The Rangers took an unusual and interesting road to get here


Heading over to practice today. Will have audio and video and stuff from there as the Rangers get back to work preparing for Philadelphia.

Josh Thomson, 26, is going to fill in for me at practice Wednesday, while we do a Live Chat right here at 11.

Then Josh, 26, and I will cover Game 1 Thursday night. Prior to that we will preview the series.

The predictions contest is now closed. No more entries, please.

In the meantime, here’s a column I wrote for The Journal News and about the Rangers, where they were, what they endured, and how they got to this point:

By Rick Carpiniello

This all started May 29 of last year. That was the day Rangers general manager Glen Sather fired coach John Tortorella for the old cliché “failing to attain the goal of winning a Stanley Cup.”

And, yeah, there were other reasons — the grating on his players; his wearing, black-and-blue style of play; a lousy power play, and an even lousier public persona.

On that day, everything changed.

Here we are, a little less than 11 months later, and the Rangers enter the playoffs a slight first-round favorite over the Philadelphia Flyers, after a 96-point season got them the second seed in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division.

Doesn’t it make you scratch your head and wonder how this happened?

First there was the odd “trade” of coaches, Tortorella going to Vancouver, where he would bomb out, and Alain Vigneault coming east after consecutive playoff flame-outs in Vancouver.

Then Vigneault was handcuffed by a schedule that included an ill-advised preseason camp in Banff, Alberta, an entire preseason on the road and a season-opening, nine-game trip necessitated by the renovations to the Garden. Not the ideal way for a new coaching staff to implement a new system, or even do much evaluating.

On top of that was the very legitimate question of whether the Rangers had the necessary skill to play that “Western” up-tempo system. It sure wasn’t hard to tell they were sorely lacking in muscle, team toughness and size.

A 3-6 trip, during which Rick Nash was lost to a concussion, was followed by a home-opening loss. The Rangers bounced back but were never able to go more than a game over NHL-.500 through 44 games.

It was bleak. They were having trouble scoring in Vigneault’s style, too. Henrik Lundqvist was having the worst season of his career, during which he received a king’s ransom in a new contract. Marc Staal suffered another concussion. Nash was playing on the perimeter. Even Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were inconsistent early on. Chris Kreider started the season in the minors, had a great stretch, followed it with a bad one, then suffered a hand injury that required surgery.

Two positives did emerge. One was a better power play under assistant Scott Arniel, though that fizzled, too — the Rangers have been awful with the man advantage since late January. The other was the emergence of what should have been the third line — Derick Brassard between Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot — as the team’s best trio.

Then came this: The Rangers were forced into trading the player everybody thought would be their captain for the long term. Ryan Callahan — the Rangers’ heart and soul, the poster boy for everything good about the way they played, and the type of player they sorely needed — overplayed, by a lot, his hand at contract negotiating.

Worse, the player for whom they traded Callahan (plus a first-round pick and conditional second-round pick) — Martin St. Louis — scored once in 18 games for the Rangers after scoring 29 goals in 63 games for Tampa Bay. If you knew that would happen, you’d imagine a dumpster fire of a stretch drive, right?

The Rangers did become beasts of the road, leading the Eastern Conference in road wins by going 22-8-2 away from the Garden after the 3-6 start. Late in the season, they finally showed some all-for-one pushback. They went 29-13-3 from Dec. 20 on, including a 9-2-2 finish. They got here, even if it’s hard to explain how.

Now they open the playoffs at home, where they won 20 and lost 21.

Vigneault, who was 1-8 in his last two playoff series with Vancouver, and his team still have so much more to prove.

Twitter: @RangersReport

Photo by Getty Images.


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  1. I thought the power play looked OK last game…..

    McDonagh back will be awesome.

    MSL better produce

    Hank will be the difference………….again.

  2. Sioux-per-man on

    This is the best 3rd & 4th line the Rangers have had in a long time!

    16 wins are needed, not an easy task for any of the 16 that are in the hunt. Let the games begin!

  3. Good morning, boneheads!

    Nice article, Carp. The emergence of Cam Talbot also helped. They started to believe in their main asset, speed. The pushback they developed recently can help tremendously starting Thursday. But they will go as far as Hank does. He needs to better than he was last year. And a year before.

  4. Sioux-per-man on

    In Hank we trust! He can steal a game in every series. I think the pressure is on our top guns. Nash, St. Louis, Richie Rich. This team will go as far as they take them.

  5. Believe it or not, I think this group is still coming together and we don’t fully know what they’re capable of. I was impressed with the grit shown in Montreal and suspect that the series w/ Filthy may be exactly what Lord Stanley would prescribe to unify this team further. Other than LQ and our defense, the single most important player IMHO is MSL. If he can emerge as more of a scorer and continue to assist others, then this team will be a tough out.

  6. Sioux-per-man on

    I agree Heave. MSL & Nash could be lethal together. Here’s hoping they saved their best games for the playoffs.

  7. Good morning Sioux! Yeah, the other big question mark will be Nash. He’s got to be appreciating just being in the POs so I hope he brings his Columbus effort to every game.

  8. bull dog line on

    not having Kreider is a huge blow. what they need from Hank is to not gag in the big spots. no falling behind 3 zip in a game 5 please.

  9. matty"creampuffsgalore"boy on

    It has been an interesting year. LGR!!! LGR!!!

    It’s all behind us. One common goal. LGR!!! LGR!!!

  10. matty"creampuffsgalore"boy on

    All I care about is that Richards doesn’t get hurt and he is not made….er….ah….captain for next year.

  11. The season went exactly how I called it, way back when everyone was jumping off a ledge during the first road trip. The styles of Torts and AV being totally different I knew it was going to take half the season for them to learn it and get used to playing that way. And they did and really you can credit Zuc with a lot of it, because he really set the blueprint on how this type of game could be played. Kreider too with his speed and forecheck game. Once everyone bought into it and the defense got used to the change, this was a fun bunch to watch.

    I agree that MSL and Nash, as our big guns need to turn it up in the playoffs. It really looked like MSL in the last 2-3 games was starting to get used to things. I think he started meshing well with Step and Nash. The goals will come but his awareness on the ice is starting to show up and he’s made some awesome plays to setup his linemates lately.

    The PP has to show up too, because you know the F-ers are going to take penalties and cheap ones, and if you don’t make them pay, they will keep doing it, no matter how much grit the team shows.

    All this said, I feel really good about this team going into the playoffs. Don’t think they can get by Boston, but I think they can beat any other team in the East. And if they get to the finals, I think they could surprise, only because they’ve played some of the western teams very well. Only St Louis and maybe Anaheim scare me, and both have not been playing that great going into the playoffs.

  12. matty, is that all you care about? I care about winning the cup, and if we win the cup and Richards gets hurt, I’m fine with that. I’ll worry about next year, next year if that happens.

  13. Ranger on the Isle on

    Lurked around for quite a while here, my favorite blogsite, thanks for the wit and insite!
    Have high hopes but am worried about Nash, he needs to show up. Big guy like him needs to play more physical this time of year, can’t disappear ala Boston.

  14. The Flyers will start testing referees early to see what they can get away with. So, yes, PP will be very important early on. Nobody feared it last year, this year it’s much better. Especially lately.

  15. Sioux-per-man on

    Don’t worry Zucc, Stepan, and Richie will lead the way. They are the point leaders of the team :)

  16. I believe they’re better prepared to handle Boston this year than last. May still not be enough, but they can use their speed much more efficiently this year than last, especially if Kreider is back. Probably, even more important than that, the fourth line this year can play a crucial role as opposed to years prior.

  17. Stranger Nation on

    Cally & Hags injuries and Step hold out were major issues with slow start to season as well.

  18. Stranger Nation on

    Big money players need to earn their pay check in the second season. Need to be better than ‘good’.
    Nash, Richard and MStL can’t be friendly ghosts out there…

    Staal and Stralman are key to series IMHO. If they can neutralize the Flyers second line while McD and Girardi do their job on first, how will the Filth score enough to win with their shaky goaltending?

  19. Stranger Nation on

    Replay of Dallas game on MSG and so happy we don’t have Del Zaster to kick around any Moore.

  20. Agree ilb. But we have to get to Boston first, and that means winning two rounds. One game at a time.

  21. I think we beat the flyers on the goalies alone, but I really doubt we are a Cup contender, so keeping Richie healthly and buying him out is just as important. Because the terminal cap problems that will linger if we keep this bum with hurt us in years to come as much as lack of grit, size, or a D-man or anything else.

  22. I would like to second that welcome to _Ranger on the Isle_. Great to have you on board. Don’t be shy!

  23. Manny – he had 39pts in 40 games played. Looks like the kid can score from the blueline. Won a national championship as a senior. I’m guessing the WolfPack need some help, they didn’t make the playoffs this year.

    I’m thinking one of these college kids are going to pan out, if you sign enough of them :)

  24. As different as this team is from the 2011-12 team we always seem to compare to, the one thing that it does is find ways to win.

    You’d think with all the things Carp pointed out in the article that this team would flounder and flop. But, after The Kreider injury, and MSL being Michael Busto so far, they went on their best stretch of the season.

    That’s 99% on their team defense and goaltending, which is why I give them a fighting chance against any team. I admit that I’m closer to Greg than Eric on the optimism spectrum, but I don’t think they’ll be an easy out against any team.

  25. Rob in Beantown on

    Maybe the Flyers are trying to *intimidate* Hank by making him think Ray “TKO” Emery will start.

  26. Good point, ORR. At least no one on the Flyers will be a rookie playing their first game against NYR.

  27. Agree with many here. Berube, as a player, was a dirty, unskilled SOB. The Flyers will test the referees early and if the Rangers don’t make them pay with a few PP goals, will continue to pound our skill guys. I think the Rangers take this series in 6 and my only concern is McD’s shoulder. Getting an early lead when playing in Philly is huge as their crowd tends to get on the Flyers when they are behind.

  28. Shayne Gostisbehere and Mat Bodie stole the championship away from Brady Skjei and the Gophers. Bodie was the Captain of the team, and Gostisbehere was the only NHL drafted player. Gostisbehere was the player of the game in the finals, but Bodie was the highest scoring defenseman for Union.

    Looks like he has the skills to go to the next level, he may need to put on some more pounds in the weight room but doesn’t everyone coming out of college.

  29. Me too, Yergs. I’m freaked the Eff out. You should do what I’m doing and listen to the new *Triptykon* album. It’s jaw dropping and maybe not in a good way? It’s just kind of…..weird. Mixes a LOT of styles.

  30. I don’t really follow collegiate hockey, but I never heard of Union until this past week.

  31. Let’s not overthink this Richards’ buy out scenario. All they need for him is to be fit to play hockey during the buyout period which starts after SC final is over and finishes July 1st. Also, generally, it’s not in player’s best interest to play up their injury in order to not get bought out since they end up making more money at the end.

  32. I knew a guy who challenged a barn to a fight. Afterwards, they had to put him out to pasture.

  33. I’m just saying. Maybe Brian Burke, although hilarious, shouldn’t be the guy handing out “Shut Ups” to other Hockey people.

  34. We go as far as the daily meter of Nash goes. He plays like he did last year in playoffs we don’t make it past round one. Gi roux is best player in series we need Nash be close second not a distant second.

    Happy Passover to my fellow Jews.

    Mont/Tampa Tom night can’t get here fast enough.

  35. Seven former SIOUX players chasing the Cup: Parise, Toews, Oshie, Porter, Greene, Malone and Frattin.

    To bad Danny Boy didn’t get the call with Miller, Eight would have been GREAT!!!

  36. matty"WeShouldWearPinkPanties"Boy on

    The Bodie signing is a token gesture, IMHO. He is a good leader, but you have to understand he is older than the other kids on that team. He’s 24, I think.

    He fits in well, size-wise, as we continue to bring in undersized cream puffs. He is a stick. About 6 feet tall and 165-170 lbs. He does play ‘bigger’ than he is, but let’s be real. And, at his age, is he growing anymore??

    Congratulations to Matt and the whole FLying Dutchman crew. Awesome feat!!!

  37. Saw a guy with a *Sioux* sweatshirt outside of the Garden on my way to work today. Gave the gentleman a little nod. Perhaps this is a good omen?

  38. A lot of money got McDonald. Isles offered 4 for 16 before moving him. He was overmatched playing 23 mins a night for isles against other teams top lines.

    With timonen gone he’s back to a top tier def next year in Phil. I always looked at him as a number 3.

  39. Obviously different circumstances, but McD = 6 years, $28.2M. And Girardi = 6 years, $33M in a similar situation looks like a bargain.

  40. Do we really care who’s in goal for Filthy? I don’t. If the boys go to the net and shoot more while passing less we’ll put plenty of biscuits in their house. Shoot the puck Barry!

  41. Yergs – you should have gave him the “Sioux Yeah Yeah” as you walked by. $20 says he answers Yeah Sioux Sioux :)

    Always a good omen.

    I’m still kicking myself for not wearing it to the Ranger Game.

  42. I don’t mind the NCAA boys getting signed. 4 years of college, their bodies are bigger and stronger than the 18 yr olds that got drafted last summer. They could help the Pack right away, and who knows maybe one of them will break through and get a chance to put on a Blueshirt.

  43. Ranger-on-the-Isle on

    Thanks for the welcome!

  44. With all do respect JT would only be a junior coming out of college. Did he jump that far ahead skipping school?

  45. Doodie Machetto on

    Great story, Carp.

    MacDonald just got signed to a bloated contract. Love the McDonagh deal more and more every day.

    I’m nervous about the first round. I picked Rangers in 5, but the Flyers have a lot of big game players up front. It’s just a question of us being able to make sure we score goals.

  46. Simmonds scares the hell out of me more then gi roux. His presence in front will be tough to handle.

    This is a toss up. Very surprised that 10 of 12 people in pick rangers.

  47. SN – I am. Just had to do a shout out to the alums that are skating for the cup. That’s all.

  48. MSG is the house of HORORS for the FLYERS. They can’t win here. It’s in their heads. Every Flyer fan will tell you that.

  49. Eric – Rangers have the better goalie, and the better defense, and the Rangers have owned them the last 2 years. I don’t think it will be an easy series, but I think the Rangers win it in 6. The Flyers might steal 2 games, but my gut says Rangers in 5, if the Rangers win the first two at home.

  50. @TheNYRBlog 58s

    And here we go #NYR fans. RT @PLeonardNYDN Uh oh. Derick Brassard just limped off the ice and went to locker room holding his lower back

  51. You’ve got to be kidding me. Does that mean Richards has to be our Second line center?


  52. Are you freaking kidding me. I m cursing my freaking brains off. Back spasms? Our top line is done

  53. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Heal thyself Brutha Brassard. Become one with the universe. The essence of you is omni potent. Divine strength – deep prayer

  54. Brassard was “ALL World” last year.

    Rub it out hit the hot tub. Plenty of time.

    No worries.

  55. Brassard, get well card, stay out of the yard, don’t work too hard, don’t cook with lard, read the Bard, playoffs can’t be marred.


  56. Hat Trick – I’m not sure I could throw my lucky hat onto the ice.

    Any hat I can replace not a problem.

  57. I say to Mrs. Manny: “Brassard just left practice with a back injury. Uh oh.”

    Mrs. Manny responds: “Is it his butt again?”:

  58. “This time really get in there. All you’ve been doing is giving one side hell.”

  59. Rob in Beantown on

    USA Hockey @usahockey
    Laviolette named head coach of 2014 U.S. Men’s Nat’l Team. Full staff also:

    I’m glad Laviolette isn’t coaching the Flyers anymore because I kind of like him and now I don’t have to feel bad about it.

  60. Here are some stats for you geeks:

    @kevin_mcgran Then NHL’s 16 playoff team were in the top 17 in terms of 5-on-5 play (GFvsGA). Bruins dominate.

  61. Sioux -Hat Trick- Get in the Game on

    Linda Cohn ?@lindacohn · 46m
    Some of these #NHL 1st round playoff matchups feel like a conference final. #ListenClosely

    Listen to this. It’s a great pod cast on the 1’st round match ups.

  62. Sioux -Hat Trick- Get in the Game on

    So how many games do the Rangers JV team win against Pittsburgh?

  63. Brodeur, on WFAN, stated that “if the Rangers can handle the between whistle stuff, they have a good chance” against Philthy.

  64. Rob in Beantown on

    Does this challenge mean I have to look at Melrose’s face every day during the playoffs?

  65. Carcillo to trainer: ‘What did the doctor recommend for you to rub on my groin rash?”

    Trainer: ‘Nothing. Doctor said you’re gonna die.’

  66. Time for #19 to be assigned to PP only. He cannot play 5 on 5. Was hoping Miller would get some of his minutes. Let’s pray that Brass recovers completely by Thurs.

  67. Sioux -Hat Trick- Get in the Game on

    Gravy – set up a log in for first, save it to your favorites.

    go to Hat Trick Challenge, go to leagues, type in Boneheads search, join.

    Then make your picks, and hit save.

  68. Sioux -Hat Trick- Get in the Game on

    Gravy – the site seems really slow right now for some reason.

  69. OK, I wasn’t searching for Boneheads. Website keeps getting hung up…I’ll have to try at home.

  70. Sioux -Hat Trick- Get in the Game on

    It was fine like 30mins ago. They must be changing something.

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