Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to a special blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. In tonight’s manifesto, I’ll be recapping the entire 2019-2020 NY Rangers season, in order to give yourself and yours truly, a complete refresher about the 2019-2020 season, as we approach the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I’ll also give you the entire backstory on how this roster was assembled, “The Letter” and some key games from this season.
After running down everything we saw during this 2019-2020 NY Rangers season, the 93rd season in the history of the NY Rangers franchise, (lockout season included) I’ll have some closing notes and thoughts on the Rangers, as they approach the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In other words, I hope to present to you the ultimate refresher of this season, as the Rangers look to make some noise in the playoffs, which begin on August 1st. After all, with the Rangers off for the last four and half months, it’s quite easy to forget what has been a pretty fun season.
I should also mention, this will be the longest blog that I’ll ever do, as there is a lot to get into. However, you know the motto here – “10k words, no ads, one click.” However, for your one blog/site click today, you’re going to get a ton of stuff thrown your way. Unlike other sites, blogs or whatever, I’m not going to beg you for clicks and break this up into 676978676789 different page views/clicks. Feel free to read this ginormous blog at your own leisure and at your own pace! And truth be told, I had fun writing this blog, especially when reminiscing about the great Ranger wins of this season.
In addition to all of this, I think this blog will be important, and fun to look at one day, when the Rangers eventually win the Stanley Cup. That’s right, I’m saying it – I think it’s only a matter of time before the Rangers, with this new core, add Stanley Cup #5 to their trophy case!
Of course, before taking this deep dive into this NY Rangers 2019-2020 regular season, a regular season that is now considered complete, here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them:
BCBS For 7/20: The NYR Practice Weekend Wrap-Up Blog! DQ Hints At Naming a Starting Goalie, The 24 Hour Buchnevich Saga, Lundqvist/NYPD Update, McDonald Award Voting Now Open, Jacob Trouba & His Value, DeAngelo Talks NYR & His Own Future, NYR Scrimmage Game 2, CZAR IGOR Loves Dogs & More
BCBS For 7/16: Ron Duguay’s Interview with Mike Keenan; Full Recap, DQ Shows His Hand on His Goaltenders, The NYR Scrimmage, Why Tony DeAngelo May Have Cost Adam Fox The Calder, Panarin’s Chances at the Ted Lindsay Award & Hart Trophy, More on Henrik Lundqvist & NYPD, NYR vs NYI Game Announced, Rosen/Micheletti/M$GN, BSU & More
BCBS For 7/15: The Henrik Lundqvist Blog! Lundqvist Continues To Go Out of His Way to Support NYPD All Week Long, Lundqvist Shows Great Character While the NYR Media Ignores This Story and Steven McDonald, Lundqvist’s Bond with NYPD, Lundqvist’s Career with NYR in The Salary Cap Era, Lundqvist & NYPD vs Deblasio & Yes – I’m Retiring the “LUNDSWISS” Nickname!
BCBS For 7/14: The Rangers Are Back! DQ Shows Us His Lines, Defense & Perhaps Starting Goalie, DQ, JD, Lundqvist & Mika Speak Out, NYR Schedule & Times Announced, K’Andre Miller & Others Teased, 2020 Playoff Mantra, NHL’s Gambling vs COVID-19 Fight; Latest NHL COVID-19 Numbers Released, Crowd Noise vs Cancel Culture, Steven McDonald Award & More NYR News/Notes/Opinions
When you look at the success the Rangers had during the 2019-2020 regular season, you must first look at “The Letter”, which was released on February 8th, 2018. In this letter, which was signed by both General Manager Jeff Gorton and then Team President Glen Sather, the duo threw in the towel on the 2017-2018 season and a Rangers core that provided many perennial playoff runs.
In case you forgot or need a reminder, “The Letter” read as the following:
As a member of the Blueshirt Faithful, we consider you a part of the New York Rangers family, and always want to ensure we share important news about the organization directly with you. Today, we want to talk to you about the future.
As you know, since the 2005-06 season, we have been a highly competitive team. We have played 129 playoff games, won the Presidents’ Trophy, reached the Conference Finals three times, as well as the Stanley Cup Final. While we’re proud of all those accomplishments – we didn’t reach our ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to New York.
So as we do every season, we have been continuously evaluating our team, looking for areas that can be improved to enhance our chances of winning. We began the process of reshaping our team this past summer, when we traded for assets that we believe will help us in the years to come. As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, we will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character. This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect. While this is part of the game, it’s never easy. Our promise to you is that our plans will be guided by our singular commitment: ensuring we are building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender.
There are no fans like Rangers fans. You are passionate, loyal and true. You fill The Garden every night, and we always know there will be a strong showing from RangersTown in every building across the League. We do not take your support for granted. We appreciate that you have always stood by us, and we ask you to remain by our side as we undertake this exciting new chapter filled with promise and change.
We will keep you informed as this process takes shape. Thank you for the incredible loyalty, pride and respect you show to the New York Rangers, each and every day.
During this site’s history, I’ve talked about why I thought Coach Alain Vigneault deserved better from the Rangers. After all, prior to “The Letter”, his team was decimated by injuries during that 2017-2018 season. Kevin Shattenkirk came to the team hurt and with a knee injury. Chris Kreider suffered from blood clot issues. And as mentioned a few times on this site, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was far from his prime, which was the 2011-2012 season, the season where Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy. The 2017-2018 NY Rangers had a lot of bad luck thrown their way and by February, both Glen Sather & Jeff Gorton finally realized that this old core didn’t have a chance at the Stanley Cup anymore.
Of course, it should also be mentioned, had the Rangers been buyers, rather than sellers during that 2018 trade deadline, they very well may have qualified for the playoffs. However the result was most likely going to be the same as previous seasons – no Stanley Cup.
In fact, while some would argue that the Rangers had a chance in the 2017 playoffs, the season prior, which featured Lundqvist melting down against Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the Ottawa Senators; the Rangers window at the Cup was really slammed closed, after the failure in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After all, the Rangers were never better during the Lundqvist Era during this time, coming off a 2014 Stanley Cup appearance and winning the Presidents’ Trophy during the 2014-2015 season. Everything else that followed afterwards, was basically false hope.
With hindsight being 20/20, you can argue that the Rangers first decided to rebuild and tinker around a bit in the summer of 2016, after an embarrassing playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. After all, following the Rangers first round five game series loss to the Penguins, in that off-season that followed, the Rangers said goodbye to Keith Yandle, a Keith Yandle that was hoped to inspire the Rangers power-play for many seasons to come. The Rangers also allowed the recently picked up Eric Staal to leave the team during free agency, an Eric Staal who perhaps wasn’t used properly by head coach Alain Vigneault.
After moving on from both Yandle and Staal, (where both players would have a career resurgence with their new teams) the Rangers also said goodbye to a fan-favorite in Derrick Brassard, when the Rangers traded Brassard to the Ottawa Senators for the then little-known Mika Zibanejad. In hindsight, this is the best trade that Jeff Gorton has ever made during his tenure as Rangers General Manager.
During the 2016-2017 season, the last season that the Rangers qualified for the playoffs prior to this 2019-2020 season, the Rangers had the deck stacked their way at playoff time. They would, on paper, avoid the tough and upper-echelon teams, until at least the Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers, as they did in the 2014 playoffs, disposed of the Montreal Canadiens, a Canadien team that the Rangers previously beheaded in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final. However, this time, the Rangers beat a Canadiens team featuring a healthy Carey Price. One round down, three to go.
After beating the Canadiens in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, most Ranger fans had their tickets punched to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. After all, all the Rangers had to do was knock off the lowly Ottawa Senators in the second round. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead of the Rangers cruising to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, Jean-Gabriel Pageau happened, Lundqvist fell apart and the Rangers let a huge opportunity go to waste.
It would be the Senators taking on the Penguins in the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, and not the NY Rangers. And while the Penguins would’ve been heavy favorites against the Rangers, had the Rangers handled business against Ottawa, you never know what will happen in the playoffs. And as just talked about here, not many people had the Senators knocking off the Rangers in this second round to begin with. Whatever the case, after this loss to Ottawa, the Rangers roster drastically changed again.
Stepan tells Lundqvist to chill. Neat. pic.twitter.com/eYS4yWkUVv
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) May 6, 2017
Whether it was a coincidence or not, after the Rangers elimination in the 2017 playoffs, career-long Ranger, and one of the Ranger alternate captains & locker room leaders, in Derek Stepan, was traded away after telling Henrik Lundqvist to calm down, after one of Lundqvist’s many meltdowns of that series with Ottawa.
During a 2017 draft day deal, the Rangers traded away back-up goaltender Antti Raanta & Derek Stepan for the #7 pick of that year’s draft and a player that would be joining his third team in his very short and young career, in Tony DeAngelo. At the time, Derek Stepan was looking for big money and for many years, and the Rangers, just like how they previously approached ex-captain Ryan Callahan and his situation, during the 2013-2014 season, weren’t willing to give the money and the years to Stepan. Off Stepan went, along with Raanta, who out-played Lundqvist during his time in NY.
When it comes to the 2017 draft day deal, where the Rangers sent Raanta & Stepan to Arizona, for DeAngelo and the #7 overall pick of that 2017 draft, if wasn’t for Tony DeAngelo having one of the best seasons an upcoming free agent could ever have, here during this 2019-2020 season, this trade would’ve been a bust. After all, with the #7 pick of that year’s draft, the Rangers selected Lias Andersson, a Lias Andersson who has become a bigger bust than Pavel Brendl & Jamie Lundmark combined! If anything, with the Rangers picking up DeAngelo, DeAngelo has salvaged this deal, as perhaps the Rangers could’ve got more for Stepan and Raanta. We’ll never know.
Of course, definitely worth mentioning here, is that prior to this 2017 draft day deal, the Rangers bought out life-long Ranger, alternate captain and the true “IRON MAN” of the team, in Dan Girardi. Subsequently, Girardi would latch on with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With the bitter taste of the loss to Ottawa still in their mouths a bit, the Rangers kicked off the 2017-2018 season. However, the Rangers had a tough time replicating the success from the year prior. By February of 2018, Sather & Gorton realized things had to change.
After releasing “The Letter”, Gorton & Sather made a flurry of transactions. Defenseman Nick Holden, who had a yo-yo career in NY, was shipped off to Boston on February 20th of 2018. Two days later, Micheal Grabner, who had a tremendous run with the Rangers, was then sent to the Devils in a rare Rangers/Devils trade. In return, the Rangers picked up defenseman Yegor Rykov, who the Rangers hope to see succeed in the future. (His 2019-2020 season was ravaged by injuries.)
On February 25th, 2018, Jeff Gorton arguably made his second best trade in Rangers history (A trade of Ryan Spooner for Ryan Strome may challenge this trade) when Gorton traded Rick Nash to the Cup contending Boston Bruins. In return for Nash, the Rangers received Ryan Lindgren (currently part of the Rangers top defensive pair today), Ryan Spooner (turned into Ryan Strome, as mentioned) and Matt Beleskey. (Veteran presence for Hartford.) Along with those three players, Gorton also received Boston’s 2018 1st round draft pick, along with Boston’s 2019 7th round draft pick.
Of note, after the 2018 playoffs, where the Bruins said goodbye in the second round to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rick Nash, after a history of concussions, would then eventually retire from the league. If you look at this equation, the Rangers turned a retiring Rick Nash into Ryan Strome & Ryan Lindgren, with a few spare parts to boot.
In a trade during this time that did turn a few heads, the Rangers parted ways with Ryan Graves, as they traded Graves to Colorado for Chris Bigras. In hindsight, this trade was one of the misses on Gorton’s resume, but no GM bats 1.000.
Then, in perhaps in the biggest rebuild trade, the Rangers said goodbye to captain Ryan McDonagh and the fan favorite JT Miller, as the Rangers dealt the duo to the Tampa Bay Lightning, in exchange for Vladislav Namestnikov (who would later be flipped for spare parts just over a year later), Libor Hajek and Brett Howden. Both Howden and Hajek have spent time on the Rangers during the 2019-2020 season, with Howden having more success. The Rangers also picked up Tampa’s first round pick of that 2018 draft, who the Rangers then later used that pick to select Nils Lundkvist, a promising defenseman prospect. The Rangers also eventually received Tampa’s second round pick of the 2019 draft, which the Rangers used to select Karl Henriksson. The Rangers sure love their Swedes!
For all intents and purposes, the Rangers were “balls deep” into their rebuild. After missing the playoffs in that 2017-2018 season, the Rangers parted ways with head coach Alain Vigneault and hired head coach David Quinn, a David Quinn who would be coaching at the NHL head coach level for the first time in his career. Previously, DQ was a college head coach (Boston University) and an assistant NHL coach. (Colorado.)
At the onset of the Rangers 2018-2019 season, Jeff Gorton corrected a bad contract he gave out, when he traded away the very overpaid Ryan Spooner to Edmonton, in exchange for a team-friendly contract in Ryan Strome. Fast-forward to today, Spooner is out of the league, (and has been for some time) while Strome just had a career season for the Rangers.
However, the Rangers weren’t done rebuilding just yet.
Despite David Quinn’s Rangers flirting with a 2019 playoff run, Jeff Gorton stuck to his guns and to the blueprint he outlined in “The Letter”. Gorton wasn’t worried about being a one & done 2019 playoff team. Gorton wanted to build a new core, a core that he hopes will win the Stanley Cup one day.
On February 23rd, 2019, the Rangers said goodbye to perhaps the biggest fan-favorite player on the team, since the days of either Ryan Callahan or Sean Avery, when the Rangers traded Mats Zuccarello to the Dallas Stars. As a result of the ZUUUUUUUC trade, the Rangers received a 2019 second round draft pick and a 2020 third round draft pick from the Dallas Stars. As it stands right now, this trade seems very underwhelming in hindsight, (and even at the time) with the Rangers taking Matt Robertson with that 2019 second round pick. Only time will tell if these picks will work out.
Two days later, the Rangers dealt Kevin Hayes to the Winnipeg Jets, in exchange for a new fan favorite of today, in Brendan Lemieux. The Rangers also received Winnipeg’s first round pick of the 2019 draft, which the Rangers would later trade back to Winnipeg, in the Jacob Trouba deal.
Certainly of note here, with the Rangers not willing to give Hayes or Zuccarello a long-term contract, both Hayes & Zuccarello would ultimately wind up as rentals in their new locales. In the off-season that followed, both Hayes & Zuccarello cashed out, with Hayes signing a mega-deal with Philadelphia and Zuccarello getting the biggest contract of his life with Minnesota.
Gorton wasn’t done just yet. FAR FROM IT. After the Rangers missed the playoffs in Quinn’s rookie season, Jeff Gorton started to mastermind a series of moves, that would would ultimately define the 2019-2020 NY Rangers.
On April 30th, the Rangers picked up Adam Fox from Carolina, in exchange for a pair of second round picks. (2019 & 2020.) Needless to say, the Rangers could’ve dealt two first round picks here and the Rangers would’ve came out rosy here.
In a move that wasn’t made by Gorton, but certainly was important to the franchise, on May 17th, 2019, John Davidson replaced Senile Sather as Team President. In year one of JD at the helm, the Rangers have made the playoffs and JD has just been a treasure for Ranger fans. In just one day, JD talks to the fans more than Sather ever did in nearly 20 years.
On June 17th of 2019, the Rangers flipped Winnipeg’s first round pick back to the Jets, along with Neal Pionk, in exchange for Jacob Trouba. In turn, the Rangers gave Trouba a seven year deal, worth $56M. Refer to my last blog, which you can read by clicking here, for more on Trouba.
Four days later, on June 21st, 2019, the Rangers selected Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick of that draft. Previously, ping-pong ball magic fell in favor of the Rangers, as the leap-frogged to this second overall pick.
However, the best was yet to come.
On July 1st, 2019, after teasing a fliration with the hated Islanders, Artemi Panarin signed a seven year contract with the Rangers, worth $81.5M overall. In year one, it’s been worth every penny. And oh yeah – previous to signing Panarin, the Rangers would also lock up previous draft picks, in Vitali Kravtsov and CZAR IGOR, to entry level contracts. While Kravtsov had a rough go of it initially, it seems like his attitude has changed for the better in the present day.
In the case of CZAR IGOR, while being kept in Hartford at the start of the 2019-2020 season, as the Rangers continued the tired act of putting Lundqvist in net every night, Igor ultimately joined the main club in January of 2020 and hasn’t looked back since. (And yes, Igor going to Hartford was due to Lundqvist being here. After all, the Rangers opened up the season with rookie forwards and defensemen, as part of this rebuild. For whatever reason, despite all data suggesting that high priced goalies aren’t a recipe for success, the Rangers, while trading away nearly every other veteran, have kept mum on Lundqvist.)
Of note, on the day the Rangers signed Panarin, they also said goodbye to Jimmy Vesey, as they dealt Vesey to the Sabres for basically next to nothing. That’s kind of amazing when you think of it, as you had celebrity Ranger fans & Ranger bars, promising Vesey free drinks for life and keys to the city, if he chose to sign with the Rangers, back in the summer of 2016. How quick people forget this!
I know I took a while to get here, but once the 2019-2020 season began, while the Rangers continued to put out their “it’s a rebuild” message, when the Rangers signed Panarin & Trouba to big money deals, there is no way anyone could believe this any more. Yes, the Rangers were the youngest team in the NHL, but as they’ve always done throughout the course of time, the Rangers once again landed the crown jewel of that summer’s free agency class, in Artemi Panarin. The Rangers gave Trouba the big bucks. The Rangers, who years ago, once featured a young core full of guys like Girardi, Callahan, McDonagh, Stepan and others, now had the building blocks and pieces for a new core, a core that hoped to make perennial playoff runs like the old core. In year one, the Rangers did just that.
God damn pal, when I’m in the zone, I’m in the zone. No writer’s block here! Thank you Proper 12 Whisky!
Before continuing on here, I should mention, that going into the 2018-2019 season, expectations were bleak, with the contract statuses of Zuccarello & Hayes being major topics. Once the Rangers said toodles to that duo, all Ranger fans could do, was await the 2019-2020 season. At the time, no one expected the Rangers to land Artemi Panarin. After all, it was a rebuild! In turn, the Rangers had their greatest off-season ever. As a result, expectations and excitement were increased ten-fold, once the 2019-2020 season began. I can’t overstate this enough. Going into the 2018-2019 season, there wasn’t much hope and it was all about getting to the off-season. A year later, the situation made a complete 180, with hope back into the picture.
When you look to dissect the Rangers 2019-2020 regular season, you can approach this topic in many different ways. Artemi Panarin had a Ted Lindsay Award & Hart Trophy contending season. His season alone, helped to keep the Rangers alive. Mika Zibanejad had a career year, where perhaps he earned the title of “elite center.” While the “elite” debate is bar room chatter, what isn’t up for debate is how Zibanejad, at the time of the pause, was the hottest player in all of the NHL.
Elsewhere on the roster, despite the Lindy Ruff naysayers, Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren had great rookie years. Tony DeAngelo had a career season. Marc Staal continued to up his game, which was a trend ever since the departures of former NYR blue line stalwarts, in Ryan McDonagh & Dan Girardi.
Of course, when it comes to the forwards, Ryan Strome had a career year. Chris Kreider, who is prone to being a “ghost”, really came on as the season continued. Filip Chytil, after starting the season in Hartford, took the demotion to heart and played his heart out, which resulted in a great season once recalled by the Rangers in late October. Both Jesper Fast and Brendan Smith proved to be valuable to the roster. While no one would ever accuse the Rangers of being “four lines deep”, the money and name players came to play. Except for the third most expensive goalie in the NHL today, in Henrik Lundqvist.
You all know my “greatest hits” on Henrik Lundqvist by now. There’s no need to rehash all that. However, just like I wrote about Trouba a blog ago, when compared to his peers, Lundqvist is extremely overpaid and the Rangers can get much better production for less. After all, here are the goalie stats for the 2019-2020 regular season:
When the season began, no one knew that Panarin & Zibanejad were going to dominate. In fact, without question, Panarin & Zibanejad have become one of the best 1-2 punches in the NHL today, which may only be rivaled by McDavid/Draisaitl in Edmonton or Crosby/Malkin in Pittsburgh. Of course, I knew goaltending was an issue, and I wanted Igor here from day one. However, because of Lundqvist’s stature and contract, Igor was sent to the start the season in Hartford.
And for those think I’m giving you revisionist history here, shall I remind you of my picture from 2017, with my buddy, the great Travis Jackson? Here it is:
The Rangers opened up this season going 2-0, by defeating the Jets at home, in a wild 6-4 opener and then defeating the decimated Ottawa Senators on the road, just two nights later. And of note, you can find recaps of every game this season, by checking the archives or the right hand side of this site, by clicking every month.
For whatever reason, the Rangers had a week off after these two wins. In this off time, the Rangers, for a reason that was never really explained, traded off Vladislav Namestinkov to Ottawa, which most likely was a salary cap dump trade, as the Rangers received an unheralded propsect (Nick Ebert) and a 2021 fourth round draft pick in return.
After the week off and the Namestnikov trade, the ballon was burst. The Rangers lost their next five games of the season, with three losses added to Lundqvist’s record, and two (one being an OT loss) on Georgiev’s record. All the good vibes from the first two games of the season were quickly evaporated.
On October 24th, it should be mentioned, that CZAR IGOR was already dominating in Hartford, for the Wolfpack.
In Rangerstown, USA, on October 24th, the Rangers snapped their losing streak, by defeating the best team in the NHL at the time, in the Buffalo Sabres. Let that sink in a bit! The Buffalo Sabres, a team, as a result of their free fall as the 2019-2020 season continued, have now missed the playoffs for nearly a decade and has undergone several head coaching changes to boot. However, the good feelings wouldn’t last, as the Boston Bruins would dominate the Rangers in the next game on the schedule. In fact, Boston just owed the Rangers this year, and if you’re rooting for anything in these playoffs, root for the Rangers to avoid the Bruins at all costs!
After the loss to the Bruins, with Georgiev in net, the Rangers would topple two great teams, in the Lightning and in the Predators. Of note, I was at that Rangers/Predators game in Nashville, and it featured one of Georgiev’s best performances of the season and Chytil with an amazing goal, in one of his first games after his call-up.
After a Georgiev loss to the lowly Senators, Lundqvist would dominate the worst team in the league in the Red Wings. Then, as he’s done his entire career, Lundqvist put away the Carolina Hurricanes on November 7th. If there is one team Lundqvist has made his bitch, throughout his 15 year career, it’s the Hurricanes. And really, Lundqvist’s history against Carolina is the only reason why you hear people advocating for Lundqvist to start in these 2020 playoffs. The argument has merit, but you know my opinion already – START IGOR!
After the win over Carolina, the Rangers would split a pair of overtime games at M$G, with Lundqvist and the Rangers losing to the Panthers by a score of 6-5, via the shoot-out. Two nights later, behind Georgiev, the Rangers knocked off the Penguins, 3-2 in overtime.
The Rangers then traveled to Florida, for one of their trips to the sunshine state. The trip was disastrous, as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Rangers to a tune of 9-3. Two nights later, the Rangers dropped a one goal decision to the Panthers.
Following these two losses, the Rangers hosted the Capitals on prime time television, where the Rangers surprised the Caps, knocking them off by a score of 4-1. At this period of time, and heading to Canada, the Rangers were 9-8-2.
The Rangers took on the Senators next. While the Rangers were embarassed in this game, this was one of my favorite days as a Rangers fan. How come? This was the day that I met the family of Frank Boucher. You can read all about that here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/boucherbaird/
After dropping a pitiful game to Ottawa, the Rangers returned 24 hours later, when they went to Montreal. I think I attended something like 10 games this season. I watched the rest of them all on TV. Without question, this win over Montreal was my favorite win of the season, whether I was in attendance or not!
In the absolute wildest game of the season, by the two minute mark of the second period, the Rangers found themselves down 4-0. Rather than pulling Alexandar Georgiev, who was having an off-night and because of Lundqvist’s awful history in Montreal, Quinn kept Georgiev in the barrel. What happened next was the biggest comeback of the season, as Chytil, Buchnevich and Lemieux all scored in the second period to make the score 4-3.
In the third period of that game, Lehkonen gave Montreal an insurance goal, at around the five minute mark. However, just thirty seconds later, Panarin erased that insurance goal off the board, to make the score 5-4. A few minutes later, Brendan Lemieux scored a short-handed goal to tie the game at five goals a piece and Jacob Trouba would score the 11th and final goal of the game. This 6-5 Rangers victory would later be called “the catalyst of our season”, by head coach David Quinn. And he was right – the Rangers seemed to have more fire from this point on.
As the season approached the winter months, a few things were made apparent. For starters, Georgiev was outplaying Lundqvist. However, more importantly, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad showed the ability that they could carry the Rangers on any given night. Furthermore, under David Quinn, the Rangers had a “never-give-up” attitude, which once again, all started after that win in Montreal. The Rangers fight was so mighty, that the Rangers were the only team to not be shut-out this season.
More impressively for the Rangers, the youngest team in the NHL, the Rangers posted the fifth most amount of goals in the NHL, with 233 goals. Tampa finished first in the league, with 243 goals, meaning the Rangers were only ten goals shy from the Lightning, a Lightning team that is considered a strong Cup contender.
In addition, the Rangers were a strong team in regulation, picking up 31 of their 36 wins in regulation, good for sixth overall in the league. Even more impressive for this rebuilding season, the Rangers finished with a 37-28-5 record, in 70 games completed. In comparison, the Rangers were 32-36-14 (78 points) in the 2018-2019 season and 34-39-9 9 (77 points) in the 2017-2018 season. In twelve games less played than the 82 game seasons of the two seasons prior, the Rangers already amassed 79 points in only 70 games. In addition, opposed to the two prior seasons, these 2019-2020 Rangers had a winning record.
As the Rangers rounded Christmas, despite a crushing loss on 12/23/19 to the Flyers, the Rangers were still alive in the playoff hunt. That fact alone is remarkable, as was the case again this season, the Metropolitan division is the best division in the league and once again finished with the most amount of points of any other division this season. Prior to last season, the Metro division also won the last three Stanley Cups. (Pittsburgh twice and Washington.)
Once Christmas came and went, the Rangers won their next two games, helping their playoff hopes, by once again beating Carolina behind Lundqvist, while Georgiev, who has become a Leafs killer in his own right, knocked off Toronto. With a 19-15-4 record, the Rangers, long past the “Thanksgiving Tent Pole”, were really making noise. Then the Western Canada road-trip happened.
That said, prior to the Western Canada road-trip, while the Rangers were clicking behind Panarin’s All-Star season performance (with Chris Kreider ultimately replacing Panarin after a minor injury) there was plenty of rumor mongering, among the Rangers chart geek nation, suggesting that the Rangers should trade off Georgiev, Strome, DeAngelo and Kreider by the deadline. As is evident, none of that crap ever happened, as I originally predicted at the time. Hell, check out this blog from 12/30/2019: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/123019/
On New Year’s Eve of 2019, the Rangers were massacred by the Oilers, which led to the now infamous “rabbit ears” rant by David Quinn. In the first game of 2020, on January 2nd, old friend Cam Talbot bested old mentor Henrik Lundqvist. Two nights later in Vancouver, the Rangers dropped a 2-1 decision to the Canucks.
At around this time, I was hearing rumblings about Igor Shestyorkin being called up. As you may know, despite being a beer-league blogger, I do have some sources around the NHL, both players and people formerly in the league, that read this blog and share information with me from time-to-time.
As I said back then, I was told that David Quinn, realizing that his job may not be safe, especially with a ton of great head coaching talent being available, was nervous about his job. I was told that Quinn, specifically asked for Igor at this time. I was also told that Quinn wanted to move on from Lundqvist, realizing that Lundqvist was past his prime. I was told that Quinn wanted to do what was best for the team and his coaching career, and realized that Lundqvist wasn’t it. In turn, Igor was called up and from there, Igor quickly became the starting goalie of the NY Rangers.
On January 7th, after being swept in Western Canada, the change was made. CZAR IGOR was called up to play the top team in the Western Conference at the time, the Colorado Avalanche. I immediately bought my ticket, and you can read my game recap from that Rangers win here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/1720/
After the Rangers & Igor’s win against Colorado, Igor turned back the Devils in his next start, making 46 saves, while Tony DeAngelo picked up a hat trick, in a game where TDA recorded five points in. All of a sudden, the Western Canada road swing became a memory. THE FUTURE WAS NOW!
The Rangers, perhaps a glutton for punishment, didn’t let the good times roll and went back to Lundqvist in the next game, a game where Lundqvist and the Rangers lost to the St. Louis Blues, by a score of 5-2. After that, the Rangers had three games with the Islanders in two weeks. Georgiev and the Rangers would beat the Islanders, a team they were combating for a playoff spot, in two consecutive games. However, the Rangers would then lose their next two games, with Igor recording his first loss of his career to Columbus and Georgiev suffering a rare loss to the Islanders. Now all of a sudden, the Rangers felt like a “one step forward, two steps back” type of team.
After the All-Star break, where Shestyorkin went 2-0 in Hartford (and as recapped on these blogs) the Rangers returned with a home and home set with the worst team of modern NHL history, in the Red Wings. Igor and the Rangers turned back the Wings at M$G on 1/31. 24 hours later, Lundqvist picked up his first shut-out in over two years, in Detroit, as a lone power-play goal, in the first period, scored by Mika Zibanejad, would hold up as the game’s only goal.
David Quinn, trying to give Lundqvist one more chance after his great performance against an AHL team in Detroit, would be proven wrong, as the Dallas Stars plastered Lundqvist, in a Stars 5-3 win over the Rangers. In this game, Lundqvist was yanked. After this Lundqvist loss, DQ admitted the inevitable – no more Lundqvist.
After the February 3rd loss to Dallas, the Rangers, behind Georgiev and Shestyorkin, and with Lundqvist relegated to third string goalie status, would then rip off their best winning streak of the season, going 10-2 from February 5th to February 27th.
During this winning streak, one thing was made apparent – Brady Skjei, and his ungodly contract, was the weak link of this Rangers team. For all the Ranger fans that blamed ex-defensive coach Lindy Ruff for any of the Rangers struggles, I think you can argue that Skjei was much worse. Apparently, the Rangers thought so too.
After trading AHL All-Star & prospect Joey Keane to the Hurricanes for Julien Gauthier the week prior, at the 2020 trade deadline, after re-signing Chris Kreider, the Rangers traded Brady Skjei to the Hurricanes too, in exchange for one of Carolina’s first round draft picks of the 2020 draft. As I write these words nearly six months later, I have no clue what Carolina was thinking here. In fact, in the same vein that Lundqvist has owned Carolina, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has also owned Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell.
Really, just think about it. In the course of less than a year’s time, the Rangers not only dumped Brady Skjei’s ridiculous contract onto Carolina’s payroll for a first round draft pick, but the Rangers also picked up Adam Fox for virtually nothing. The Rangers also added depth with their forwards, by getting Gauthier for the right-handed defenseman, a spot where the Rangers have plenty of depth in, in Joey Keane. If you look at the Rangers and their history of trades in the Metropolitan division, there’s not much to rave and talk about. However, here’s Carolina, bending over with asshole wide open, allowing Jeff Gorton to have their way with them.
If there was ever such a thing as poetic justice or writing a Disney movie ending, this upcoming play-in series with Carolina will see Skjei make turnover after turnover, while Gauthier and Fox rack up some game winning points!
Once trading Skjei to Carolina, the Rangers had to make a move with their defense. Former defenseman Brendan Smith, who spent most of the season as a fourth line forward and penalty killer on the defense, was reverted to his natural position as a defenseman. For what it’s worth, this is around the time that Jacob Trouba played his best five-on-five hockey of the season too. One can not commend Brendan Smith enough this season, as he’s really been a team player and has embraced the messages Quinn has been sending during this 2019-2020 season.
While the trade of Skjei brought upon harmonious bell tolls around Rangerstown, USA, a death knell also fell upon the Rangers playoff chances – CZAR IGOR and Pavel Buchnevich recieved significant injuries, while driving around in Brooklyn. For reasons unbeknownst to this day, for whatever reason, CZAR IGOR, a newcomer to this country and city, a city that features the worst drivers and worst traffic in the world, was behind the wheel.
In the post-trade deadline games, and with Igor out, David Quinn went with Alexandar Georgiev in net. In turn, Georgiev and the Rangers picked up two straight wins over the Islanders and the Canadiens.
While Georgiev kept the Rangers afloat, the Rangers then faced a tough home and home set with the Philadelphia Flyers, a Flyers team, behind HC AV and Kevin Hayes, that would sweep the Rangers in the 2019-2020 season.
On February 28th, in Philly, and while making his third straight start, Georgiev and the Rangers would lose to the Flyers by a final of 5-2. Two nights later, on March 1st, with Igor still out with an injury, Henrik Lundqvist would make his first start since the loss to the Stars. In turn, Lundqvist would also give up five goals, as he and the Rangers would drop this game at M$G, to the dreaded Flyers, by a final of 5-3. Of note, this was Lundqvist’s last game of the 2019-2020 regular season. Should CZAR IGOR become the starting goalie of the 2020 playoffs, as expected and should Lundqvist be bought out in the off-season that follows, also as expected, this horrendous showing could be Lundqvist’s final game as a Ranger.
More important than the goaltender starts at this time, was the fact in the loss to the Flyers, in Philly, the recently re-signed Chris Kreider injured (fractured) his foot. At the time of his injury, it was believed that he would miss the rest of the regular season and only would’ve been available had the Rangers qualified for the playoffs under normal conditions. You can read more about this game here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/22820/
After these back-to-back losses to the Flyers and with CZAR IGOR still out, the Rangers hosted the reigning and defending Stanley Cup Champions at M$G, in the St. Louis Blues. After Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring in the first period, behind a power-play goal, the Blues would score the final three goals of the game, beating Georgiev, enroute to their 3-1 win over the Rangers. The playoff dream was becoming just that – a dream.
However, after this loss, Mika Zibanejad had the best game of his career, putting up five goals, including the game winning goal in overtime, when the Rangers beat the Washington Capitals by a final of 6-5. Here’s my game recap from that game: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/3520/
Even better, after this Rangers win, it was announced that Igor Shestyorkin was ready to return. However, he may have rushed back into things, as he would go 1-1 in his return, prior to the pause, including a loss to the lowly Devils.
With the Rangers chasing a playoff spot, the Rangers would enter, unbeknownst to all of us at the time, their final game of the 2019-2020 regular season, on March 11th, on the road, against one of the best in the west, in the Colorado Avalanche. You can read my recap of that game here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/31120/
If you take anything out of that game review, it’s the fact that Ryan Strome had a game to forget, as he could’ve had a multi-goal game. Nothing went right for him in that game. Fortunately, the Rangers were able to salvage a point in that game, a point that was valuable in the standings.
Prior to the pause, which came the day after this game, the Rangers were two points out of a playoff spot, while the teams they were chasing for a wild card berth, in the Columbus Blue Jackets and NY Islanders, both reeling for different reasons. (Columbus being decimated by injuries at a historic level, while the Islanders just sucked.)
Truth be told, I don’t know if the Rangers, had this pandemic never existed, would’ve qualified for the playoffs. After all, CZAR IGOR was trying to find his way back, after the car accident. Chris Kreider was out. Both Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox may have been running on fumes, with Kaako looking more out of it than Fox. While the Rangers top two lines were heavy, especially with Mika Zibanejad being the hottest player in the NHL prior to the pause, the Rangers third and fourth lines had inconsistency issues. Hell, even Artemi Panarin had several games here, without a point.
When I look at these 2020 playoffs, under these pandemic conditions, outside of the Montreal Canadiens, I don’t think any team has benefited more than the New York Rangers. The Rangers, while competing for a playoff spot prior to the pause, had their litany list of injury issues. Now, here in the summer of 2020, the Rangers are not only playing a team that they’ve absolutely owned throughout the last decade, even sweeping the Hurricanes in the 2019-2020 season, the Rangers will have CZAR IGOR at 100%. They also have Kreider back. With the time off, for a young team and who for many on the roster, were playing the most amount of games in calendar year in their careers, the Rangers also got a chance to refresh, replenish and now restart.
That said, had the Rangers qualified for the playoffs without this pandemic, that would’ve meant the Rangers were surging into the playoffs. The Rangers had a tough road ahead, with a rough schedule to close out the 2019-2020 season. After all, look at who the Rangers had on their docket, prior to the pandemic, courtesy of ESPN.com:
|Sat, Mar 14||
|Mon, Mar 16||
|Wed, Mar 18||
|Fri, Mar 20||Canceled|
|Sun, Mar 22||
|Tue, Mar 24||
|Thu, Mar 26||Canceled|
|Sat, Mar 28||Canceled|
|Mon, Mar 30||
|Wed, Apr 1||
|Thu, Apr 2||Canceled|
|Sat, Apr 4||
Seriously – look at this schedule here. The Rangers had a murderer’s row of opponents to close out the season. Outside of Buffalo, none of these games were 100% winnable, at least not “on paper”. Just like the Canadiens, the Rangers benefitted big time by this new playoff format. The Rangers would’ve had to have played their best hockey of the season in the final two and half weeks of the season, to perhaps just grab the second wild card berth.
The Rangers, as mentioned, weren’t 100% at the time when the league took their pause. In turn, the Rangers didn’t have to gruel out a strenuous stretch of the 2019-2020 regular season. However, at the same token, the Carolina Hurricanes also had a ton of injuries, including at the goaltender position. (Does everyone still remember David Ayres? I know it’s been a while!)
In my opinion, when it comes to the Eastern Conference, outside of the Montreal Canadiens, no other team, in regards to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, has benefited more from the pandemic, than the New York Rangers.
The Rangers avoided a rough conclusion of the season. In turn, they are now rewarded with a beatable opponent in the play-in round. While Carolina is now 100% healthy too, should Panarin, Zibanejad, the Rangers defense and CZAR IGOR play at their peak, I don’t see how Carolina has a shot in hell of winning this series. And yes, while I’m biased here, I truly believe that the Rangers can easily oust the Canes in the play-in round.
When it comes to doing a full preview of the playoffs and the Rangers match-up with Carolina, I’m going to wait until after the exhibtion game with the Islanders next week. After all, until then, we don’t know who is 100%, who will test positive for COVID-19 and other factors.
The only thing we now do know for sure, is that Brendan Lemieux will be suspended for the first two games of this play-in round. It remains to be seen if Lemieux and the Rangers will appeal this suspension. We should know soon enough.
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Moving forward this week, I’ll try to sneak in a Final Season Report Card blog. I was going to add that stuff in tonight’s blog, but I know this blog is super-long already!
Elsewhere on this site this week, as usual, I’ll have a recap of the Ron Duguay “Up in the Blue Seats” podcast. I’ll also cover whatever big news comes out of practice this week, as it’s expected that David Quinn will finally announce CZAR IGOR as his starting goalie of the 2020 playoffs.
As far as the next blog, if you subscribe by clicking the form above, you’ll get that bad boy delivered to your email box.
As always, thanks for reading and…
“WHY NOT THE RANGERS?!?!”
LET’S GO RANGERS!
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