NYR/FLA ECF G5 Review: On-The-Brink Blueshirt FAT CATS Out-Clawed By Florida’s Cats – Again; Lavy’s Refusal To Shake Up 1-14 Power-Play Absolutely Maddening, Lafreniere > Mika, Kreider Gets Some Revenge On Tkachuk But That’s It; Third Line Sucks, Tons of Second-Guessing Around The Corner, ESPN Ironically To Release 1994 Doc Next Week, New Rangers’ ECHL Affiliate Announced, Can’t Blame Gallant Anymore; It’s All The Core & More

For the first time in these 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs and our beloved Blueshirts are now on the brink, following Thursday night’s 3-2 Game 5 loss at M$G. Akin to the final score and the Rangers now trail the Panthers, 3-2, in their Best-of-Seven Eastern Conference Final series. While I don’t want to write an obituary tonight – it’s not looking good for “Lavy’s Lot” – and where there will be a whole lot of second-guessing (and heads rollin’ too) should the Blueshirts not prevail. And please – and for the life of me – can the 1994 stuff too! I don’t know how many times that I have to say it, but what happened thirty-years ago, and when you consider the different parameters between these two teams too, has no impact on today. Furthermore, and as often mentioned in this space – the 1994 team wasn’t comparing themselves to teams from the franchise’s past – nor using the 1928, 1933 and 1940 squads as inspiration either! Simply put, it’s up to these 2023-24 Blueshirts to get the job done – or else they’ll be done themselves – and as soon as Saturday night’s Game 6 in Sunrise, FL.

Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. We still remain stuck at ten down, six to go, for your now 10-5 in the postseason 2023-24 New York Rangers.

Obviously, and the absolute worst thing above all else – should the Rangers lose on Saturday night, when these two teams will rematch for Game 6, where as a result, their playoff record will read as 10-6 in these 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs – then that’s it.

And should that become the case, and as noted all season (you didn’t forget about my 25-word daily disclaimer that I ran throughout the regular season, did you?) – then all of the good will, franchise-records and career-seasons will have been all for naught – and where in addition – the only thing that will ever be remembered from this campaign was how it ended.

It was always Stanley Cup or Bust for these 2023-24 Rangers, and following the team’s 3-2 Game 5 loss – they are now much closer to “busting” than “cupping.”

And to be clear, one of the oldest adages in sports, and one that’s been commonplace ever since 1967 in Toronto, Ontario too – “There’s Always Next Year” – won’t be welcomed with open arms by any Big Apple hockey aficionado.

While yes, the officiating has been horrible throughout these five games played; at the same time – you can’t blame the refs for the Blueshirts’ 1-14 power-play – nor their non-existent even-strength scoring neither – from the two players that combine to make over $20M in salary, the alleged 1-2 scoring punch, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin.

As my mouth sat widely and vastly agape as the final-seconds rolled off of the clock on Thursday night – and with my heart full of Blueshirts’ induced pain once again as well – I then soon tried to come up with the most concise way to sum up this current 3-2 series deficit.

To some, and while I won’t argue against them either, then perhaps the Panthers are just better – but personally – I simply flat-out refuse to accept that.

After all, the Blueshirts did win the Presidents’ Trophy this season – and had the best playoff record when entering this Stanley Cup Final penultimate round too.

Furthermore, while some will also say that the Panthers, and not the Rangers, are the team of “destiny” – and just because of how the Cats finished last year – I’m also aware that it were the Blueshirts who were in a similar situation just two-years ago (2022) – and where prior to that, albeit with a different core – the Rangers had also failed previously in their Eastern Conference Final series (2015) before that too.

(And for whatever reason, the Blueshirts just struggle against teams based in Florida during these ECF rounds – and where perhaps the non-weighted state-income tax salary cap is part of it.)

So to go with the jargon and casual-speak of, “Florida has been through the wars before,” need not apply in these present times.

These Rangers are battle-tested themselves, and even more-so when you consider that Chris Kreider, the longest-tenured Blueshirt, is now in the Eastern Conference Final for the fifth time in his career too (2012, 2014, 2015, 2022 and 2024).

And it comes as no surprise to me that it was CK20 ($6.5M AAV) – and not the two other forwards with much more lucrative contracts than his, Zibanejad ($8.5M AAV) and Panarin ($11.6M AAV) – who scored what was really the only lone Rangers’ goal in Game 5 – and while on the penalty kill to boot.

But alas, I did say at the top of this that I was looking for a concise summary when assessing this series thus far.

Such a summary?

This one:

This whole series feels like spending a night at a dingy bar, where once there – all you do is drink cheap/well vodka.

Initially, and like the Rangers in these first periods – you feel pretty, pretty, pretty, good about yourself – and where you’re feeling no pain either.

But when you go to break the seal – and then stand up for the first time when attempting to urinate – and much like the Rangers in these second periods – then you feel a tad wobbly and woozy.

Once returned to your bar seat – it hits you – and like the Panthers have been hitting the Blueshirts in every third period, five in all, in this series.

There’s no going back on all of the vodka that you consumed – and just like how there’s no going back for the Rangers on all of their missed opportunities – including their now 1-14 power-play.

And all of the self-inflicted damage that you caused by consuming a copious amount of the either potato or corn distilled adult beverages?

It all catches up to you – and just like how the Panthers continue to catch up – and then beat – the Rangers in all of these do-or-die final frames.

And yes, leave it to yours truly, who ironically, couldn’t watch this game from my local watering hole tonight (I have been accustomed to having a roof over my head – thus I can’t take off from my job all willy-nilly), to use alcohol as a comparison to the Rangers.

Then again, this team will always make you drink – and they aren’t for recovering alcoholics either – so this reference is certainly most applicable!

This site was founded in 2014. In other words, I’ve been running this picture for ten-years now. Ugh.

While we’ll get into everything from tonight during the GAME REVIEW segment; at the end of the day, this series, and as you all know, boils down to one thing – their stars vs our stars – and where the Rangers aren’t only losing this war – but they’re getting massacred and bloodied-up beyond belief in the process too.

The biggest storyline when entering Game 5, and such discourse that was the lede everywhere as well, including in America, Canada, and of course, on ESPN, who had the rights to broadcast this game too, was the fact that Kreider, Panarin and Zibanejad hadn’t scored a goal in this series – and for the rotten cherry on top – both of the BFF were also without a point – while Florida goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, had one to his ledger.

After Game 5, and Kreider did get off of the schneid – and Zibanejad picked up two points too – but while for the former, his strike was huge – for the latter – both of his points feel empty.

And Panarin, who previously had a few assists in this series?

In the biggest game of his life, and “The Breadman” baked a stat line of zero goals, zero assists, zero points and a minus-one rating.

Should you be an optimist, then Panarin’s next biggest game of his life takes place this Saturday – and should the Rangers win that – then the next biggest game of his life will take place this Monday night, at M$G, for what’s now a hopeful Game 7.

(And it would be “So Rangers” for them to blow out the Panthers in Game 6 – then get blown out and shutout on home ice in Game 7. After all, we’ve seen this movie before!)

For as ineffective as the Rangers’ FAT CATS have been, and where despite playing while hurt, you can’t ignore the $9.5M Adam Fox and the $8M captain, Jacob Trouba, either; then outside of CZAR IGOR, Barclay Goodrow, Vincent Trocheck, Alexis Lafreniere, and to a lesser extent, Braden Schneider and K’Andre Miller too – then the Blueshirts aren’t getting anything out of anyone else – and where let’s face it – Alex Wennberg’s Game 3 overtime goal was as fluky and as rare as finding a winning lotto ticket in the trash.

Speaking of the word trash, that pretty much sums up Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko and Jack Roslovic in this series – and where for the life of me, and as fully detailed in my Game 4 review (https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/52824/ ) – then I still don’t understand the Rangers’ obsession to “get Filip Chytil going” – and especially after Laviolette admitted that the Concussed Czech isn’t at 100%.

You can try to get Chytil going in the regular season – but to attempt this with your season on the line – well, I just don’t comprehend this line of thinking.

To stress this point – YES – it’s all about what the FAT CAT/BIG BUCK BLUESHIRTS do – but this never-ending mix-matched third line provides OO-GATZ – and even less when you just focus on their offensive production – or should I say – lack thereof.

It’s also a ripple effect, because one of the best players of the men who have skated on this third line trio (and that doesn’t say much in comparison to everyone else), Will Cuylle, is then bumped down to the fourth-line.

Worse above all else is whenever the PP2 unit jumps over the boards – as unless Lafreniere can single-handedly take over – then you know that the likes of Wennberg, Chytil and Kakko won’t score.

And it’s absolutely nauseating to listen to Emily Kaplan, the rest of the ESPN crew and my fellow Blueshirt Brethren/Brotherhood themselves, all try to find a silver lining whenever talking about “The Feckless Finn” and the “Concussed Czech.”

Similar to THE FAT CATS, and now in their biggest game of their lives, and Chytil finished with no points and with just one lousy shot on goal.

It was even worse for Kakko, who didn’t even record a SOG – and finished as a minus-one too – and where this plus/minus rating DOES TELL THE STORY.

And Roslovic, where need I remind you, the person who Chris Drury stabbed in the back in 2021, former Rangers’ Team President John Davidson, now back in Columbus, just gave away the center/occasional winger for absolutely nothing of value in return – and where the former Blue Jacket, like Kakko, finished as a minus-one – and like Chytil, with only one shot on goal.

In a playoff series where if the top-six and goaltenders cancel each other out – then you need secondary scoring – and this third line ain’t it.

And when you dive deeper into these five games, then what does it say that if fourth-liner Goodrow doesn’t score, then the Rangers don’t win?

For a majority (and as you know – I was completely on the other end of this – perhaps a “one-man minority” to boot) – they can no longer blame former Blueshirt bench bosses, David Quinn and Gerard Gallant, anymore.

Instead, they must do what I’ve been doing for some time now – PRIORITIZE ALL OF THEIR FOCUS (AND VITRIOL TOO!) ON THE FAT CATS – AKA – THE CORE.

As noted on this site about 798246786275426543 times before – I really hope to be proven wrong about this picture – and one that I first made when Drury fired Gallant and then hired Laviolette on June 13th, 2023. Fast-forward to today, and the Rangers must go on a two-game winning streak in order to prove me wrong about my point – IT’S THE CORE – AND NOT THE HEAD COACH – THAT’S THE ISSUE!

In what was admittedly an evenly-played first period, and where you could also argue that perhaps the Blueshirts got the better of it, we entered the second stanza without a score.

But it should be mentioned that the Rangers had an early power-play, just 4:31 in, when Eetu Luostarinen committed the most blatant slashing penalty of all-time when he chopped away at Alex Wennberg.

Despite this fortunate circumstance – and once again – the Blueshirts’ power-play was without wattage – and where for the 9098678679867968796796796th time since January – I just don’t understand Laviolette’s refusal to give Alexis Lafreniere a twirl with the first unit – and give the zipless Zibanejad a zag with the second unit.

As noted throughout this round – I feel even stronger about this point – and for these two reasons:

1) All I heard following the 2023 loss to the Devils was how “The Turk” never made any line-up adjustments. A year removed from that disgusting defeat, and outside of screwing around with the bottom-six and finding a right-winger du juor to play alongside the BFF line, then what has Laviolette adjusted besides his pants?

2) Without a shadow of a doubt, and where really only his center, Vincent Trocheck, is a true contender – then there hasn’t been a hotter Ranger in this series than Alexis Lafreniere – and with all respects paid to Goodrow too.

Here you have Lafreniere lighting lamps left-and-right – yet he’s relegated to playing with such garbage as Wennberg, Chytil and Kakko during worthless and sloppy seconds.

While that’s going on, all we see is Zibanejad shoot his one-timer to nowhere – that is – during the rare times when he’s not coughing up and turning over the puck.

If I didn’t already shave my head, then I’d be pulling every follicle out of it right now.

Blogs (and social media postings) don’t lie! As many were berating Kreider, and grouping him in with the likes of Panarin and Zibanejad for the Rangers’ failures – I wasn’t one of these folk. After all, I’m completely aware of all of Kreider’s previous playoff success – and my, oh my, how short memories are when you consider how the Blueshirts even reached this point in time – as without CK20’s Game 6 hat trick against the Canes – then I may have already written my Blueshirts post-mortem. Photo Credit: NYR

With a nil-nil score at the time, and with some questionable officiating too, I was reminded of this pregame note:

As you can see above, Florida, entering Game 5, was 11-0-1 in their last twelve games played under O’Rourke, including playoffs. The Rangers were 0-2 this postseason when O’Rourke was working, while the Cats were a perfect 2-0.

And after tonight, the Panthers overall improved to 12-0-1 under these officials, while the Rangers dropped to 0-3 (in the playoffs).

At just the 42-second mark of the second period and K’Andre Miller was boxed for the second time – and where both of his penalties committed were of the ticky-tacky variety.

Kreider, at the 2:04 mark, took this penalty personally – and perhaps the words used against him by Matt Tkachuk (check the pregame news and notes segment) too.

One of the greatest Rangers’ playoff performers of all-time beat Sergei Bobrovsky for a short-handed goal, where as a result, put the home team up on the scoreboard, 1-0.

And aside from what really was a meaningless goal scored by Lafreniere in the final minute of regulation with the Rangers at a two-goal deficit – then this was the “Lone Ranger” goal of the match.

(And don’t take this comment to be derogatory against Lafreniere – as that’s not my intention. I’m just saying that the game was long lost by the time that he scored his 6 x 5 goal.)

Now up 1-0, the Zebras, and as they’ve done all series, aligned with their fellow members of the Animal Kingdom, the Cats.

At the 3:43 mark, Kyle Okposo tripped Adam Fox so bad that even Stevie Wonder saw it.

Ditto the returning Sam Rosen, who called this game on ESPN radio.

Come the 4:22 mark, and with the Blueshirts on the power-play – and former Ranger, Niko Mikkola, barreled into CZAR IGOR – a goalie interference penalty that was so bad (HOW BAD WAS IT?) – that you questioned if Mikkola had an intent to maim the MVP of this series.

With CZAR IGOR downed on the ice – and there was Erik Gustafsson heeding the call – as he immediately charged at Mikkola for his callous offense – and in an action that you see every time, a zillion out of a zillion times, whenever a player rushes to the defense of his goaltender.

However, what should’ve been a lengthy 5 x 3 power-play for the Rangers remained as 5 x 4 – as while the officials did get it right – and boxed Mikkola – but they also got the second-half of this play wrong too – as they boxed “The Gus Bus” for roughing.

In other words, the referees want goalies to get run over – and without any sort of reciprocation and/or response.

And should you try to derail and knock a goalie out of a game – then the price to pay is only a two-minute timeout.

Furthermore, a disgusting act of officiating such as this one is why I hate all of the 1994 comparisons.

After all, in 1994 – the officials let the players decide these things – and more times than not – had to wipe the dust away whenever rarely blowing their whistles.

Today, and these officials blow their whistles more often than a prostitute blowing all of their johns – and at the end of the month too – when all bills must be paid.

While 10000000% – the officials continued to disgrace their profession on this play; at the same time – the Rangers did have a two-minute power-play here, their second of the game – and once more time – and like the officials and cheap whores – they blew it – again.

The Rangers inability to score the kill-shot, a power-play goal, and especially whenever leading (this has happened all-series) led to their demise – and for the third time this series – and where it really could’ve been four too – but some fortunate overtime puck-luck goals scored by Goodrow and Wennberg prevented that.

Rather than going up by two or three goals; instead, the Rangers retained their razor-thin margin of a one-goal lead.

And as they have often displayed to us all series – it seems like the game-plan is to score one goal – and then pray to the hockey gods that CZAR IGOR can finish with a shutout.

CZAR IGOR, perhaps more “Human Than Human” (hello Rob Zombie), isn’t God either – and as we saw at the 8:21 mark of this second period when Gustav Forsling split the defense and backhanded a puck past the 2022 Vezina Trophy winner.


Still one-all as we entered the third period of a “win the period, win the game” frame, and the Rangers, at the 6:58 mark had a third man-advantage try to find that elusive second goal, as Kakko was tripped behind Bobrovsky’s net by Mikkola.

The end result – another failure – and overall, their unlucky thirteenth power-play of the series (1-14).

The Cats, who just grow stronger as these games progress, while the Rangers regress, scored the pivotal 2-1 goal when Anton Lundell made Kakko and Trouba look silly at the 10:22 mark.

2-1, bad guys – and where even with 9:38 remaining – you just knew that the comeback Blueshirts, “The Find-A-Way Rangers,” didn’t have it in them.

With 1:52 remaining, and with CZAR IGOR on the bench, Sam Bennett easily scored the 3-1, bad guys, empty netter.

Only a late Lafreniere goal, scored with 49.7-seconds remaining, gave the Rangers a glimmer of hope – and a positive thought that lasted all of .1-seconds – as Fox, following the Blueshirts’ faceoff win, iced the puck.

And when the Rangers finally got into the Panthers’ zone one last time?

Then they were pinned to the boards – and where Bobrovsky could’ve enjoyed a five-star meal in the process.

While I’ve always tried to remain optimistic, and give you opinions from the “glass half-full” realm too – it’s tough to look at the Rangers in this light tonight.

They just don’t have it.

And while all of the casuals, cockeyed optimists and well-intentioned good-doers will bring up the 1994 Eastern Conference Final – that’s all it is – hopeful optimism and intentions.

While I hope to be proven wrong, DEAD WRONG, at that – but at this stage of the game – it’s tough to envision the Panthers going on a two-game losing streak.

It’s even harder to picture the Rangers winning two-in-a-row too – and even if they did so in Games 2 & 3.

After all, are you banking on Goodrow and Wennberg to lift these guys in Game 6 – and then in a potential win-or-go-home Game 7?

As I write these words, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut – and kicked in the balls too.

While the Rangers can still reverse course and win this thing – as someone who’s seen this movie before – I feel like I’m watching it again.

Come Game 6, it’s either the team of destiny “FINISHES THEIR STORY” – or sadly – “SAME OLD RANGERS.”

And go figure, and prior to getting into everything else – I do have a 1994 story for you too – and courtesy of ESPN.

“No Easy Victories,” a new documentary on the 1994 New York Rangers, debuts on ESPN on June 4th. Photo Credit: ESPN

Prior to the events of Game 5 and I was contacted by ESPN to review their latest documentary – and where now, and after this match – I’m not so sure if I want to watch it.

Should the Rangers find a way to win this 2024 ECF – then it will be much easier to watch this documentary.

Should they lose it, and where I’m now expecting such a result – then it will just a leave a bad taste in my mouth – as the Cupless drought will extend beyond thirty-years.

That all said, I do have a screener copy of the new ESPN 1994 Rangers documentary – and I hope to have a review of it for you posted on this site prior to its Tuesday, June 4th, release.

And now, here’s the ESPN press release on the doc – and one that I wonder that was only put together as these 2024 Rangers were well on their way when going for the Presidents’ Trophy.

No Easy Victories: The 1994 New York Rangers Debuts Tuesday, June 4, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+

After 54 years without a Stanley Cup, the city of New York and the New York Rangers found inspiration in one of their own: an NYPD officer who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty, who then helped galvanize a team and lift a curse.

In its newest episode, ESPN E60 remembers the remarkable 1994 New York Rangers and how the team’s Stanley Cup victory created memories to last a lifetime for the city and for the family of the NYPD officer.

No Easy Victories: The 1994 New York Rangers debuts on Tuesday, June 4, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, streaming afterward on ESPN+.

While the Rangers are currently in a battle in the NHL Eastern Conference Final with a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Final (Game 6 vs. Florida airs Thursday, May 30, on ESPN and ESPN+), it’s been 30 years since the 1994 Rangers fashioned one of the most memorable playoff runs in hockey history. The Blueshirts had gone 54 years without a title and many of their fans had come to believe the franchise was cursed. Along the way they would be pushed to the limit in the conference and Stanley Cup finals. Among the Blueshirt faithful in attendance to witness the Rangers’ triumph, with Mark Messier leading the way, was NYPD officer Steven McDonald, along with his wife Patti Ann and their seven-year-old son, Conor.

In 1986, McDonald was shot in the line of duty in Central Park. He was paralyzed from the neck down and respiratory dependent for the rest of his life. In the years that followed, McDonald became an inspiration to the city for his message of forgiveness towards his assailant. He also became synonymous with the hockey team that he loved. McDonald’s passion for the Rangers, which he shared with Conor, now an NYPD captain, underscored their unbreakable family bond and helped galvanize the franchise, which presents an annual award in his name.

In E60’s No Easy Victories, Jeremy Schaap chronicles the story of the ‘94 Rangers through the eyes of the McDonald family. In addition to members of the family, interviews include Rangers greats Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, and Mike Richter, as well as GM Neil Smith and coach Mike Keenan.  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, former Rangers broadcaster Howie Rose and former beat writer John Dellapina are also part of the story.

No Easy Victories was produced and directed by Michael Sciallo.

The ESPN multiplatform presentation will include excerpts from No Easy Victories featured in segments on Outside the Lines in SportsCenter and The Point. The story also will be featured in an edition of the ESPN Daily Podcast.

NHL Backstory recognizes 1994 New York Rangers

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1994 Rangers and their Stanley Cup win, NHL Studios is releasing Garden Party, the newest episode of NHL Backstory – the audio series that aspires to relive unique stories and significant milestones from the NHL’s 100-plus year history.

Dropping on June 4 and narrated by ESPN personality Arda Öcal, Garden Party digs into the archives to share stories from an unlikely cast of characters – including Rangers players (Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Nick Kypreos), Club executives (Dave Checketts, Neil Smith and Mike Keenan) and support staff, sportswriters who covered the series, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Additional Hockey-Related ESPN Original Content to Debut in June

With the Stanley Cup Final airing on ESPN and ABC this year, ESPN will bring viewers more hockey-related original content in June.

The debut of No Easy Victories on June 4 will be the second half of a night of hockey-related original content premiering on ESPN. At 7:30 p.m., the new ESPN 30 for 30 film I’m Just Here for the Riot debuts on ESPN, streaming afterward on ESPN+.

On June 15, 2011, the Canucks’ Game 7 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Boston Bruins sparks a massive riot in downtown Vancouver. Police cars are overturned and burned, windows are shattered, stores are looted, and waves of young people are caught up in the mayhem. I’m Just Here For The Riot chronicles the aftermath of an event captured on hundreds of cell phone cameras; the rioters are outed, shamed, and see their lives altered forever. From the mob mentality in the streets to similar vengeance in the online hunting of those responsible, it is a dark moment in the city’s history – one that raises deeper questions about fandom, violence, and the shocking power of an angry crowd.

Also coming from ESPN 30 for 30 Podcasts is a new three-episode podcast series Searching for Hobey Bakerwhich chronicles the enigmatic life of collegiate athlete, Hobey Baker, who many consider the first ice hockey star in America. Premiering June 12, the podcast is narrated by award-winning actor, writer, director, New York Times best-selling author, and singer-songwriter David Duchovny, who like Baker, is an alumnus of Princeton University.


As noted above, I hope to have a review posted of this documentary on this site by Tuesday night.

We also have another non-Game 5 story to get into, as on Thursday, May 30th, the following was announced on Elon Musk’s app:

I do not lie to you on this site, which is my way of conveying to you that I had no clue that the Bloomington Bison even existed prior to Thursday afternoon. Heck, I had to check the team’s website to see what state they even played in (it’s Illinois). Photo Credit: Bloomington Bison

Here’s the full press release about this affiliation, and courtesy of https://bloomingtonbisonhockey.com/news/2024/05/bloomington-bison-announce-nhl-affiliation-and-introduce-new-head-coach  :

BLOOMINGTON, IL – The City of Bloomington along with the Bloomington Bison Hockey organization are excited to announce a landmark moment as we prepare for our inaugural season. The team revealed Thursday its affiliation with the prestigious New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL). In addition, the team introduced Phillip Barski as the Bison’s Head Coach and General Manager.

The partnership with the Rangers signifies an incredible beginning for the Bison. As a community passionate about hockey, aligning with a franchise with such a rich history and commitment to excellence is an extraordinary opportunity for our team, players, and fans. The Rangers’ dedication to player development and their tradition of success will no doubt enrich our organization.

“This affiliation with such a celebrated franchise as the New York Rangers brings a new level of excitement and prestige to Bloomington,” said City Manager Jeff Jurgens. “We look forward to the positive impact this partnership will have on the City and the electrifying hockey it will bring to Grossinger Motors Arena.”

In conjunction with this announcement, we’re pleased to welcome Phillip Barski as the head coach and general manager of the Bison. With 15 years of coaching experience across various levels, including the OHL, Usports, ECHL, and professional leagues in Europe, Barski brings a wealth of knowledge and a proven track record for success.

“I am honored and excited to be named head coach and general manager of the Bloomington Bison,” said Barski. “Starting a new team in a city with such enthusiasm for hockey is a tremendous opportunity. I’d like to thank Jim Hallett for this incredible opportunity.  And in the short time that I have gotten to know Larry McQueary with the Bison and Ryan Martin with the Rangers and his staff I feel tremendously honored to be surrounded by such incredible people. Together, we will strive for excellence on and off the ice.”

As we embark on this exciting journey with the New York Rangers and Coach Barski, we extend our thanks to our fans, partners, and the entire Bloomington community for their enthusiastic support. Together, we’ll create a strong foundation for the Bloomington Bison and forge a new chapter in the City’s hockey history.

Just a few quick thoughts about this – as after all – I know that the Rangers’ ECHL affiliate is the last thing on your mind right now – that is – unless you think that the line of Roslovic/Wennberg/Kakko belongs there:

— I was flat-out stunned that this news came today – as prior to the biggest game of the Rangers’ season – and you didn’t need a distraction/non-game story. In other words, I would’ve waited until after the playoffs to announce this.

— I can’t profess to know the ins-and-outs, and on-goings too, of the Cincinnati Cyclones, the team that served as the Rangers’ ECHL affiliate this season – but I was also surprised that this partnership only lasted for all of one season.

— Switching ECHL affiliates in the NHL, and as fully detailed in the past on this site, is fairly common.

That said, and prior to 2015 – and the Blueshirts, under previous general mangers, Neil Smith, Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton, only had two different ECHL affiliates from 1996-2018.

The Charlotte Checkers, who Smith had an ownership stake in, served as the team’s affiliate from 1996-2010. The Greenville Swamp Rabbits followed the Checkers from 2010-2018.

In 2018, Gorton changed affiliation to the Maine Mariners. Once Chris Drury took over in his dual-title as Team President/General Manager, he nixed the Mariners and hooked up with the Jacksonville Ice Men.

Drury moved on from Jacksonville last season and in favor of Cincinnati.

With Bloomington now in, this marks the third different ECHL affiliate under Drury’s watch.

And since ECHL affiliates rarely factor into what the varsity club is doing – then we can end it here – and move into our next segment – the pregame news & notes.

As noted after Game 4 – and for the first time in his tenure as Blueshirts’ bench boss – and Laviolette openly admitted that he has no explanation when trying to figure out what’s plaguing his core.

On Wednesday, a series off-day, and while Laviolette didn’t really say anything of note – Matt Tkachuck did – as he gave this response when being asked about Kreider air-mailing his mouth-piece in Game 4:

While Kreider did score tonight, and following a bad play made by Tkachuk no less – I really thought that this bulletin-board material would inspire and motivate the Blueshirts.

So much for that – and now – Tkachuk remains with the last laugh.

On Thursday, GAME DAY, Laviolette spoke to the media – but since talk is cheap – then there’s no reason to recap it.

However, here’s what he said, should you care now removed from Game 5’s result:

Here was Laviolette’s line-up for the fifteenth playoff game of the postseason – and the 97th-overall game of 2023-24:

FIRST LINE: Panarin/Trocheck/Lafreniere

SECOND LINE: Kreider/Zibanejad/Chytil

THIRD LINE: Roslovic/Wennberg/Kakko

FOURTH LINE: Cuylle/Goodrow/Rempe

FIRST PAIR: Lindgren/Fox

SECOND PAIR: Miller/Schneider

THIRD PAIR: Gustafsson/Trouba


BACK-UP: Quick

“Black Aces” and Scratches: Domingue, Edstrom, Jones and Ruhwedel.

Injured: Vesey

Healthy Scratch: Wheeler

Taxi Squad: Alex Belzile, Brett Berard, Anton Blidh, Ben Harpur, Dylan Garand, Jake Leschyshyn, Connor Mackey, Victor Mancini ,Brennan Othmann, Tyler Pitlick, Matthew Robertson, Brandon Scanlin  and Adam Sykora.


The following graphics and information come from ESPN.com:





27 2 25 .926 20 4 1 0 0 60:00 0


36 2 34 .944 29 2 3 0 0 57:48 0

Much like Game 5 – and it may now be a little too late for Zibanejad’s capture.

Since I recapped pretty much everything that you need to know above, and because this game sucked – then I’ll make tonight’s GAME REVIEW short – and just keep it to everything else that hasn’t been covered.


Let’s roll.


As I had to explain to a million people, and for the millionth time, that I couldn’t get off from work in order to protect my dad’s amazing 13-0 record at the bar whenever watching the Rangers this season (but we will be there for Game 6) – John Brancy lit and riled up M$G with another one of his amazing renditions of the National Anthem.

And when the Blueshirts’ Baritone is one of the highlights of the night – well that pretty much says it all.

As I couldn’t believe how horrible the third line looked on paper (and they’d soon confirm my suspicions – ten-fold at that), and while I was also shaking my head about the future vegetable – and not Wheeler or Brodzinski – being in the line-up; Zibanejad won the first draw of the game – and where no less than six-seconds later – Kreider, after hitting Reinhart, had a few words with Ekblad too.

At this point in the game, albeit, and again, just six-seconds in – then I truly thought that the Blueshirts would come out guns blazing.

Instead, and in reality, they just shot blanks.

Mika, who followed up his wretched Game 4 performance with more drizzling shit in Game 5, didn’t learn anything from Reinhart’s game winner in Sunrise.

On his first shift, Mika, from down low, tossed an errant puck to Miller at the blue line – and where as if it were deja vu – the Panthers intercepted it – but unlike Game 4 – Schneider was able to haul ass and bail out the Swedish-Iranian deejay by breaking up this two-vs-one odd-man rush.

Mental Mika is back.

Ditto Mopey Mika, Missing Mika and Miserable Mika.

But hey – he loves to hug!

I’m sure that will get him into the Hall of Fame one day.

Panarin, the other half of the 1-2 lack-of-punch, tried some Harlem Globetrotter moves early, but the Panthers weren’t having it.

Lafreniere, who tied Kreider with a Rangers’ game-high of one goal and four shots on goal too, was the first Blueshirt to test Bob – but Bob, and as he’s been all series – has made the big saves when needed – and usually 10-15 less saves than his comrade counterpart, CZAR IGOR, has to make game-by-game.

Once Mika returned for his second shift – and once again – another bad turnover – where this time, Miller hauled ass and broke up a Verhaeghe two-vs-one try.

As opined/questioned in my Game 4 review – I wonder if “The Monstars” from “Space Jam” have completely zapped ‘Z-Bad from all of his hockey powers and prowess.

While Mika has been terrible all-season, or at least from an offensive aspect – he’s never been this bad overall – and it’s tough to watch too.

Come the GAG LINE 2.0’s second shift and it was already noticeable – the Rangers are just different, and in a good way, whenever Lafreniere is out there – which just adds fuel to the fire about my point about putting #13 on PP1 – and where in addition – I thought Laffy should have been double-shifted on the ineffective and offensively inept third line too.

But what do I know?

After all, I’m just a beer-bellied blogger – and not a future HOF bound head coach.

And since the birdbrain Blueshirts’ beat doesn’t even ask Laviolette about this – then we don’t know what he’s thinking either.

After the first failed power-play that frustrated me so much that a large boil appeared on my ass, it was notable that Panarin was trying to shoot the puck more – but alas – the end result was the same – no goals.

As Kakko stapled himself to the boards and tried to procreate with them too; his lack of toughness and weak-minded approach to hockey led to a turnover – but once again – Schneider was there to bail out another hockey brain-dead Scandinavian.

With 10:20 remaining, “The Gus Bus” wanted to see if he had the same offensive powers as an in-his-prime Bobby Orr – and where following his rush and then turnover at the net – we found out that the answer to this question was a loud and booming “NO.”

Matt Rempe, and can you believe it took us this long to bring him up, heard his surname belted loudly and proudly by the Garden Faithful with 8:00 remaining.

This was noticeable – as this was during a rare point in this game when #73 actually played, as the big man received a game and career playoff low of only 2:43.

And yep – I didn’t get this either – as it’s the fourth line that’s been better, and far superior at that, than the worthless third line – and Filip “Where Am I?” Chytil too.

Even Goodrow and Cuylle, Rempe’s linemates, took a hit as Lavy favored the terrible third line, as Goodrow, one of the best players in this series, only played 7:18 at even-strength, while Cuylle was relegated to a total of 8:44.

The third line schmucks, and the drooling Czech too, all received ten-minutes or more, and a near-average of 14:00.

Again, I’m not an NHL head coach – but I’d love to see what Lavy is seeing right now as his team can’t get their scoring going, much less their power-play either.

With 5:25 remaining and the officials called the softest roughing call that you’ll ever see, as Miller, when trying to crash the net, ran into a defending Tarasenko – and where the ex-Rangers’ feet were moving.

Just another garbage call in a series full of ’em.

The puck didn’t lie here, and the Rangers went on to kill this Florida power-play.

It should also be mentioned that for the first time without Jimmy Vesey in the line-up – and the Rangers’ PK finished flawless in Game 5.

Baby steps I suppose.

The Rangers had a chance to go ahead late into this period, but as it’s largely been the case in this ECF – it’s Florida – and not New York – that’s getting the lion’s share of the almighty “puck luck.”

With 2:13 to go and a Panarin outlet pass, which should’ve went for icing, hit a Panther instead, which then allowed Trocheck to go on a mini-breakaway. Bob stopped this shot – and then stopped Fox’s rebound attempt too.

What could’ve been.

The period concluded with CZAR IGOR bailing out “The Three Stooges” – aka – the third line.

Nil-nil after one.

Here’s what I said at the time:

This Game 2 decision should have been permanent – and where if the Rangers don’t win this series – then I guarantee you this: I’ll remind you for the 40678678698698698767869th time that Drury could’ve got Jake Guentzel, Anthony Duclair, Vladimir Tarasenko or Frank Vatrano at the deadline in exchange for the 2019 second-overall bust. However, this useless Finn, disgracing the Ryan Callahan jersey with each game played, was considered as “untouchable.” I could throw up right now.


This period began with Kreider’s shorty, following Miller’s second penalty – and the second time where the officials made a dubious and soft call against #79 too:

1-0, GOOD GUYS – and where you wanted to believe it – but you also knew that this goal wasn’t going to hold-up as the game-winner either.

Simply put: The Rangers had to do more, score more to be specific – but alas – you already know that’s not what happened.

When Okposo tripped Fox with 16:17 to go, then imagine my horror when I saw the inadequate PP2 unit start off this man-advantage.

For as bad as PP1 has been, and even if they were tired, then I’d rather use a timeout, rest them up and go for the two-goal lead.

It was also during this power-play where the officials deemed that protecting your goalie was the ultimate “no-no” – and as you can see here:

It was also once returned to even-strength where the Rangers’ power-play went 0-2.

And with 11:39 to go, this is when Forsling tied the game with his backhander, following a hell of a pass from Bennett.


And no less than a minute later, and with 10:56 to go to be exact, Trouba, who much like Gustafsson, had a game to forget too, was boxed for holding Tarasenko.

At least the Rangers’ PK returned to their previous formidable and lofty status.

Once back at full-strength, and Wennberg, who some proclaimed was a good man at the dots, got owned at the circle by Bennett – but fortunately – CZAR IGOR came up with another robbery save – his 9876786786786786th of the series.

As the two modes of transportation of the Rangers’ defense, “The Gus Bus” and “The Trouba Train” were crashing left-and-right, CZAR IGOR then had to make another robbery save, this time on Kulikov.

In what was the best even-strength Rangers’ attack of the period, nearly 70-seconds in total, Roslovic, while mimicking a lacrosse player, turned over the puck. A SOG, and perhaps a potential rebound attempt too, would’ve been a much better decision than pulling a Kakko – which is skating around and waiting to be bumped off of the rubber.

As the period was winding down – I lost track of how many times Gus & Trouba gave the Panthers optimal scoring chances.

Praise Igor – but not even he can do it alone.

And when compared to his predecessor, Henrik Lundqvist – should the Rangers blow this – then this will be much worse than any series loss from the Lundqvist Era.

While Henrik had to be at the top of his game as the team’s highest-paid player – CZAR IGOR is seventh-overall in the salary depth chart.

In other words, while CZAR IGOR is carrying the Rangers as Lundqvist did many a time – this present roster is much more talented and deeper – and even if we’re not seeing such a thing in this series.

1-1 after forty-minutes.

Here’s what I said at the time:

Whenever I see the timid and ineffective Chytil on the ice, then this graphic is all that I can think about. So much for “top priority” – huh? Photo Credit: NYR


Let’s bullet-point this final frame and get to the end of this as fast as possible:

— CZAR IGOR continued to bail out the team time-and-time again.

— By the six-minute mark, and while not pinned into their own zone as frequently as they were during past third periods from this series, and the Rangers were trailing in the SOG department to a tune of 7-1.

— As Zibanejad went wide with 13:30 to go, it was noticeable that he hadn’t recorded a SOG yet. He’d then finish the game with zero SOG – but he did finish with two assists – woo-hoo!

— Kakko was tripped with 13:02 to go – and where with the game on the line – the Rangers power-play, and as “led” by Mika’s turnovers – finished the night with a goose egg – 0-3.

— The power-play failures has just murdered the Rangers’ chances of winning this series – and have I stressed this point enough for you?

— And once failing the man-advantage, this is when Lundell made Trouba and Kakko foolish, when he beat CZAR IGOR with 9:38 to go.

— 2-1, bad guys.

— While this will be lost in the grand scheme of things, CZAR IGOR made four more robbery saves in order to keep the Rangers’ feeble attempt at a comeback alive.

— CZAR IGOR was pulled for the first time with 2:36 remaining.

— Bennett scored his empty-netter with 1:52 remaining – where right after – this is when Lavy decided to use his timeout – rather than using it earlier with the Rangers up by one and on the power-play. (And I said this in real-time, when the Rangers had their lead – so this isn’t a case of hindsight being 20/20 either.)

— With 49.7-seconds remaining, Lafreniere, with Igor back on the bench, tipped a shot from Mika past Bob.

— 3-2, bad guys.

— And the Rangers never touched the puck again – outside of icing it.

3-2, bad guys, your final.

3-2, bad guys, your series.

Here’s Laviolette, sounding more insecure than ever, after this shit show – and where in addition – the media really let him off of the hook too:

I really don’t want to see this season end – but sadly, and having been through this many times before – I’m now accepting reality. Photo Credit: NYR

This hurts.

As you all know, and check the PLUGS segment that will soon follow these remarks; after the 2023 loss to the Devils, I wrote a book fully recapping all of Rangers’ misery as a way to cope.

Going into this series?

I was hoping to write a book about the fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history.

And to answer many reader comments about superstition and not taking off from work to watch this game at the pub where my dad is 13-0 at – while that’s all funny – it’s not a bunch of Blueshirt boozers at a bar that determine wins or losses – instead – it are the players who determine all of that.

Win-or-lose this series, and either way, I feel with certainty, a 100% level at that, about this:

This is the peak of this Rangers’ core.

Either they find a way and pull it off – or they will join other previous failed eras, including the Emile Francis and Lundqvist eras.

And for as much as I loved the 1994 Rangers, the team from my childhood – I’m sick of hearing about them too.

After all, such reminders also remind us that the Blueshirts haven’t won jack-shit in thirty-years – and for a bigger kick to the gonads – even an expansion team, like the Vegas Golden Knights, won a Cup just six-years into their existence.

Again, I’ll save the obituary stuff should such a death to this season occur – but should the Rangers not win six more games – then many changes need to be made.

And I’m not talking at the head coach position either.

We’ll be back at the bar on Saturday, and for the love of the hockey gods, may my dad go 14-0 whenever watching the Rangers there this season!

I can’t feign and share optimistic thoughts to you right now.

I feel defeated.

Hopefully, the Rangers don’t feel the same way.

But I will say, and unlike others, should the Rangers fail on Saturday – and as sick as this sounds – I shall remain loyal to these losers – as while my fandom is often tested – it also remains burning and unwavering.

Get some sleep – and that’s some good advice for me too, as it’s bed-time for me, which for you, means…

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/

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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5 thoughts on “NYR/FLA ECF G5 Review: On-The-Brink Blueshirt FAT CATS Out-Clawed By Florida’s Cats – Again; Lavy’s Refusal To Shake Up 1-14 Power-Play Absolutely Maddening, Lafreniere > Mika, Kreider Gets Some Revenge On Tkachuk But That’s It; Third Line Sucks, Tons of Second-Guessing Around The Corner, ESPN Ironically To Release 1994 Doc Next Week, New Rangers’ ECHL Affiliate Announced, Can’t Blame Gallant Anymore; It’s All The Core & More

  1. Wow
    Here’s a thought move Rempe to the first line RW second intact third benched add Jonhny hockey Othmann and another damn to the mix shake well and coach

  2. I don’t know if this was your finally blog or not. I will continue to read them all!!! Thank you for the smiles and laughter, even in the worst of times. I enjoyed reading your comments throughout the season. Living in NC, we don’t get too much Ranger news down here!! I am glad I found you and look forward to reading your blog. One more thing, get a new computer!!! Have a great summer and keep us posted on the important stuff on the Rangers!!!

    1. Thanks Paula – I’ll return – but it will be tough to get too high or low after regular season games. Another long wait for the playoffs to return. And yeah – I do need that new computer – took me 15 minutes just to reply to you!

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