Calm Before The Storm: Rangers Gear Up For Biggest Test Yet; Tears for Cowardly Crosby Flood the Steel City, CZAR IGOR Adds Hart Nomination to his Vezina Bid; Says “Nyet” to Media, Turk Talk, Sour Sully, Motte & More

The top story around the hockey world on Thursday was about the Jacob Trouba hit on Sidney Crosby during Game Five. Let’s face it – if it wasn’t Crosby on the receiving end – no one would care.

Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Nervous yet?

Following the Rangers’ Game Five victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins from Wednesday night; no less than twelve hours after the final horn, there was Pens’ bench boss Mike Sullivan crying to the hockey media about the “Big Bad Wolf” known as Jacob Trouba – where the head coach of the black-and-yellow was pretty much begging for the league to suspend “The Great Eight.”

On Thursday morning, and just prior to the ice birds departure out of New York City; Sullivan (and as he should’ve said), remarked that he wasn’t happy about Trouba’s hit on Crosby, a hit that in turn – knocked the Pens’ captain out Game Five – if not the series.

As discussed in-depth last night (link to last night’s blog located at the end of this one); the hit was such a bang-bang play, where it only looks really bad when you slow it down and then try to go through it frame-by-frame.

And not for nothing – most hits look really bad when slowed down – especially if you’re trying to find an offense.

In case you need a refresher, here was the hit:


Unless you’re a Penguins fan crying bloody murder over your fallen future Hall of Famer (and I get that – after all, I’m still pissed about Carter running Igor during Game Two); when you watch this hit over-and-over, it’s obvious – this was not a dirty hit. It’s an unfortunate accident. It’s also a risk you take when playing the game.

And even when you do slow it all down – it’s debatable if Trouba’s initial point of impact/contact was even at Crosby’s head itself.

In fact, it looked like the point of impact was at Crosby’s upper-body area (shoulder region) instead of the head.

Once making contact, that’s when the two then got tied up together, – which then, and only then, led to Trouba catching Crosby up high.

Following Sullivan’s remarks, the league stated that they wouldn’t be suspending Trouba, nor found the hit to be dirty neither – it was just part of the game; where again – if this wasn’t Crosby on the receiving end – then the outrage and the 6786789696967676789676 opinions on this hit wouldn’t exist.

After all – I don’t remember the entire hockey world up-in-arms over Trouba’s truck job on Michael Dal Colle from a few seasons back.

Not mentioned by Sullivan on Thursday? This cowardly play by Crosby from earlier this season:


Sorry Sullivan. Sorry Crosby. You can’t have it both ways.

The hit/crime shown above (which took place during a game played between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals on November 15th, 2021), saw Crosby throw Martin Fehervary head first into the boards. There was clear malicious intent behind this play, a play that the Penguin-friendly officials didn’t even call a penalty on. And really – that’s the true crime.

A bigger crime? No suspension for Crosby either. I guess Fehervary would’ve had to die for such a suspension to happen.

Even if you’re the most ardent Penguin supporter, you have to admit that Trouba’s hit on Crosby was accidental and that it wasn’t intentional. You can’t say the same about what Crosby did to Fehervary.

And while Crosby’s life-threatening attack on Fehervary was the most cowardly thing he’s done all season – there were other incidents/attacks out of #87 during this 2021-22 NHL campaign; including incidents where Crosby was punching unsuspecting players. Just ask Nick Dowd about this.

So while I can understand why the city of Pittsburgh is currently in a state of ire – sorry Charlie, I have no sympathy for you.


One of Trouba’s nicknames, the “TROO TROO TRAIN” moniker, is well-earned, and NOT because of any nefarious and/or illegal activity. He’s a big boy and he hits hard. Better skate with your head up junior!

While Sullivan was calling for Trouba’s head on Thursday morning; at the same time, and following the Rangers’ optional practice, #8 talked about the play himself:


Trouba, who talked about a bunch of different things on Thursday; on the hit, said the following verbatim:

“I tried going stick on puck, a fluky play. It wasn’t massively hard contact. You never want to see a guy get hurt. Hopefully he’s better soon.”

While Trouba has laid some guys out during his time with the Rangers – there was never one incident/play when he hit someone dirty.

He’s big. You have to skate with your head up. If you don’t, you’re going to get crushed, where to be fair – that’s not even what happened here with Crybaby Crosby.

As Trouba said himself, the play was fluky. It’s not like Trouba squared up Crosby as he’s done to other Ranger opponents this season.

When it comes to Crosby himself, Sullivan said that his star was traveling with the team back to Pittsburgh, where once there – he’d receive further evaluation.

Of course, the league hates the “c- word,” as in concussion; so we won’t hear Sullivan use that word – even if that’s the ailment that many suspect Crosby of experiencing right now. (In case you’ve been living under a rock, Crosby’s history with concussions is well-documented.)

In a corresponding move in light of Crosby’s injury, whether it be for insurance reasons (toughness) or to play in the event that #87 can’t go during Game Six; the Penguins called up Radim Zohorna on Thursday.

Here’s the Penguins’ press release on the call-up, courtesy of https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/penguins-recall-forward-radim-zohorna-from-wilkes-barre-scranton/c-334016118?partnerId=pit-twt-penguins:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled forward Radim Zohorna from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.

Zohorna, 26, played in 17 games with Pittsburgh this year, recording two goals, four assists, six points and a plus-12. The forward also skated in 39 games for WBS this season, recording 12 goals, nine assists and 21 points. 

Zohorna has recorded two goals, three assists and five points in four playoff games with WBS, who is currently in their Second Round series against Springfield. 

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward played his first season in North America in 2020-21 with the Penguins organization, splitting time between Pittsburgh, the WBS Penguins, and Pittsburgh’s taxi squad. In 25 career NHL games, Zohorna has tallied four goals, six assists, 10 points and a plus-16. 

The Penguins return to Pittsburgh for Game 6 of their First Round series against the New York Rangers tomorrow at 7:00 PM.


The two best Penguins of this series. Photo Credit: NHL.com

As you can tell, Zohorna is a big boy.

Whether he slots into the Pens’ line-up in steed of Crosby, or if he is just there to throw down; at the end of the day it won’t matter – the Rangers have to handle their own business.

And really, that starts and ends with both Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, the two highest paid forwards on the Rangers that haven’t done much of anything during these first five games of this first-round match-up.

We won’t know if Crosby will be able to play during Game Six until Friday night, where I also suspect that we won’t know with a 100% certainty about his status until pregame warm-ups.

Crosby or no Crosby, and in an often repeated mantra out of Rangers’ head coach Gerard Gallant all season – “we have to take care of our own business.”

I don’t want to repeat everything I’ve previously said during these playoffs; but yeah – it just can’t be the Rangers’ third line doing all of the heavy lifting.

At some point, both Zibanejad and Panarin need to start earning their money during these most important games of the season. And if you abide by the law of averages – they are most certainly due.

I’m over this Trouba/Crosby hit already, where at the same time – be prepared to hear about it endlessly tomorrow – especially if Crosby can’t play.

And yep – you know that the Penguin fans inside of the PPG Arena will be bringing this up all game long during Game Six.

Let’s go back to the Rangers.


In addition to the Crosby injury; Pens’ head coach Mike Sullivan also said that Rakell Rakell the Musical, Brian Dumoulin and Tristan Jarry all remain status quo. Not status quo? Tyler Motte, who practiced with the Rangers on Thursday morning. Should Gallant get the a-okay from Jim Ramsey and company, then #64 will make his Rangers’ playoff debut on Friday night. Photo Credit: NYR

During the Rangers’ optional practice from Thursday morning, most of the team showed up for the light skate, where most notably – Tyler Motte was on the ice.

To skip ahead a bit, here’s Gallant on Motte from his post-practice presser, when “The Turk” was asked about Motte rejoining the team for Friday night’s Game Six:

“I think so, but I’m not sure. I gotta check with the trainers. He had his first full practice today with us and everything looks good. I’d say he’s a game-time decision, but I gotta get a clearing from the doctors and trainers – but today was a good first step.”

Here’s Gallant’s full interview from Thursday:


Away from being hopeful about Motte; Gallant said a few other things worth noting:

— Ryan Lindgren didn’t partake in the optional skate – nor did anyone expect him to. “The Turk” said that #55 will be back in his line-up for Game Six.

— Gallant defended Trouba and said that he wasn’t worried about a potential suspension. Gallant, like all of us, also expects Trouba to hear it from Penguin fans on Friday night.


One last thing on Trouba/Crosby out of me.

Outside of the fact that if Crosby can’t play, it will most certainly benefit the Rangers; there’s something else to look at too – Trouba is now public enemy number one in Pittsburgh.

Whether you want to talk (make excuses/explanations) about the triple overtime game and/or getting run over by Jeff Carter at the end of Game 2; this much is also known – Penguin fans rattled CZAR IGOR during Games Three and Four.

In what will be a hostile environment for the Rangers on Friday night, this much is true – you can’t troll/boo/heckle two players at the exact same time.

Perhaps with Trouba now as the top heel in Pittsburgh, it will take some of the heat off of CZAR IGOR.

While I fully expect Penguin fans to do their mocking “EEEEEEEE-GOOOOOORRRRRE” chants; I don’t think it will be as bad as it was during the two previous games in Pittsburgh – only because I think these fans will be harassing and hounding Trouba all game.

And one more time – if Mika and Panarin can wake up, and in turn, give the Rangers a quick and comfortable lead – then they’ll silence their black-and-yellow haters – and for the last time this season.

Speaking of CZAR IGOR; after receiving his Vezina nomination earlier this week, on Thursday, another accolade become official. He’s now one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy.


CZAR IGOR’s historic and epic season has garnered him league-wide attention, as not only the best goalie in the league – but perhaps as the best player in all of the league too. Photo Credit: NYR

Here’s what the Rangers had to say about Igor’s bid for the Hart Trophy, where should he win it – he’ll be the second Rangers goalie in all of franchise to win it. (Previously, Chuck Rayner, during his legendary 1949-50 season, won this prestigious trophy.)

(Rayner pretty much carried the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final that season, in a season that I’ve probably previously discussed about 786789686769698 times on this site and during my book too; so you can check the archives of this site and/or my book for more on Rayner’s carry job. But yeah – that damn circus.)

The following comes from https://www.nhl.com/rangers/news/igor-shesterkin-named-finalist-for-hart-trophy/c-334011238?icmp=int_web_nyr_news_rightrail :

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been named a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy, the award presented annually “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” The winners of the 2022 NHL Awards will be revealed during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, with exact dates, format and times to be announced.

Shesterkin, 26, is the second Ranger in the past three seasons to be named a finalist for the Hart Trophy (Artemi Panarin – 2019-20) and fifth Rangers goaltender in team history to be named a finalist for the award. The most recent before Shesterkin was Henrik Lundqvist in 2011-12. Eight times has an NHL goaltender won the Hart Trophy, the last being Montreal’s Carey Price in 2014-15. Since the award was first presented in 1923-24, four Rangers have won it (Mark Messier – 1991-92, Andy Bathgate – 1958-59, Chuck Rayner – 1949-50, Buddy O’Connor – 1947-48) with Rayner being the only goaltender.

The Moscow, Russia native posted historic numbers in 2021-22, becoming the third goaltender in NHL history (min. 50 appearance) to post a save percentage of .935 or higher in a single season. He joined Tim Thomas (2010-11 – .938) and Dominik Hasek (1998-99 – .937) in reaching the feat. Shesterkin went 36-13-4 and led the league with a 2.07 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage. It is the 39th time, since the league began tracking save percentage in 1955-56, that a goaltender has led the NHL in both save percentage and GAA.

Shesterkin’s 36 wins ranked sixth in the NHL and his six shutouts ranked third in the league. He recorded those numbers despite playing the 16th most minutes of any goaltender in the NHL. Shesterkin earned his 30th win in Game No. 41 of his season, the fewest games required in franchise history.

When facing 30-or-more shots in a game, Shesterkin was 24-7-2 in 2021-22 and when seeing 40-or-more shots, the goaltender was 4-0-0.

Below are all the goaltenders in Rangers history to be named a finalist for the Hart Trophy:

2021-22 – Igor Shesterkin

2011-12 – Henrik Lundqvist

1966-67 – Ed Giacomin

1955-56 – Gump Worsley

1949-50 – Chuck Rayner


From magazine covers, team awards and now league-wide trophies; CZAR IGOR has done it all during the regular season. He will now play the biggest game of his life on Friday. And should he win that, he’ll play an even bigger game on Sunday. Photo Credit: The Hockey News

In what’s somewhat become a developing story, or at least something worth noting – CZAR IGOR hasn’t talked to the media since Game Two.

Since Ranger fans (and the media too) all love our goaltenders, and love comparing them to previous goalies too (I’m no different) – it’s been brought up that Henrik Lundqvist ALWAYS talked to the media – win-or-lose.

Of course, the circumstances are different now, since media members aren’t currently allowed in NHL locker rooms due to the pandemic.

(This is also why you see media members on NHL television broadcasts, and no matter the network, wearing masks when interviewing players – it’s league policy.)

While CZAR IGOR is the best goaltender in the NHL; when compared to the Lundqvist Era – #31, unlike #30, isn’t the highest paid player on the team.

In addition, you can argue that Igor has a better team around him now, than what Lundqvist once had at the peak of his powers – at least from an offensive standpoint.

For all of Igor’s epic and historic accomplishments this season – I wouldn’t even consider him as the top face of this team as Lundqvist once was. To me, it’s both Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba behind the wheel. (And to a lesser extent, Ryan Strome too – hence his “John Halligan Good Guy Award” win.)

These players are the ones that you see day-in and day-out – even if CZAR IGOR has had more success and is the team’s MVP.

And yep – as was evident during the course of his career and now during his work on the M$GN – Lundqvist has mastered the English language. Shestyorkin has not.

Ironically, Lundqvist was always the go-to interview during his peak/prime years – despite having team captains during his run. Igor has never played with a team captain while as a Ranger.

For what it’s worth, I don’t put much into this story, but since the media brought it up, and since I do think it’s worth mentioning – it will be interesting to see when CZAR IGOR chats with the media again – and with his interpreter by his side.

And when it comes to the Hart and Vezina Trophies – and just like the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup – I hope Igor wins everything!

(Although should the Rangers defy the odds and make a comeback against the Penguins – I think Lafreniere is currently the Rangers’ odds-on favorite for the Smythe!)


Should the Rangers’ top six remain as cold as ice; the Blueshirts will need their third line to carry them – AGAIN. Photo Credit: M$GN

Game Six, Friday night. Following that game – I plan on talking about a Game Seven to be played on Sunday night.

As far as anything else – if you’re still keeping the faith, the Rangers got good news on Thursday night, when the Boston Bruins won the sixth game of their series over the Carolina Hurricanes by a final score of 5-2.

As a result – these two teams are heading to a Game Seven.

Should the Rangers mount their comeback – at least they won’t have a team idle and waiting in the wings. Even better? This Canes/Bruins series has been very physical too.

However, and admittedly – I’m looking ahead.

As Gallant always says, “ONE GAME AT A TIME!”

LGR!

PLUGS TIME.


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

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:

https://www.amazon.com/Rangers-Rafters-Madison-Square-Garden-ebook/dp/B09CM5N2WD

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


Here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them:

NYR/PIT R1G5 5/11 Review: BOYZ II MEN! Rangers’ Third Line Forces a Game Six; Returning #55 a Complete Stud in Game 5, Crosby Physically Missing; Rangers’ Top Six Mentally Missing, Goalies, Gallant & More from a Comeback Thriller!


DO OR DIE: Rangers Need To Win Game Five to Survive; Talk is Cheap, “The NYR Core 4,” Igor Officially Earns Vezina Nomination, Gallant, 2022 NHL Draft Lottery; Thoughts on NYR Rivals & More


NYR/PIT R1G4 5/9 Review: “The You Can’t Blame The Officials, Gallant and/or Injuries Edition.” Pens Massacre Rangers; Gallant’s Gang Now in “MUST WIN” Territory; Missing Mika/Shot-less Panarin, Can’t Win a Faceoff, Igor Pulled Again; No Defense To Speak Of, NYR In Need of “MSL” Magic, Trotz & More


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


Will these two show up during Game Six? By the law of averages, you’d think that they’d be due! Photo Credit: NY Rangers

Up next: Game 6, Friday night in Pittsburgh.

As always here, thanks for reading and…

LET’S GO RANGERS!

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

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