give Lafreniere a twirl with those folk – especially since his linemates are there.

1-0, GOOD GUYS, after the first frame.

Here’s what I said at the time:

An FBI computer rendering of JFK in 2024 had Mika Zibanejad been hanging out on a grassy knoll in Dallas, TX on 11/22/1963.


I must admit, it’s getting late as I write these words, and this game was extremely long too, so if you want the full play-by-play, then check out my Tweeter feed over at: https://twitter.com/NYCTheMiC

The Leafs, and as they did in the first period, controlled the puck during the early minutes of this second stanza.

Also going down?

The slow build for the eventual Reaves v. Rempe fight, as Rempe hit Reaves, and where after their shift – both men accidentally bumped into each other – and where a few stares and words were exchanged too!

I’m telling you – this was Pro Wrestling 101!

Come 16:06 remaining and Marner tied the game following a Toronto o-zone faceoff win.

While skilled, this was also a puck-luck and fluky goal too, as Marner whiffed on his first shot, caught all of the Rangers’ skaters playing goalie – and then beat CZAR IGOR who was still tracking the initial fanned shot.

This happened all too quick – and where had Marner got all of his first shot – then this goal scored would have never taken place.

But, that wasn’t the case, so 1-1.

However, the Rangers, who have been doing a good job of this lately ever since the CONNOR MACKEY game, RESPONDED – and as Trocheck did just 69-seconds later (nice) following the Toronto equalizer:


Another ISN’T IT AMAZING SUZYN moment?

Not only is Lafreniere finishing on his own shots these days – but after being robbed of approximately 975675675675675475678 assists this season – his teammates are finishing after his picture-perfect passes too – and as his center did here!

And as noted earlier, with Panarin picking up the secondary apple, this Trocheck goal went down as a PURE GAG LINE 2.0 strike!

As I reminded myself that going into the season, one key for the Rangers to be successful was that the two lottery picks needed to show up, and where like Lafreniere’s summer batting average, the Blueshirts are now batting .500 in that department; down to 12:40 remaining and CZAR IGOR made a pair of big-time stops.

However, with 11:06 left in the middle frame, Nylander, following his shot from the blue line, hit a Rangers’ blue liner too – where as a result – a puck that deflected off of Gustafsson then went behind CZAR IGOR.


This wasn’t Gustafsson’s best game of the season – and where my idea of trading for Radko Gudas isn’t looking too bad these days either!

Now tied, and with 10:30 remaining, Cuylle, and not Rempe, tried to pick a fight with Reaves.

The veteran Reaves didn’t oblige – as he wasn’t going to waste his time fighting in a preliminary bout.

As the Rangers continued to struggle against Toronto’s top line, and where Trouba almost scored against CZAR IGOR on two separate occasions with 8:30 remaining, the score remained tied.

Kreider almost broke up the tie with 6:10 to go, but his rising shot hit the shoulder of Samsonov – a fortunate break for the Leafs’ puck-stopper.

A minute later, and Ryan Lindgren was boxed for high-sticking Matthews.

The Rangers’ PK did their job again here – and almost scored a shorty too – but a Kreider-to-Mika-to-Fox tic-tac-goal try was prevented.

With ninety seconds remaining, and the boards in Toronto promoting COVID-19 shots too – Rempe gave a nice little shot to the newest, and now returning, Leaf in-town, Mr. Lyubushkin:

This hit, clean and legal, ended the defenseman’s night.

And while I’m not championing, nor promoting the idea of intending to injure either – this was another positive impact for Rempe – as his monstrous hit took a player out of the game – and where as a result – everyone will take notice whenever that monster of a man takes the ice.

In other words, Rempe’s presence just makes his opponents a bit more tentative.

As we hit under a minute remaining, Miller had all-day to shoot, but instead – pulled a Kakko.

After allowing the Toronto defense to gain their bearings – a Miller shot was blocked – but to his credit – #79 stuck with the play and as a result – drew Knies for high-sticking.

The Rangers didn’t score a power-play goal here – including during the first 1:07 of the final frame.

2-2 through forty-minutes.

Here’s what I said at the time:

If Stinka Zibanejad didn’t suck so much tonight, then we most likely would have seen this picture (again) following the game. Photo Credit: NYR


Let’s stick with the highlights for this final frame.

— CZAR IGOR, following another failed Rangers’ power-play, continued to hold down the fort.

— It was also noticeable that in a tied game, that Rempe’s minutes were cut again – but he’d later enter this period during its waning stages.

— Following another failure of a scoring attempt from Kakko, this is when Maloney railed on Zibanejad and Kreider – and also suggested that perhaps these two were holding the young man down.

— With 13:59 remaining, Samsonov stuffed two Vesey chances – as seriously – Jimmy could have had a hat trick tonight.

— Come 12:43 left on the clock, Pajama Boy, not exactly a hometown hero anymore these days, put the Leafs ahead following a deflection goal off a shot from Jankrok’s blade.

— 3-2, bad guys.

— As we approached the half-way mark of the game, Kakko took a hit – and at the time – he was holding his head, which led me to believe he may have been hurt – and especially when Vesey replaced him on the BFF’s line next shift. However, this was a performance issue, as come the third line’s next shift – Kakko returned alongside Cuylle and JONNY HOCKEY.

— What does this say about Kakko, who has now been demoted from the top-six for the sixth time this season?

Hmmmm…. and has anyone noticed how both Adam Henrique and Frank Vatrano have been racking up both the goals and points these days for Anaheim?

— Hmmmmm – again!

— With 8:30 remaining, Rempe took his first shift of the period.

— A minute later, CZAR IGOR kept the Rangers’ chances of winning this game alive, following a point blank save on Max Domi – the other son of a Rangers’ alum on the Leafs’ roster.

— Then, and with 5:59 remaining – the long awaited tease paid off – as Rempe and Reaves dropped the gloves:

In my eyes, and I don’t think that I’ll find a contrarian opinion either, this fight was a draw.

Another thing that everyone can agree on?

This was Rempe’s smartest fight yet – and where need I remind you – he had two black eyes too – as he looked like he was dressing up as Mrs. Potvin for Halloween.

Whether it was his confirmed talks with two members of the alum, John Scott and Nick Fotiu, his swollen eyes or perhaps words of wisdom from his head coach; whatever it was – Rempe, and for the first time, actually parried his punches – rather than going full boar with his rock’em, sock’em style of fighting.

This fight gave everyone, the television networks, the media (they wanted something to write about), the NHL and most importantly – the fans/customers of this product too – what they desperately desired.

Truth be told, and like Rosen and Maloney who said as much – down by one goal with under six-minutes remaining – I didn’t think that this fight was warranted – but of course – I did enjoy it.

Perhaps something else that you can only say after the fact?

This fight, even if it was a tie, led the Rangers into scoring the late equalizer.

Another thing worth noting?

Prior to dropping the gloves, Rempe looked to the Rangers’ bench, and where I’m to assume his eyes connected with the peepers of Laviolette – and once receiving the nod of approval – then, and only then, did REMPESTEIN go to war with one of the best heavyweights of this era.

— Down to 3:00 remaining, and CZAR IGOR, and once again, kept the deficit to one, following a save on Pajama Boy after another Stinka Zibanejad turnover.

— Eighteen-seconds later – and Fox almost tied the game – but Samsonov, and to his credit, made the best save of the match, as he made a swooping BESSIE save here.

— With 1:49 left in regulation, CZAR IGOR was pulled for the extra attacker.

— 42-seconds later -and the extra skater (6×5 or 6×4) attack scored – again – and where of course – it was Trocheck, the center of the GAG LINE 2.0, who potted the 3-3 goal:

— Kakko almost blew the tie game with 20-seconds remaining – but thankfully – CZAR IGOR.

3-3 after 3 periods – and where overtime – and later a shootout, was required.

Mika Zibanejad not showing up (as usual) marred what should have otherwise been nothing but positive headlines for Trocheck, Panarin and Lafreniere. Photo Credit: Getty Images


The 3 x 3 overtime, billed as “heart attack hockey,” sure lived up to those three words.

Both teams exchanged chances – and both goalies exchanged saves – while getting some breaks too.

Samsonsov, who totaled seven saves against Panarin, who led all shooters in SOG, made two big ones during these five-minutes.

With seven-seconds remaining, the Rangers took one of those lovely too many men on the ice penalties – but Trocheck won the draw – thus extending this game into the shootout gimmick.


Love ’em or hate ’em – one thing is true about the shootouts – no one sits for them.

And that was the case again here.

In the first inning, Nylander went wide while Panarin was denied at Samsonov’s five-hole.

In the second inning, CZAR IGOR denied Matthews, while Mika Zibanejad actually scored.

And had Zibanejad’s shootout goal held up as the game-winner – and as it should have – then perhaps Ranger fans would have given #93 another pass after his 61st no-show performance of the season.

But alas, that wasn’t the case.

In what should’ve been the final inning, the third, Marner was credited for scoring a goal after breaking the rules, as he stopped, went backwards and then scored:

I’d like to say that I have no clue how this goal was upheld after video review – but the officials in Toronto allowed this home-team goal to stand.

What a shock.

With a chance to become the game’s hero (and he was one of the best players tonight anyway), a Lafreniere backhanded attempt was denied.

Now in extra innings, Max Domi made short work of CZAR IGOR.

Trocheck, who had to score in order to extend the shootout – hit iron – and for the second time tonight.

2-1 in the shootout, 4-3, the game’s final – but either way – a hell of a hockey game – and with an excuse too for losing – as the officials pressed the “SCREW THE RANGERS” button on Marner’s BS goal.

Here’s Laviolette following the loss – and where once again – he was forced to say “we talk to all of our players all of the time” when discussing Rempe’s tilt:

Maybe it’s just me – and I know that losing isn’t acceptable for anyone on the team either – but I thought that Lavy, and maybe he was mad about the Marner goal being upheld (or maybe he was pissed-off at his $8.5M center who does oo-gatz these days), was a bit dismissive and curt in his responses.

But it’s the job of head coach to reiterate that losing, and in any fashion, isn’t acceptable.

But as a fan?

I have no gripes – outside of a Zibanejad and power-play that needs some serious rectifying.

My artistry when creating a photoshop of Frank Vatrano in a Rangers’ jersey! (Or this – Photo Credit: Getty Images!)

Up next: A Monday night meeting at M$G with the Florida Panthers – and with a chance to regain first-place supremacy in the league too.

Just a hunch?

Chris Drury doesn’t make a trade prior to Monday night – especially with the Rangers idle until Saturday following this game.

Another hunch?

Hello Gudas, Vatrano and Henrique.

Farewell Kakko, Jones and a first-round draft pick.

And for those who want the Rangers to make roster improvements, but don’t want Kakko traded either – then I must ask – do you really think that Verbeek, or another GM, is going to take pile of nothing while giving the Blueshirts everything they ask for?

Simply put: You have to give up something in order to gain something.

Depending on what happens between now and Monday night – I may return prior to the 62nd game of the season.

If nothing happens on the off-day, then I’ll return on 3/4 with a Rangers/Panthers review.

After that?

An excruciating 96-hours, as we all await whatever Drury does prior to the 3/8 3pM trade deadline.

The good?

The Rangers are playoff bound – and these are exciting times.

Until I return, I suggest you read some books, which brings us to…

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/

The hardcover version of my first book, available now at Amazon.com

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:

Order “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden” Book Today

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/CBJ 2/28 Review: BEST IN THE WORLD BLUESHIRTS BEAT BLUE JACKETS; First Team to Hit 40 Wins, Matt Rempe The Top Talk of the League; Gets Gary Bettman’s Attention, What The Duck – Verbeek In-Attendance Too, Panarin Continues Career-Best Season; Another 3-Pointer Netted, Mika March Needed After His February Failure, Maloney & Albert = Gold, M$GN & More

NYR/PHI 2/24 Review: HEAVE HO, TEN IN A ROW! Rolling Rangers Make History; Matt Rempe Creates Two Moments That You’ll Never Forget Too, REMPESTEIN Overshadows Another Monstrous Performance from CZAR IGOR – But Why He Shouldn’t Fight In Every Game, Insane Lafreniere Stat, Enjoy The Moment & More

If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:

Now on sale!

Don’t forget to order my 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.


Sean McCaffrey


@NYCTHEMIC on the Tweeter machine

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3 thoughts on “NYR/TOR 3/2 Review: Original Six Marquee Match-Up Exceeds All Hype & Expectations; Refs Rob Rangers in Shootout Loss, Historical Similarities & Differences Between Two Aging Cores, All Strengths & Weaknesses Remain, GAG Line 2.0 Does All of The Heavy Lifting; “Mika Marchless” Does Nada, Rempe & Reaves Deliver in Anticipated Heavyweight Tilt; Both Come Out as Winners, Mr. Mackey Re-Signed, Laviolette, Kakko on the Blockko, Best M$GN Broadcast of the Season & More

  1. Like how Maloney told us that players usually know when they’ve scored a goal as replay was reviewing Lafreniere’s goal. He’s right. Great analysis.

  2. Like how Maloney told us that players usually know when the puck went in as replay was reviewing Lafreniere’s goal. He’s absolutely right and it’s something that maybe not every hockey fan is aware of. Great job by Dave.

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