New York Rangers Rally Falls Short in David Quinn’s return

A slow start doomed the New York Rangers as they fell 5-4 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon. After falling behind by four goals early in the third period, the Rangers rallied in the third but fell just short in the comeback.

Colin Blackwell scored the first two goals in the Ranger’s comeback. Alexis Lafreniere also scored as Chris Kreider added a power-play goal to bring the Rangers within one. Adam Fox had two assists in the game.

Tom Wilson scored twice, and Alex Ovechkin added his 10th goal in his past nine games to lead Washington to their third straight win, and 10 out of their last 11.

The returning head coach did not inspire the New York Rangers

David Quinn returned to coach the Rangers at Washington Capitals after missing the past six games while in NHL COVID-19 protocol.

“I was told I was going to be OK,” said Quinn, who has an underlying health condition due to hemophilia. “It wasn’t going to be anything that was going to create more of an issue for me. But anytime you get COVID, basically, the way things have gone, you’re always a little bit worried. But I never really got sick at all and I was very fortunate to have a very mild reaction to it.”

Quinn’s return appears to have had little impact on the Rangers as the Capitals jumped out to a 4-0 lead before a third-period rally closed the gap.

The Rangers went 4-2-0 during Quinn’s absence with Hartford Kris Knoblauch, who served as an assistant during Sunday’s game. Assistant coach David Oliver remains in COVID-19 protocol.

After the game in his post-game Zoom conference, Quinn talked about an issue that has followed the Rangers for a couple of years: too much passing and not enough shooting. In what Quinn described as the “inability to shoot”, following a trend from last season in which the Rangers averaged 31.1 shots on goal per game, good for only 20th place in the NHL.

The Rangers return home Tuesday night to host the Capitals with a 7:00 p.m. puck drop.

 

 

New York Rangers: The Taxi Squad Has Been Elite This Season

Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers

The 2021 season has not gone as planned for the New York Rangers. They’ve underperformed through the first 19 games of the season, and just when things seem to be looking up, the bad returns. From poor goaltending and a lack of offensive production, to a player taking a leave of absence following false claims about his past, the Blueshirts have endured a lot of negativity already this season. But there’s been one consistent positive – the taxi squad. The squad has been arguably the main highlight of 2021 for the Rangers, and they haven’t shown signs of slowing down.

What Makes The Rangers’ Taxi Squad Elite:

The Production They’ve Gotten From Unlikely Names

If you were to tell any Ranger fan that Colin Blackwell would have the sixth-most points on the team at the start of March, they’d probably say, “who?” After all, the Rangers were supposed to have one of the most potent offenses in the league this season. With goal-scoring machine Mika Zibanejad, point-acquiring king Artemi Panarin, and the number of talented young players arriving on the NHL scene, how could a 27-year-old with barely any NHL experience be a legitimate threat on offense?

Well, to be frank, I can’t properly explain why Blackwell’s playing so well. But I can say his production is off the charts, and it’s been that way all season. After watching the first four games from the team-hotel, Blackwell got his chance against the Penguins on January 24. He made the most of his opportunity, scoring just the fourth goal of his career. He then followed that up with a point in each of the next two games. Then things went south, like all things do for the Rangers in 2021, as he suffered an upper body injury.

Blackwell eventually returned 13 days later and picked up right where he left off. In seven games since returning from injury, Blackwell has tallied five points, giving him a total of eight on the year. Those eight points in 11 games give him an average of 0.73 points per game – the second-highest mark on the team.

Along with Blackwell, Anthony Bitetto has been a pleasant surprise for the Blueshirts as well. While being a solid contributor on the defensive end of the ice, Bitetto has also been a spark-provider on offense. In nine games the former sixth-round pick has three points to his name, tied for the fourth-most among Ranger defenseman. He’s playing the best hockey of his career, and like Blackwell, for seemingly no reason. No one is complaining though.

On top of Blackwell and Bitetto, there are a couple other names that must be mentioned. Defenseman Libor Hajek has provided a sturdy presence on D, while forward Jonny Brodzinski has contributed on the offensive end – scoring a goal in last Friday’s game against Boston.

How The Squad Compares To The Rest of the NHL

Individual statistics compared to teammates are always impressive, but the Rangers’ taxi squad is more than just good for their own standards. They’re one of the best in the entire NHL, and the numbers prove it.

As of March 1, the Rangers’ taxi squad players have produced 12 points, tied with Tampa Bay for the fourth-most in the league. But that ranking is a bit unfair to the Blueshirts and Lightning, due to the teams in-front of them making transactions early on in the season. The top three teams in terms of taxi squad production, Chicago, St. Louis, and Anaheim, all have a player that began on the taxi squad following roster cuts but has since played at least 20 games. Meaning their total number of points is an inaccurate representation of their taxi squad success.

Chicago has gotten 20 points of production from their taxi squad in 2021, but 15 of them have come from Philipp Kurashev and Brandon Hagel, each of whom have played at least 20 games. Anaheim’s squad, meanwhile, has produced 15 points, but that’s almost entirely because of Max Comtois’ 13. Comtois, the Ducks’ leader in points, started the season on the taxi squad but was recalled to the active roster the day after, and has started every single game for Anaheim. The same goes for St. Louis who has received 18 points from Jordan Kyrou, a member of the Blues taxi squad for less than 24 hours in January.

So, if you put everyone on an even playing field, that puts the Rangers in a tie for the most taxi squad points in the NHL. On top of this, the Rangers’ taxi squad has been the most valuable in the league. The Blueshirts’ squad has accounted for seven goals, equivalent to 14% of all Rangers goals. No other team is remotely close to that number.

Despite all the negatives in 2021, at least we have the taxi squad to boast about. They’ve been an awesome surprise.

New York Rangers give fans a physical victory over the Boston Bruins

The New York Rangers and their fans have waited for this since March 5th, 2020, the last time fans saw the Blueshirts play in person. The roughly 2,000 fans in attendance were treated to a 6-2 victory over the Boston Bruins.

A couple of weeks ago, the state of New York announced that fans would be allowed to attend games at 10% capacity. Friday night marked the first home game that the Rangers had the opportunity to welcome fans. The fans that attended were treated to a Blueshirt offensive outburst and well as an outstanding physical effort.

Having fans obviously energized the Rangers, as they outhit the Bruins 17-8 after the first period. They finished up the game outhitting Boston 32-28.

New York Rangers set a season-high in goals scored

Julian Gauthier started things off for the Rangers with his second goal of the season. He recorded his first career NHL goal against Boston on Feb. 10 at MSG.

Ryan Strome scored a goal off an excellent pass from Alexis Lafreniere, who picked up his first NHL assist. After a Patrice Bergeron goal, The Rangers scored twice within twelve seconds at the end of the second period. Colin Blackwell tipped in an Adam Fox shot for a power-play goal. Chris Kreider then scored the fourth Rangers goal just twelve seconds later.

Strome picked up three points in the second period with his goal and picked up assists in the other two goals. He is leading the Rangers in 5-on-5 goals (six) and even-strength goals (six) this season. He extended his point streak to four games.

For Blackwell, he has now recorded a point in four of the last five games (three goals, one assist).  He has also tallied a point in seven of 10 games with the Rangers (four goals, three assists).

Pavel Buchnevich and Jonny Brodskinski scored third-period goals for the Rangers.

Before tonight, the Ranger’s best offensive effort came when they scored five goals against the New York Islanders on January 16.

Alexandar Georgiev had 31 saves in the win.

The New York Rangers were very grateful for having fans in the stands

After the game, Ryan Strome talked about having fans back at MSG. “It was crazy, honestly. 2,000 people or whatever it was felt like it was very full. I had some goosebumps during the national anthem and it has been a while since I felt those. They definitely brought us energy.”

After the game, head coach David Quinn echoed Strome’s comments about having fans in attendance. “I don’t think that any of us expected the impact that they would make. They were incredibly loud and passionate. When you heard about how many people they were going to allow you would not think they would have an impact. But they did have an impact. We can’t thank our fans enough and we appreciate the support give us.”

The two teams will play again on Sunday at MSG with a noon puck drop.

 

 

 

New York Rangers getting production from unlikely sources

Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers

If you take a look at the list of players who have scored goals for the New York Rangers in their last five games, this list looks something like this: Colin Blackwell, Brendan Smith, Colin Blackwell, Pavel Buchnevich, Julian Gauthier, and Kevin Rooney. Not the usual group of suspects one would think of for Blueshirt scoring. Yet, these players have been the unlikely source of production while some of the top games work to get untracked.

Colin Blackwell has given the New York Rangers a big boost

Blackwell recorded the first power-play goal of his NHL career on Thursday night. He has now tallied a goal in two consecutive games for the first time in his NHL career. Blackwell has recorded five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games with the Rangers. His three goals have already equalled his total from last year in 27 games with Nashville.

It was not a move that got a lot of notice. On October 9, 2020, Blackwell was signed as a free agent a two-year contract worth $725,000 annually. The signing was likely more of a depth position addition. The Rangers were going to need some players that could fill out a taxi squad for 2021 to deal with the pandemic issues. That $725,000 signing has been quite the bargain so far.

Long Island native has stepped up for a depleted New York Rangers defense

With defensemen Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller not playing in Thursday night’s game, someone had to take their spot on key units. Rangers coach David Quinn not only had Anthony Bitetto in the lineup, but he also had the Island Park native man the points on the second power-play unit.

Bitetto responded by sending a nice power-play pass to Pavel Buchnevich, whose shot was tipped in by Blackwell for his third goal of the season. The assist was Bitetto’s first as a Ranger.

After the game, teammate Brendan Smith said of Bitetto “A guy like Bitetto is always going. He’s always firing, keeping that energy high. Teams need that. He’s great at that. People don’t get down on themselves. You keep going. You keep striving to get better. Those guys like him, they’re a diamond a dozen.”

As long as some of the top players continue to struggle, it will take guys like Blackwell and Bitetto to keep up their outstanding play so that the Rangers can compete for a playoff spot.

 

 

Resilient New York Rangers win in a shootout over the Philadelphia Flyers

New York Rangers, Alexandar Georgiev

The New York Rangers did not get the offensive explosion they were hoping for but solid defense and goaltending were enough to lead the Blueshirts to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

After giving a goal in the first 59 seconds of the game, Colin Blackwell‘s power-play goal in the second period tied it up. It was the first power-play goal of his NHL career. Blackwell has tallied a goal in two consecutive games for the first time in his NHL career. He has recorded five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games with the Rangers.

The Rangers took the lead in the third period on Brendan Smith‘s first goal of the season but the Flyers tied it up when Joel Farabee punched in a shot during a scramble in front of the Ranger’s net.

The Rangers defense was stellar on the night as they only allowed the Flyers to get 22 shots and killed all five of the Flyer’s power-play attempts.

The Flyers played their first game after 11 days off due to players being placed on the COVID-19 protocol. Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, Jakub Voracek, and Justin Braun were out. None of the six will make the trip to Lake Tahoe on Sunday for Philadelphia’s outdoor game against Boston.

Alexandar Georgiev stopped two of the three Flyer’s attempts in the shootout and had 20 saves on the night. This was Georgiev’s third straight overtime game.

The New York Rangers were pleased with their resiliency

In his post-game press conference, Smith talked about how the Rangers did not get down after the Flyers scored late in the third period. “I think we didn’t break. I think with a lot of younger teams that they will break after giving up the tying goal. It was good resilience and a good effort. We really needed that.”

Artemi Panarin said after the game that “Today we played better and after the second goal against it was great that the team didn’t give up. It was a big win for us”

In his post-game Zoom conference, head coach David Quinn talked about how proud he was of his team. “I’m very proud. This has been a tough go for us and losing can wear on you. I don’t care how we needed to do it, I don’t care how pretty it looked, I don’t care how it came to fruition we needed two points and we got two points.”

The Rangers will be back in action on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Washington to face the Capitals with a 12:30 p.m. puck drop.

 

 

 

 

How the New York Rangers lost to a team who has not played in two weeks

New York Rangers, Igor Shesterkin

There is no other way the New York Rangers can describe their 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils except to realize that it was disappointing and somewhat embarrassing. Not only did they lose their fourth straight game, but they also lost to a team that has not played a game since January 31.

Due to multiple players being placed on the COVID-19 list, the Devils went 15 days without playing a game. Monday was the team’s only full practice since they were shut down on January 31. So how do the Rangers lose to a team in this situation?

For starters, they allowed goals by three Devils who have a combined five career NHL goals.

Some may point to the fact that the Rangers were without Filip Chytil, Artemi Panarin, and K’Andre Miller, and lost Jacob Trouba in the third period due to an upper-body injury. However, the Devils were also without Nico Hischier, Travis Zajac, Nikita Gusev, and Dmitry Kulikov.

Before we dive into some of the other details, we will start by letting the Rangers explain what they think the issues were.

The New York Rangers react to the loss

After the game, Mika Zibanejad talked in his Zoom conference call about the team’s loss, especially giving up the winning goals in the third period. “I don’t think that for the whole game, we did not get up to the level of play we needed to. We had chances but it was not good enough for over sixty minutes. We are lacking a little bit of desperation, to be honest with you.”

A very frustrated Chris Kreider talked in his post-game Zoom conference about how the Devils outworked and outhustled the Rangers, especially in the first period. “That’s a team that is coming off a two-week break. I realize that they were probably pretty excited to getting back to hockey but that is an unacceptable start. For the majority of the game, they outhit us and outskated, and scored more battles. They flat out wanted it more and it is unacceptable.”

Later on, Kreider talked about the fact that the Rangers did not get a single chance on the power-play.

“It’s something that we have talked about and have been working on for the past couple of days,” Kreider said. “Honestly, it is part of the things I said earlier. Waiting to skate and not being physical, losing battles. There were obviously some shifts where we were buzzing in the offensive zone but obviously, it is not enough to go a full 60 minutes without drawing a power-play. That to me screams that we are not doing the right things away from the puck to support each other and to draw penalties.”

The New York Rangers wasted a solid effort from Colin Blackwell

Colin Blackwell and Pavel Buchnevich scored for the Rangers and each of the goals was significant for different reasons.

For Buchnevich, he ended a somewhat long goal drought with his goal that tied the game late in the second period. After the goal, Buchnevich celebrated by “throwing the monkey off his back”, signifying the frustration that he felt by his lack of scoring after a long period of time.

Blackwell opened the scoring for the Rangers, firing in a shot past Devil’s goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, after getting a nice pass from Brett Howden.

With that goal, Blackwell has tallied a point in four of six games with the Rangers (two goals, two assists). He has also registered nine points (three goals, six assists) in his last 12 NHL games.

The Rangers are getting strong production from workhorse players like Blackwell and Phil Di Guiseppe, but seem to be lacking some of that consistent from some of the skill players.

This is something that head coach David Quinn addressed in his post-game Zoom conference by saying “We will be talking about all this before practice, during practice, and after practice tomorrow.”

With their 14th game being played, the Rangers have reached the 1/4 mark of their 56 game season. There is still time to turn things around, but it needs to happen quickly if the Rangers want to make a run at the playoffs.

The Rangers will travel to Philadelphia on Thursday to take on the Flyers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers: The Taxi Squad Players Have Been a Great Surprise

Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers‘ 2021 season has been a rollercoaster. From blowing a lead in more than half their games, waiving a player for fighting a teammate, and beating one of the best teams in the NHL, they’ve seen it all. And yet, despite all of the early-season speed bumps, they find themselves at 4-4-2, good enough for sixth place in the East division. Those 10 points have not come from the superstars of the team, though. Minus Artemi Panarin, who has a team-leading 15 points, the top-liners have underwhelmed. Luckily for the Rangers, members of the taxi squad have stepped up and capitalized on an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

The Rangers’ Taxi Squad Players Have Been Excellent

For those unfamiliar with the term “taxi squad,” allow me to explain. For the 2021 season, all NHL teams will have a squad of six players that practices separately from the team, travels to each game, and are ready to suit up in any moment. It is an insurance policy in case a team is missing a player or two due to COVID-19 protocols.

Miraculously, the Rangers have gotten outstanding production from their taxi squad players. In six combined games, the members have a +3 plus/minus, while the Rangers as a team are 3-2-1. Three players, in particular, have made the leap in stride: defensemen Anthony Bitetto and Libor Hajek, and forward Colin Blackwell.

Anthony Bitetto

A former sixth-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2010, Long Island native Anthony Bitetto has appeared in two games so far for the Blueshirts. He has been nothing but quality in each. On the defensive end, he has blocked two shots, registered four hits, and is sporting a +1 plus/minus. The Rangers would be perfectly satisfied if those were his only notable stats. But Bitetto has outperformed all expectations – largely due to his jaw-dropping goal in Thursday night’s win against the Washington Capitals.

In the video above, it is important to remember Bitetto is a defenseman, not a forward. The way he avoids multiple hits showcases his stick-handling, and flicks the backhander into the net is remarkable. Based on that lone play, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t on the active roster a month ago.

Not only was it one of the best goals you’ll see this week, but it was loaded with meaning for Bitetto. He had not scored a goal since November 18, 2017, back when he was a member of Predators. It ended a 111-game goalless streak for the kid from Oceanside, NY. Simply sensational.

Libor Hajek

While Libor Hajek does not have a highlight-reel goal to flex like Bitetto, he does have plenty of solid defense to boast about. A former second-round pick of the Tampa Lightning, Hajek appeared in his first game of 2021 during Thursday’s win over Washington. He played well given the circumstances, blocking a shot and communicating well with Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin. He was also on the ice for Bitetto’s goal.

Unfortunately, his +1 plus/minus turned to zero when former Ranger Carl Hagelin scored in the second period.

There’s not much Hajek could’ve done in the situation above. He gets caught in a two on one, attempts to block the shot by Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway, and Hagelin taps in the rebound. If Shesterkin manages to cover the puck up, or Hagelin isn’t in perfect position to tap the puck in, Washington doesn’t score there. Hajek played very well otherwise.

Colin Blackwell

The original taxi squad success story, Colin Blackwell made the most of his first three games. Game four didn’t go as planned, though, as he was injured early-on against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has been out since January 30th with an upper-body injury.

Prior to his injury, though, Blackwell was unbelievable. He scored a goal in his first game with the team and followed it up with an assist in each of the next two. His presence gave the Rangers fourth-line a much-needed spark. He, like Bitetto and Hajek, greatly exceeded expectations.

The success story of the taxi squad has undoubtedly been one of the best stories of the Rangers season. Let’s hope it continues for the next 46 games.

New York Rangers: Colin Blackwell making the most of his opportunity

Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers

When the New York Rangers called up forward Colin Blackwell from the taxi squad to replace Brendan Lemieux, they were looking for a spark to ignite a struggling group of forwards. And so far, albeit only two games, it looks as though coach David Quinn made a great decision – a rarity for the Rangers’ head coach. In each of his first two games with the team, Blackwell has tallied a point. He scored his fourth career goal this past Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and notched an assist in Tuesday night’s loss at Buffalo. Though a very small sample size, the Harvard-graduate has been exceptional.

Colin Blackwell is Making the Most of His Opportunity:

How He Got to Broadway:

When drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft No. 194 overall, the odds were against Blackwell. On average, a draft class produces around 60 NHL players, with the majority of them being drafted in rounds one or two. The difficult road to the big-leagues was no exception for Blackwell, who didn’t play his first games in the NHL until 2019 when the Nashville Predators called him up for six games.

The next year, he spent the first half of the 2019-2020 season with Nashville’s AHL team, the Milwaukee Admirals. While in Milwaukee, Blackwell impressed the organization by tallying 23 points in 26 games and earned another shot at the NHL. In 27 games with the Predators in 2019-2020, he accounted for a modest 10 points. Those 10 points weren’t enough to earn a contract extension, though, and he entered the 2020 offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Over the course of the offseason, Blackwell garnered the interest of multiple teams and eventually chose to sign a two-year deal for $1.475 million with the Rangers.

His Rangers Career:

Blackwell knew he had an outside chance of making the roster out of training camp when he signed, but a little adversity was obviously nothing new to him. He took the challenge head-on and fought for a roster spot during training camp. Despite a strong showing in camp, the large number of skilled forwards on the Rangers’ roster left Blackwell on the outside looking in – again. He was placed on the taxi squad and stayed there for the first four games of the season.

Game Number One

After a slow start to the season for the Blueshirts, the stars aligned, and the Harvard-alum was granted an opportunity to make his mark. Blackwell wasted no time to make said mark, scoring a goal on one of his first shifts with the Rangers.

To score a goal in your first game with a new team is impressive in its own right, but to get it via tip-in off a slap shot is extraordinary. The concentration and hand-eye coordination that is required to perform a tip-in successfully is remarkable.

Game Number Two

Heading into the next game, expectations were conservative for Blackwell. Very few believed he’d be able to make a big contribution for a second consecutive game. But all odds were defied once again, as he assisted on the first goal of K’Andre Miller’s career.

While his second point with the Rangers wasn’t as impressive, it’s still worth recognizing. Blackwell does exactly what he needs to do to give Miller a chance. He locates the open man, slides the puck over softly, and lets the rookie do the rest of the work. Exactly how you draw it up.

No one expected Colin Blackwell to be making contributions for the Rangers when he signed with the team a few months ago. Most viewed him as a depth-piece with a bit of upside. But here we are, watching a player make the most of his opportunity.

New York Rangers fall on late Pittsburgh Penguins goal

After taking another lead into the third period, the New York Rangers surrendered two goals in the third to fall to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2. Jake Guentzel scored the game-winner with just 1:31 left in the game. It was the 100th goal of Guentzel’s career.

Colin Blackwell started the scoring for the Blueshirts by redirecting an Adam Fox shot past Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry at 16:36 of the first period. Blackwell was promoted to the active roster from the taxi squad for this game. The 27-year-old played 27 games with the Nashville Predators last season, recording 10 points and 31 shots on goal.

After a Bryan Rust goal tied it up for Pittsburgh in the second period, Ryan Strome chipped in a shot later in the second period to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Jacob Trouba put the initial shot on goal from the slot, and Strome flipped the rebound over Jarry from the top of the crease. Artemi Panarin also had an assist on the goal and has points in four consecutive games.

After the game, Mika Zibanejad addressed in the post-game Zoom conference the issue of not being able to hold on to third-period leads by saying that “It’s happened two games in a row where we have a lead and can’t close it out. I think it’s a mix of things that we have to do better, to learn from, and to do it quick.”

A disappointed head coach David Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference that “You have to find ways to win. A guy can’t get a shot from that area with a minute and thirty to go. You have to have an urgency, you have to know who is dangerous. To come in here and play some good hockey and get just one point is really disappointing.”

Quinn also addressed the fact that while some of the younger players are doing well, some of the veterans need to step up. “The veterans know that they have got to be better. We have talked to them privately, and they know it. The good news is that these guys are established players in this league.”

Filip Chytil left the game after a collision with the Penguins Evan Rodrigues. Quinn said that he is being evaluated and that they would know more on Monday.

The Rangers now head to Buffalo for two games on Tuesday and Thursday. The Rangers will host Pittsburgh for a two-game set on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 at Madison Square Garden.