What’s up everyone and welcome to the second of two blogs here today, on BlueCollarBlueshirts.com! If you haven’t already, check out my Chicago Blackhawks vs NYR blog, which is linked off the main page here.
Since I was in Chicago while Coach Alain Vigneault was finding his balls, I didn’t get to do a blog about all this Lundqvist/Raanta stuff. I know many of you follow me on twitter and got my thoughts, but twitter limits you with what you can say with the whole 140 characters gimmick. Here, I will expand my thoughts and even talk about the stuff the NYR media is either ignoring or ignorantly omitting.
Before this game tonight, King Raanta played two amazing games, on back-to-back nights, against two playoff teams, on the road, in the Winnipeg Jets & Chicago Blackhawks. He gave up one goal against the Jets & shutout the Hawks. In comparison, during recent games, the highest paid goalie in the league, Henrik Lundswiss, has been routinely beaten by last place teams starting back-up goalies. Against a playoff team like Pittsburgh, he had his doors blown off, which is the norm for him these days.
After Raanta had the best game of his Rangers career on Friday night, in Chicago, I thought he had to start against the Devils tonight. AV must finally be listening to me, or think he’s on the hot-seat, because he rolled the dice and put the $8.5 piece of Ikea furniture on the bench – where he belongs. Unlike the Talbot era, and let’s be honest, Talbot should’ve been the starter two seasons ago – this decision has been a long time coming, AV has finally accepted to ride the hot hand. AV is no longer coddling his overpaid egomaniac goalie anymore.
I feel I must stress this, since I say this all the time – I am an AV fan. Even when he wasn’t giving Talbot the starts he deserves. Even when he went with Hank in the playoffs and that decision blew up in his face. However, many people are fans of AV. I have seen many Ranger fans say to “FIRE AV” and have even read that opinion from paid/professional writers. Maybe AV is feeling the pressure. Maybe AV, who has been fired over two goalie controversies already, in Montreal & Vancouver, is starting to realize that Hank isn’t a guy who can win a Stanley Cup. Who knows? What we do know is that AV believes that King Raanta is the man for the job right now.
Here are some quotes from AV from the last few days:
On benching Hank for the first time in nearly 10 years against the Devils: “I love Hank, but I love the team more. Antti is on top of his game.”
After the Chicago win: “Well, Antti’s definitely playing well and deserves to play. You saw Antti play. Hank, like all our players, team-first attitude. Right now there is no doubt that Antti is playing real well and deserves to play.”
Before the Chicago game: “I think everybody knows that Hank’s the guy, Hank’s our No. 1, but I think at this time, Antti [Raanta]’s game is just a little bit better than Hank and we need to win hockey games. Antti played real well [Thursday] night, wasn’t real busy. This is a familiar spot for him, so we just thought it was the right thing to do for the team. At this time, Antti is just a little bit better right now.”
Here’s what AV said after tonight’s 5-0 victory over the Devils:
“Like I’ve said many times, he does what a goaltender is supposed to do, gives you a chance to win. He made the timely save at the beginning of the second period that I thought was a difference-maker in this game.”
AV added after tonight’s game that he knows who will be starting Tuesday against the Hawks, but wouldn’t announce the starter tonight/Monday. I’m sure Lundqvist, who looked like he was pouting on the bench all game, was thrilled to hear that!
While many in the NYR media are pushing the narrative that “This is still Hank’s team” and “This is only temporary”, they choose to ignore a ton of facts. Here’s what’s not being reported:
- Not one top 5 paid goalie has ever won a cup in the new cap era. Hank is the highest paid.
- Lundqvist had his doors blown off by last place teams with back-up goalies starting. Raanta is beating top teams.
- Hank routinely has played the team with the worse record during back-to-back’s. Raanta has faced higher quality opposition.
- While some reporters won’t call this a controversy, this is the second time in three years that the highest paid goalie has seen his back-up put up better numbers and make the team better.
- The Rangers are at their weakest due to all the injuries. Raanta has two shutouts and gave up 1 goal in three games against the Jets & Hawks on the road and in a division/rivalry game against the Devils. His workload is much tougher than anything Hank has faced and he’s putting on impressive games with the team not at full strength.
- Lundqvist, while trying to say the right things in the media, such as “I support Raanta”, he is still making his angry cunty faces on the bench and showed zero happiness after the Rangers win against the Devils tonight.
- Lundqvist said last week that the Rangers have to be better so he can win the 3-2 games. Keep in mind, Hank was playing last place teams with back-up goalies during this time, like the Sabres, Hurricanes and Islanders. Raanta has beaten two playoff teams, on the road, with scores of 2-1 and 1-0. He also beat the second biggest Rangers rival (Islanders being the first) in the Devils, 5-0.
- Lundqvist constantly throws his team under the bus and blames his defense for losses. Raanta has bailed out defensive mistakes, especially with that game in Chicago.
- Raanta is making the saves that Lundqvist hasn’t been making this year, such as two on ones, penalty kills, cross ice passes, screened shots, etc.
I’ve talked about this before – nearly every Rangers legend ever, was either traded or let go. Whether it be Messier, Leetch, Graves, Howell, Bathgate, Giacomin, etc, the Rangers moved on from them. You know what, I can understand the pain Hank fans feel right now. For many of them, this is their first time seeing their favorite athlete regress before their eyes.
I can remember when Don Mattingly called it a career in 1995. I was heart-broken. I wasn’t a big fan of Tino Martinez initially, because I thought, at 13 years old, that Mattingly still was the man. Mattingly was my favorite athlete of all time and I was just crushed. While time went on and Martinez delivered, to this day I feel bad that Mattingly never got a World Series. Do the Yankees win in 1996 with him? Who knows?
Later on in life, I was furious with the Rangers for trading away Graves & Leetch. I stopped watching the team because of it. I also was furious about the strike/lockout too.
So yes, I can understand Hank fans making excuses for him at every turn. However, when you get older, you realize sports are a business and players regress. I mean, look at the way Peyton Manning and Brett Farve played at the end of their careers. Mariano Rivera is the only name I can think of, off the top of my head, that played a long career (this disqualifies Barry Sanders) and was the best at his position when he retired. But for every Mariano Rivera, there are tens of thousands of athletes that just regress, see their skills deteriorate and ultimately retire.
While Lundqvist isn’t at the retirement stage yet, he’s also not in his prime anymore either. The truth hurts and here it is: The Rangers can’t win a Cup with his contract. We’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. Insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results. It’s time to move on from Hank and I think AV sees that.
As someone who isn’t a fan of Lundqvist, his contract or any athlete that attacks women, I would find it hilarious if he became Hartford Hank. However, that’s not realistic, although I would get a thrill out of it. Hank has a No Move Clause in his contract, which only he could waive. I don’t know if AV & Gorton are in cahoots about Hank’s benching, although I feel that AV would have to clear a benching of this magnitude. However, if Hank is picking splinters out of his $8.5 million dollar a year ass on a daily basis, maybe he will waive the NMC and ask for a trade. With what we’ve seen in the NHL, you don’t need Lundqvist to win a Cup.
With every passing day, Hank’s trade value keeps going down. He’s no longer the same asset to the team that he once was. We’ve seen it with Talbot and we’re seeing it with Raanta now. Hank is overpaid and overrated. If the Rangers can even get draft picks for the guy, it’s worth the move to get the contract off the books. Pipe dreams of trading him for a top player is just that – a pipe dream. Not one playoff team would trade their top player or their worst contract for an aging and regressing goalie with the worst cap hit for goalies in the NHL. If there is anything consistent about Lundqvist, it’s a bad contract, something that has plagued the Rangers during their whole 90 year existence.
Let’s be honest, the Rangers didn’t draft Lundqvist to be a franchise goalie. He’s overachieved. Originally drafted in the 7th round, 205th overall, Hank was drafted as an afterthought. When he finally was brought to the main roster to see what he has, he lucked into the starters job when Kevin Weekes got hurt. Like Richter before him, Hank played well and the Rangers moved on from Weekes, just like they did with Beezer when Richter was hot. Unlike Richter, Hank has never been able to produce a Stanley Cup.
Now 11 years later, and it’s already two years overdue, it’s time for the Rangers to move on from Lundqvist and allow Raanta to take control of the reins. It’s just the way sports work. I get the fans who like Hank, but it’s about the front of the jersey winning, not the back of the jersey. If you want to root for Hank to “Ray Bourque” it somewhere else, be my guest. However, if you want to see the Rangers win a Cup, the best bet is to get rid of Hank’s horrible deal. For starters, Raanta is a better goalie than Hank in 2016 and it comes at a much better price tag. Would you trade in a curved 4K HDTV for a black and white TV with rabbit ears?
And listen – Raanta isn’t going to have a shutout every game. He should play Tuesday against the hottest team of the cap era, the Chicago Blackhawks. He may have a bad game soon, and if he does, it doesn’t mean Hank is better or deserves to start. Raanta is still the better goalie and hands down – the better value. It’s time to stop going back to Hank and pampering Hank and let’s truly see what we have with Raanta.
We’ve seen a lot this far, with over 30% of the regular season down. Unless you’re in denial, Raanta has been unequivocally better than Lundqvist. Lundqvist has been shaky, out of position and flopping like a fish out of water in nearly every game he’s played. He’s also one of the worst in the league when it comes to handling the puck. That’s why I laugh when people call him King. What’s Brodeur then? Master and ruler of the galaxy?
Raanta has been cool, calm and collected in all of his starts. Every time he goes out of net, even with an opposing player rushing his way, he’s as cool as a cucumber in accurately making the pass to his skaters. He’s in position and faces every shot head on. Even off the ice, Raanta has praised his teammates, where Hank routinely blames them. AV said this today and I am a believer in this too – the team doesn’t play better because Hank isn’t playing. The TEAM plays better because the GOALIE is better. There have been many times in the last few few games where Raanta made a huge save where I don’t think Hank makes the same save, based on what we’ve seen this season.
AV is finally making decisions based on what’s best for the team, when it comes to his goalies. I’m seeing Lundqvist supporters say stuff like, “Hank needs more work with Allaire and will be better than ever.” One, you don’t know that. Two, for the highest paid goalie in the league, you’re not paying him to have regular funks and more work with the goalie coach. You don’t see Carey Price going through these funks! Shit, Carey Price is not only the most dominating goalie in the league today, he also beats people up with his fists, while Hank flips nets and squirts water at opposing players like a crybaby.
I’ve been calling for Hank’s trade for some time now. It’s nice to see others join the bandwagon, albeit two years late, just like AV! However, at least some of you are coming to your senses!
With Raanta playing out of his mind right now, AV chose the hot hand for this game against the Devils. He was rewarded with a 5-0 win on home ice. Please keep in mind, during Raanta’s huge winning streak and only giving up 1 goal in three games, the Rangers are at their worst, health-wise. No Nash, no Zibanejad, no Puempel and Vesey missed a game too.
I guess I should also mention that Josh Jooris was waived yesterday and claimed by the Coyotes today. I don’t think the Rangers will miss him, but I am shocked they would waive a guy when they are missing players due to injury. I guess NYR believes in the cheaper talent, such as Hrivik and Jensen. Maybe we’ll get Tanner Glass finally!
With Lundqvist pouting on the bench, the Rangers reverted to the October Rangers, and opened the floodgates, winning in a dominant fashion. However, don’t let the 5-0 score fool you, the Rangers were sloppy. Raanta made some huge saves along the way and the Rangers spent what felt like forever on the penalty kill. Fortunate for the Blueshirts, the Devils were atrocious on the PP.
Here’s the official boxscore from ESPN.com, with my thoughts on the game below:
1st Period Summary
||Chris Kreider (8)
Assists: Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Klein
||Taylor Hall: 2 Minutes for High-sticking|
||Chris Kreider: 2 Minutes for Interference|
2nd Period Summary
||J.T. Miller (9) (Shorthanded)
Assist: Kevin Hayes
||Brady Skjei (1)
Assists: Derek Stepan, Oscar Lindberg
||Ben Lovejoy: 2 Minutes for Delaying the game|
||Jimmy Vesey: 2 Minutes for Tripping|
||Marc Staal: 2 Minutes for Tripping|
||Brady Skjei: 2 Minutes for Tripping|
3rd Period Summary
||Brandon Pirri (6) (Power Play)
Assists: Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh
||Jimmy Vesey (10) (Power Play)
Assists: Brandon Pirri, Nick Holden
||Michael Grabner: 2 Minutes for High-sticking|
||Damon Severson: 2 Minutes for Hooking|
||Vernon Fiddler: 2 Minutes for Slashing|
||Ben Lovejoy: 2 Minutes for Hooking|
||Nick Lappin: 2 Minutes for Roughing (Served by Beau Bennett)|
||Nick Lappin: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
||Kevin Klein: 5 Minute Major for Fighting|
Power Play Summary
|Team||PPG / PPO|
|New Jersey||0 of 5|
|New York Rangers||2 of 6|
Aside from great goaltending from the Rangers, the key to this game was special teams. The Devils were terrible, going 0-5 on the PP and even gave up a short handed goal. The Rangers went 2 for 6 on the PP and two of the PP’s happened when the game was virtually over and it didn’t look like they were even trying. Vesey still scored anyway!
It’s funny, after a Lundqvist start and usual loss, everyone is blaming Staal & Girardi. However, since the Rangers are now getting the “Grade A” goaltending that AV asked for, you’re not seeing the defensemen’s names ran through the mud.
Chris Kreider kicked off the scoring early, taking a perfect pass from Zucc and burying it past Schneider. Two things have been consistent this season – anytime Zucc touches the puck, good things happen and Schneider is having an off-year. 1-0 after twenty minutes played.
After a ton of penalty kills, where it seems the Rangers were taking penalties on purpose to practice the PK, JT Miller drove to the net and took a Hayes pass and put it past Schneider for a shorty. 2-0 Rangers.
With the second period about to expire, there was a faceoff in the Devils defensive zone. The Rangers won the face off, Stepan kicked the puck to Brady Skjei and Skjei scored his first goal of the season, in a “Holy Skje-it” moment. The goal came with only two seconds left in the period and gave the Rangers huge momentum going into the third period, up 3-0.
The Rangers continued their sloppy ways and kept getting penalized. Luckily for Raanta & crew, the Rangers were able to consistently clear the puck and keep the Devils at bay. Watching the Rangers defense kill penalty after penalty had to make Lundqvist feel like he was in the Twilight Zone.
The Rangers would add two power play goals in the third period, one coming from Pirri and a no effort goal by Jimmy Vesey, who had an entirely empty net to shoot at, after a rebound.
Due to Raanta’s strong play, only two pucks came close to becoming goals for the Devils & one of them Raanta could do nothing about. The Devils looked to have a goal early in the game, but the puck was ruled as being kicked in, negating the goal. The other near goal came on a Rangers PP. With Raanta on the bench for the extra attacker, a puck bounced back and came an inch away from going into the empty net. Only Lundqvist fans were hoping for Raanta’s shootout to be ruined that way!
For the Rangers, it was a dominant win. Away from the ice, expect all types of articles and opinions on what do with Raanta.
Bottom line is this – if this all continues and AV won’t pull Hank from the playoffs, this has all been for naught. If AV is still going with King Cupless and will keep his hot goalie on the bench when the games mean the most, what’s the point of sending a message to King Hair now?
By the way, here’s the post game news that the Rangers released after the game:
- 20-IN-30 – The Rangers have earned 20 wins within their first 30 games of a season for the fourth time in franchise history (1941-42, 1971-72, 1993-94, and 2016-17), and their 20 wins in 2016-17 are tied for the second-most they have earned through the first 30 games of one season in franchise history. The only season in which the Rangers registered more than 20 wins in their first 30 games was 1993-94 (21). New York leads the NHL in wins in 2016-17.
- GOALS GALORE – The Blueshirts have registered 105 goals in the first 30 games of this season. The Rangers have tallied at least 105 goals in the first 30 games of one season for the first time since 1995-96. New York leads the NHL in goals per game in 2016-17 (3.50). The Rangers have registered three or more goals in 20 of 30 contests this season, including 12 of 16 games at MSG.
- MAKING THE DIFFERENCE – The Rangers lead in the NHL in goal differential this season (plus-35) and have posted a plus-35 goal differential or better through the first 30 games of one season for the first time since 1993-94.
- HOME COOKING – New York has posted an 11-4-1 record in 16 games at MSG this season. The Blueshirts have earned at least one point in 73 of their last 96 home games, dating back to Oct. 16, 2014 (63-23-10 record).
- ON POINT – The Blueshirts have not been held pointless in two consecutive games thus far this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Rangers went 30 games into a season without being held pointless in two or more consecutive games was 1971-72, when the team had its first two-game losing streak in games 68 and 69 of the season.
- TWO GOOD – The Rangers have allowed two goals or fewer in regulation in 20 of 30 games this season, including seven of the last nine games. New York has posted a 17-2-1 record when allowing two or fewer goals in regulation in 2016-17.
- SPECIAL TEAMS – New York has outscored its opponent on special teams in 14 of 30 games this season, and the Blueshirts have posted an 11-3-0 record in those contests. The Rangers tallied a power play goal and a shorthanded goal in the same game for the second time this season (also on Nov. 5 at Boston).
- POWER SURGE – The Rangers were 2-for-6 (8:52) on the power play in the contest. The Blueshirts have recorded a power play goal in 15 of 30 games this season.
- KILL ZONE – New York was 5-for-5 (8:56) on the penalty kill and registered a shorthanded goal in the game. The Rangers have not allowed a power play goal against in 14 of the last 19 games. New York is tied for second in the NHL in shorthanded goals this season (four).
Three Stars on Broadway
- Antti Raanta stopped all 19 shots he faced to earn a win and a shutout for the second consecutive game. Raanta extended his shutout streak to 151:04, establishing a new career-high in the NHL. He is the first Rangers goaltender to earn a shutout in two consecutive appearances which were also two consecutive games for the team since Mike Dunham on Mar. 17, 2003 vs. NY Islanders and Mar. 19, 2003 vs. Buffalo. Raanta has also posted a shutout in two consecutive appearances for the first time in his NHL career. He has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last nine starts (and in each of his last 10 appearances). In 10 starts this season, Raanta has posted an 8-1-0 record, along with a 1.52 GAA, a .945 SV%, and 2 SO.
- Chris Kreider registered two points (one goal, one assist) and recorded three shots on goal. He has tallied a point in five of the last six games, registering seven points (four goals, three assists) over the span. Kreider has recorded all of his eight goals and 16 of his 20 points in game situations when the Rangers have either led by one goal, trailed by one goal, or were tied in the contest.
- Brady Skjei tallied his first career NHL goal, recorded three shots on goal, and posted a plus-two rating. He is tied for second among Rangers defensemen in points this season (14).
- J.T. Miller tallied a shorthanded goal. Miller is tied for the NHL lead in shorthanded goals this season (two). He has registered 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in the last 26 contests. He has recorded a point in 16 of the Rangers’ 20 wins this season, and the team has posted a 16-1-0 record in games which he has tallied a point in 2016-17. He is two points away from registering the 100th point of his NHL career.
- Brandon Pirri registered two points (one goal, one assist), including a power play goal, and recorded three shots on goal. Pirri is tied for the team lead in power play goals this season (four).
- Jimmy Vesey tallied a power play goal and recorded four shots on goal. He is one of three NHL rookies who have recorded at least 10 goals this season (along with Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews).
- Kevin Hayes recorded a shorthanded assist. He has tallied a point on three of the Rangers’ four shorthanded goals this season, and he is tied for the NHL lead in shorthanded points in 2016-17 (three).
- Derek Stepan tallied an assist and posted a plus-two rating. He has notched 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in the last 21 games, including 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in the last 12 games and seven points (one goal, six assists) in the last six contests. Stepan leads the Rangers in primary assists (11) and is tied for the team lead in assists (16) in 2016-17.
- Mats Zuccarello notched an assist. He has tallied four assists/points in the last five games. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, 149 of Zuccarello’s 188 points have either been a goal or the primary assist on a goal (79.3% of his points have been primary points over the span).
- Ryan McDonagh tallied an assist while skating in a team-high 22:13 of ice time. The Rangers captain is tied for the team lead in assists this season (16), and he leads Rangers defensemen in assists (16) and points (17) in 2016-17.
- Nick Holden recorded an assist, and he is tied for second among Rangers defensemen in points this season (14).
- Kevin Klein tallied an assist. Klein has registered eight assists/points in his last 18 games (since Nov. 5), and he leads Rangers defensemen in assists over the span.
- Oscar Lindberg notched an assist and won 11 of 18 faceoffs (61.1%).
With Sam Rosen calling the Carolina Panthers NFL game today, John Giannone filled in for Rosen. I have no problem with Giannone. Some think he’s dry, but that’s opposed to Rosen getting excited a lot. I like John’s style.
Joe Micheletti however, was fucking horrible tonight and I’m not a hater of Joe’s by any means. Joe went on and on about Hank at points, where it was embarrassing. He always makes excuses for Hank goals such as “he was screened” during every shot from the opposing team. He didn’t praise Raanta like he would’ve if Hank was in net. He missed a lot of the storylines from the game, which is his job as the color guy.
What drove me absolutely nuts though, was during the third period a huge fight broke out. The refs were about to talk and explain all the penalties. Instead of letting us listen in while the announcement was going on, Joe just kept rambling his opinions so we couldn’t hear the call on the ice. It took a minute (which is a long time in real time) for Joe & John to tell us what happened, rather than just letting us listen to original call of the ref. Joe just keeps yammering and yammering on about bullshit and ignores what’s going on the ice at times. I don’t really mind too much, but when the refs are talking, he needs to STFU.
It’s a shame. The best preseason game was when the Rangers & Devils did a joint production, using announcers and crew from both teams to call the game. I would’ve rather Giannone and Daneyko tonight.
After three huge wins from Raanta & the boys, the Rangers get a quick rematch with the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. I’d expect Raanta to play since he’s the hot hand. Plus, the Hawks are a great team and will be out for revenge. AV has coddled Hank until recently, so I doubt he wants to throw him to the wolves in this game. This seems like a game where the Rangers & Raanta come back to earth a bit, which sets up Hank to return against Dallas on Thursday, where he will probably have his doors blown off.
For the rest of the season, expect the Raanta vs Lundqvist storyline to continue. How many years do the Rangers and Ranger fans want to see Lundqvist and the team come up short in the playoffs? If you want change, cross your fingers and hope Raanta leads the Rangers to a new era…. and a Stanley Cup.
I’ll be back Tuesday night. Make sure to check out my Chicago trip review blog as well!
@NYCTHEMIC on the tweet tweet