Ryan Reaves revelry defines Rangers’ latest win

Ryan Reaves’ birthday celebration guided the New York Rangers back from a 3-1 deficit at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

Aside from joining the New York Rangers in the latter stages of their respective NHL careers, Ryan Reaves and Wayne Gretzky don’t appear in the same sentence very often. Wednesday night provided a welcome exception.

Gretzky was among the first people that Reaves spoke to after the latter played a major role in the modern Rangers’ 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden. Reaves helped the Rangers (26-10-4) erase a pair of two-goal deficits with two scores of his own, earning his first tallies as a Blueshirt in the comeback effort. It was his first multi-goal game since April 2013, when he netted two as a member of the St. Louis Blues.

Reaves’ reward was a postgame interview with the “NHL on TNT” crew, featuring Gretzky and his fellow analysts Paul Bissonnette and Anson Carter, as well as host Liam McHugh.

As if his first New York goals weren’t enough of a birthday present for Reaves, whose Wednesday heroics came mere hours before he turned 35, he was interviewed by the legendary Gretzky on the MSG ice. Gretzky informed Reaves that everyone in TNT’s Atlanta studio was pulling for him to earn one of the most unexpected hat tricks in recent NHL memory. Known more for his physicality, Reaves has earned 51 goals in 12 seasons.

To the credit of Reaves’ Ranger teammates, they tried all they could to get Reaves a third goal after Toronto pulled goalie Jack Campbell in the final minutes of the third period. It got to the point where Reaves’ fellow Blueshirts encouraged him to stay on the ice to get that final tally.

Reaves, however, was eager to get back to the bench for his own sake.

“The bench kept telling me to stay out. I was like ‘stay out’? I’m going to be in the middle of the ice just in a coma!” Reaves told the TNT crew with a laugh. “I don’t need that!”

Reaves’ first Ranger goals were a long time coming. Though he was brought in for his physicality, he had several scoring opportunities over the recent prior games. He previously had two-points efforts (coming through assists) on Nov. 24 against the Islanders and Dec. 7 in Chicago.

Wednesday’s nationally televised showcase provided a great opportunity for the Rangers’ fourth line, also featuring Greg McKegg and Kevin Rooney. McKegg earned the primary assist on Reaves’ first goal and the group earned a plus-2 mark on the evening. The unit’s Wednesday efforts drew praise from defending Norris winner Adam Fox, who had two goals and an assist.

“That line has brought energy when needed and it hasn’t always resulted in goals, but when you see them get rewarded like that, it obviously lifts the whole team up,” Fox told Mollie Walker of the New York Post. “Big goals, too. Credit to that line. They were unreal tonight.”

Fox had the secondary assist on Reaves’ first goal. His second, coming early in the second period, ignited a streak of five unanswered Ranger goals.

The efforts were highlighted by Reaves, who earned his first goal since March 17 of last season, his last of four years with the Vegas Golden Knights. His New York arrival afforded him a reunion with head coach Gerard Gallant, who, like Reaves, was part of the original Vegas group that went to the Stanley Cup Final as an expansion team in 2018.

Reaves’ scoring efforts were well-celebrated by his teammates, with whom he has formed a strong sense of chemistry and camaraderie. In the lead-up to Toronto’s visit, the Rangers’ official Twitter account showcased a new talent from Reaves, in which he interviewed players during practice. Such antics, as well his propensity to create on-ice chaos, have made him an instant fan favorite amongst the Ranger faithful, who showed their appreciation by chanting “Reavo” as the final minutes ticked away.

Reaves was pleased that Wednesday’s game could showcase not only what he’s capable of, but what the Rangers can do as a whole. The win over the Maple Leafs (24-10-3) allowed the Blueshirts to reclaim first place in the Metropolitan Division from the Carolina Hurricanes. Though Carolina has four games in hand, the teams will square off for the first time this season on Friday night in Raleigh (7 p.m. ET, MSG).

“(Wednesday’s game) shows that we can we can hang with the big boys…that we are one of the big boys. We’ve got to keep beating the playoff teams. That’s something we’ve talked about, but I think we’re proving to the league that we’re a contender,” Reaves said, per ESPN. “I think we know it. I think maybe some of the league doesn’t believe it, but let them keep (not) believing it. We’re gonna keep doing our thing and, I mean, the standings don’t lie.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Rangers: Former top scorer Marian Gaborik retires

marian gaborik

Gaborik played parts of four seasons with the Rangers and was one of the most prolific scorers of the team’s new century endeavors.

Former New York Rangers scorer Marian Gaborik announced his retirement on Thursday, ending a 17-year NHL career. Gaborik spent parts of four seasons on Broadway, earning 229 points (114 goals, 115 assists) over 255 games. He also added 13 points in two playoff appearances (25 games).

Gaborik, 39, made his announcement through a post on Instagram, where former teammates like Mats Zuccarello stopped by to offer support and well wishes.

“It’s been a great honour [sic] and privilege to play in the best league in the world (the NHL), since I was 18 years old. The journey has been nothing short from spectacular, amazing, and unbelievable. Many times it’s been a roller coaster, but I always found the way back,” Gaborik wrote in the accompanying caption. He offered a special shoutout to each of the five teams that hosted his NHL endeavors, thanking the Rangers for “having experience(d) Sweet Caroline and living in energy heaven of the world”, referencing the retired tradition of playing the Neil Diamond song during the late stages of wins at Madison Square Garden.

Gaborik entered the league as the original draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, chosen third in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He went on to score the first goal in franchise history and became an integral part of their run to the 2004 Western Conference Finals in only their third year of existence. Though he departed Minnesota after the 2008-09 season, he remains the Wild’s all-time leader in goals (219) and hat tricks (9). Those tallies include a five-goal game against the Rangers in December 2007.

Gaborik inked a five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Rangers in July 2009. He tied his career-best with 42 goals in his first season. Though the Rangers missed the playoffs, Gaborik played a vital role in helping establish what would become a seven-year postseason streak. He notable played all 82 games during the 2011-12 season that saw the Blueshirts finish atop the Eastern Conference. Gaborik led the team with 76 points, including 41 goals.

His most famous New York moment came in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals, when his goal in triple overtime allowed the Rangers to earn a crucial win in Washington. Earlier that season, Gaborik earned MVP honors at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa (one of three All-Star appearances), earning a hat trick for a “fantasy” team captained by Zdeno Chara.

Gaborik’s Rangers career ended in April 2013, when he was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade that sent Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore to New York. He was traded again during the following year’s deadline, joining the Los Angeles Kings in time for their run to the Stanley Cup. The trade would pay off big for the Kings, as Gaborik led all playoff scorers with 14 goals in the ensuing postseason. Two of those came in the Cup Final against the Rangers, as a power play tally in the third period of Game 5 allowed Los Angeles to send the game into overtime, where they’d eventually clinch their second Cup in three years.

After the Cup win, Gaborik played parts of the next four seasons in Los Angeles before he was traded to the Ottawa Senators in February 2018. Ottawa wound up hosting his final NHL contests: Gaborik played 16 games as a Senator but injuries kept him off the ice for the rest of his career. His rights were eventually traded to Tampa Bay in December 2020 in what was seen as a salary cap-clearing move by the Lightning.

In addition to his NHL endeavors, Gaborik also starred for Slovakia’s national team partaking in their Winter Olympic efforts in 2006 and 2010. Gaborik’s last international effort came during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where he scored two goals for Team Europe, the tournament’s eventual runner-ups.

The modern Rangers (6-2-2) return to action on Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, MSG+).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin steals the show on Halloween

Shesterkin kept his winning ways going off the ice, as the New York Rangers goalie pulled off a “royale” couples costume.

Igor Shesterkin has confirmed himself to be an Elvis man.

With the New York Rangers spending Halloween in Seattle for their first-ever matchup with the Kraken, the team celebrated the Halloween holiday this week through a costume party. The goaltender stole the show at the Blueshirts’ festivities dressed as Vincent Vega, John Travolta’s character from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. Shesterkin’s girlfriend Anna Butusova got in on the fun as well, complementing Shesterkin by accompanying him as Mia Wallace, portrayed by Uma Thurman in the same film.

Butusova’s Instagram story depicts her and Shesterkin recreating an iconic scene from the Quentin Tarantino film where Travolta and Thurman partake in a dance contest, twisting to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”. Shesterkin himself shared a photo on his own page.

Shesterkin’s night at Jack Rabbit Slim’s was well-received on social media

Though Shesterkin chose to channel Travolta, his play has resembled the fixer Winston Wolf, Harvey Keitel’s character that helps Vincent and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) out of a major crisis in the latter stages of the film. He has amassed a 3-1-1 record in the early going, boasting a .917 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against average. Since making his NHL debut in January 2020, Shesterkin has earned seven wins where he has tallied at least 40 saves, including a 2-1 overtime triumph in Toronto on Oct. 18,

The Rangers (4-2-1) return to action on Friday night at Madison Square Garden where they’ll battle the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET, MSG). It’ll be their last game before they embark on a four-game road trip through the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, beginning with the aforementioned Halloween showdown in Seattle.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Mika Zibanejad, Gerard Gallant send support to Kyle Beach

New York Rangers reps extended their support to Beach, the “John Doe” in the sexual assault report centered around the Chicago Blackhawks.

Members of the New York Rangers expressed their support for Kyle Beach during practice proceedings on Thursday. Beach has been identified as the “John Doe” of a damnatory report released on Tuesday, one that exposed the Chicago Blackhawks’ inaction in the wake of sexual assault allegations made against video coach Brad Aldrich en route to a championship during the 2009-10 season.

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant commended Beach for his bravery in coming forward, namely through an interview with Rick Westhead on TSN’s SportsCentre program on Wednesday night.

“He came out publicly and got a lot off his chest (after) 11 years, so that’s got to be real tough on the kid. But I think he’s courageous and did an outstanding job when he came out last night. It’s a tough, tough situation, but hopefully, he can heal and feel a lot better about himself,” Gallant said, per Vincent Mercogliano of LoHud.com. “I watched that press conference last night, and I’m sure you all watched that, too. It’s really tough to watch and it really chokes you up, just as a person watching that. I didn’t know the kid personally, but the positive thing that I took out of that last night was he talked about the healing, and that’s going to take place now.”

One of Gallant’s leading scorers, Mika Zibanejad, concurred.

“It’s a terrible thing that happened and I really feel for him and for the victims,” Zibanejad said in Mercogliano’s report. “It takes a lot of courage to be able to come out and tell his story. It’s just a terrible situation that shouldn’t happen, and all the things that kind of caused him and his family all this (pain) and everything. It’s just shocking, but first and foremost, it’s a terrible, terrible thing that happened.”

The independent report declared that neither Blackhawks management nor the NHL Players’ Association acted upon allegations brought forth by Beach as the team embarked on a run to the Stanley Cup Final in May 2010. Action was taken only after the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers to win their first championship since 1961. Aldrich resigned but was allowed to partake in the Stanley Cup celebrations and later took a job at a Houghton, MI high school, in part thanks to a recommendation from the Blackhawks. He plead guilty to criminal sexual conduct charges against a teenager three years later.

Chicago general manager Stan Bowman and vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac have since resigned. Despite appear in the report, then-Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville was allowed to coach the Florida Panthers in the wake of the report’s release and was said to be meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday.

Beach is currently under contract in the Oberliga, a third-tier German league. He spent parts of the 2013-14 season with the Rangers’ organization, appearing in 39 games with their AHL affiliate in Hartford.

The Rangers (4-2-1) return to action on Friday night at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m ET, MSG).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Rangers: Morgan Barron set to make season debut

morgan barron, rangers

Barron, a sixth-round pick from the 2017 draft, is set to make his season debut when the New York Rangers visit Nashville tonight.

Reports from New York Rangers practice indicate that center/left winger Morgan Barron will make his 2021-22 season debut when the Blueshirts battle the Nashville Predators on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, MSG). Barron’s presumed arrival stems from a report from Newsday’s Colin Stephenson, which indicated that Julian Gauthier, Libor Hajek, and Jarred Tinordi were set to be the team’s healthy scratches.

Barron was the Rangers’ sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft (174th overall), chosen through a pick acquired from San Jose. He made his NHL debut through five games with the team last season, earning his first Ranger goal on May 5 against Washington after earning 21 points in 21 games with AHL Hartford. Barron added two further goals in a pair of games with the Wolf Pack this year including the game-winner in last Friday’s season-opening win over Bridgeport.

A Nova Scotia native and Cornell alum, Barron was called up after Kaapo Kakko left last Saturday’s win over Montreal with an upper-body injury. Kakko has since been placed on injured reserve while the Rangers (2-1-1) are also missing Ryan Strome, who remains in COVID-19 protocol.

Barron has earned praise for his leadership abilities, which were prominently displayed as a captain at both Cornell and St. Andrew’s College in Ontario. He’ll likely appear on the Rangers’ fourth line as on the left wing alongside Ryan Reaves and centered by Greg McKegg.

In other roster news, Igor Shesterkin is expected to make his fourth consecutive start after missing last week’s season opener, per USA Today’s Vince Z. Mercogliano. Shesterkin made 40 saves in Monday’s 2-1 overtime win in Toronto and will be making his first career start against Nashville (1-2-0).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Islanders: Lineup changes must be made

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders are doing their signature late regular-season skid right now. The problem is, within this division, with these great teams, there is no room for a skid. The Islanders have 7 games left, and 4 of them are easily winnable. If the Islanders can’t sneak out at least 6 points from 4 games against the Devils and Sabres, they shouldn’t be in the playoffs. The other three games are against their archenemy, the New York Rangers, and the big bad Boston Bruins.

The Islanders have a clear shot into making the playoffs, all they have to do is beat the Rangers in regulation twice. These lines that Barry Trotz has been putting together as of late haven’t been cutting it. I think tonight’s lineup should read as such.

First Line

Mat Barzal is never coming off of the first line, he’s the best player on the ice at all times. Barzal needs to get going, 13 straight games without a goal aren’t going to cut it. The Islanders traded for a power forward who can snipe and is used to playing first-line minutes. Kyle Palmieri needs to be on the first line for at least 3 games before Trotz switches it up again. On the right-wing, I think Jordan Eberle still earns his spot there. He’s really been playing solid Hockey, he just needs a little help from his linemates.

Second Line

Oliver Wahlstrom should be playing every single night regardless of his play from the prior night. Trotz is hurting the younger kids’ development by sitting them every time they make a mistake. You cannot play good Hockey if you’re afraid to mess up. Wahlstrom should be accompanied by Brock Nelson, the two are a perfect fit. Nelson loves slashing to the net and dangling around defenders, why not give him someone who can rip it into the toy department from the faceoff circle. The right-wing on this line is a little sketchy. Travis Zajac needs to step his play up. For a forward line to work, all 3 guys must be on their toes and moving. Zajac moves in slow motion.

Third Line

I have no idea why Trotz broke up the line of Anthony Beauvillier, JG Pageau, and Josh Bailey. That line just works to perfection for some reason. Pageau winning faceoffs and cutting to the net mixed with Josh Bailey’s good passing and Beauvillier’s speed is a nightmare for defenders. This line just works, and there is no reason to move any of these guys.

Fourth Line

The energy line will remain the energy line. These guys play really well together when things are clicking. But, they shouldn’t be relied upon to get a goal. I still think Clutterbuck, Martin, and Cizikas have another year left together.

New York Islanders: FOCO set to Release Limited Edition Mat Barzal Bobblehead

new york islanders, matt barzal

The New York Islanders have become one of the top teams in the NHL recently. Some say this is due to their Head Coach Barry Trotz. Others say it’s because of the moves that General Manager Lou Lamoriello has made to acquire fresh talent. But, coaches and managers can only do so much, the players are the ones that determine the outcome of a team’s season. One player on the Islanders has stood out as the team’s best and a top player in the league as a whole. This player is Coquitlam’s own, Mat Barzal. Barzal has taken the league by storm since his debut in 2017. FOCO, the leading manufacturer of sports and entertainment merchandise, has seen Barzal’s dominance and have honored his play with a new bobblehead.

Reviews

This bobblehead of Mat Barzal is spot on. The attention to detail, whether it be his rocking flow or the classic Islanders logo, FOCO did a terrific job when creating this bobblehead. I, myself, bought some of FOCO’s New York Knicks bobbleheads earlier this year, and it’s 100% worth the $50. I added a new Julius Randle to my impressive collection of Anders Lee and AHL Matt Martin bobbleheads. Mat Barzal’s gifts on the ice are god-given, and the same goes for FOCO’s designers’.

Price and Availability

This bobblehead is a limited edition item, and when I say limited, I mean limited. There are only 144 of these bobbleheads created, and they will sell fast. At the small price of just $50, you can be one of the only people in the world to own this beautiful bobblehead. Again, these bobbleheads will sell fast, so be ready to pounce on them. The bobblehead will be going live for sale on 4/21/2021 at 11:00 AM EST on FOCO’s official website. If you’re not on https://www.foco.com at 11 AM EST on 4/21/2021, you can kiss your dreams of having a limited edition Mat Barzal bobblehead goodbye.

New York Islanders: What will the lines look like after the Palmieri trade?

The New York Islanders have successfully completed two huge trades for top 6 forwards in the past two years. Last year, General Manager Lou Lamoriello traded away a bundle of picks for JG Pageau. That trade was regarded as one of the best trades of last year and possibly recent Islander history. Lamoriello might’ve struck gold two years in a row as he completed another trade with the New Jersey Devils last night.

The Islanders acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for this year’s first-rounder, Mason Jobst, AJ Greer, and a conditional fourth-round pick. The Islanders added 2 impact forwards who will be plugged into the lineup and play as soon as possible. Where will the new additions play, though?

Kyle Palmieri

Kyle Palmieri should be playing on Mat Barzal’s left-wing as he replaces fringe bottom 6 forward Leo Komarov. This move will undoubtedly improve Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle’s assist and goal numbers. Palmieri brings the same physicality that Anders Lee always brought to the table. But, Palmieri also has an elite shot that Anders Lee does not possess. The only problem with Palmieri being on the first line is the fact that the Islanders would be brandishing three right-handed forwards on one line. It’s not a huge problem, as the second line powerplay features all left-handers, but it’s something to look out for. Palmieri brings a clutch factor that hasn’t been seen on the Island in forever and a nice power-play presence.

Travis Zajac

Travis Zajac was an interesting last-minute addition to the Kyle Palmieri trade. I believe the only reason the Devils added him to the trade was the fact that they didn’t want to resign him. Or, they felt that they couldn’t get a first-round pick for just Palmieri. Whatever the reason may be, the Islanders walk away with another good center. Zajac should not be playing center for the Islanders, though, as the Isles already have 4 good/great centers. Zajac will have to move to wing for the first time in his long, storied career. I believe he will fit in nicely on JG Pageau’s left-wing, as Oliver Wahlstrom stays at right-wing. Zajac brings experience, an excellent faceoff percentage, and an ability to play on the power play/kill.

Why the New York Islanders should stay far away from Taylor Hall

islanders, taylor hall

The New York Islanders are in the trade market after their captain Anders Lee was placed on LTIR with a torn ACL. The Islanders were gifted back Anders Lee’s cap hit for this year, which is about $7 million. The Islanders need a top 6 forward to help out Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. There are several targets, and most of them are appealing. Guys like Conor Garland, Phil Kessel, Kyle Palmieri, Dustin Brown, Viktor Arvidsson, and many more. One of these targets, Taylor Hall, is a guy the Islanders need to stay far away from.

The Reasoning

Taylor Hall has been quite rough in his last 2 years as a player and is playing his worst Hockey right now. Currently, this kid has 2 goals, and he played alongside Jack Eichel. I know Eichel wasn’t playing his best Hockey either, but I think his stats would be inflated if Hall actually scored more than once a blue moon. All the fans keep saying is that the Isles need a goal scorer, but when it comes to Hall, there’s an exception. Hall has only one more goal than Michael Dal Colle. Taylor Hall has been on 3 teams, now 4 teams in the last 3 years. That says quite a lot about a player. And it’s gonna take value to actually get hall: Kieffer bellows, a second, and another good player. Hall would only be a half-year rental too, and it’s not worth it.

Other Options

Conor Garland is a perfect top 6 forward for the Islanders for many reasons. Garland is currently rocking 10 goals and 18 assists in 37 games for the Arizona Coyotes. He’s putting up good numbers while having Nick Schmaltz and Michael Bunting on his line. The only problem is that he will be an RFA this offseason and will look for well-deserved big money. I also believe Kyle Palmieri is the best and most realistic trade for the Islanders. Palmieri is already sitting games ahead of the trade deadline, as he currently has 17 points in 34 games. Alongside some struggling young forwards, Palmieri is due for a change of scenery. It’ll be a relatively cheap trade to get him.

New York Islanders: Analyzing the Seattle expansion draft

New York Islanders, Anders Lee

The New York Islanders have a big decision to make when the Seattle Kraken joins the league. The rules must be followed as such. Each team has the choice to either protect 7 forward, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie. Or, they can protect 8 total skaters and 1 goalie. It makes sense for the Islanders to follow the first option, as they have more talented skaters up and down the roster. The Islanders also have an exempt list full of young players who they don’t have to protect because they can’t be chosen. This list contains players like Oliver Wahlstrom, Ilya Sorokin, Noah Dobson, Anatoly Golyshev, Bode Wilde, and Samuel Bolduc. There are obviously more players on that list, but those are the key ones. Who will the Islanders protect?

Forwards

The Islanders can only protect 7 forward, and most of their choices are pretty obvious. Anders Lee, Mat Barzal, JG Pageau, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, and Anthony Beauvillier. This leaves one spot left with a bunch of forwards vying for that spot. I don’t believe the Kraken would take Casey Cizikas just because his contract is expiring this year. This leaves Josh Bailey, Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, Leo Komarov, Michael Dal Colle, and Kieffer Bellows left. The Kraken aren’t going to take Clutterbuck, Martin, Komarov, or Dal Colle. If you’re looking at the most valuable, it’s a decision between Bellows and Bailey. Honestly, I’d leave Bailey unprotected; he hasn’t really ever met that potential that he had when he was drafted. It’s possible he doesn’t get picked because of his large contract.

Defensemen

This decision is pretty easy due to the fact that Noah Dobson doesn’t have to be protected. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech are going to be protected, not that shocked anyone. Scott Mayfield, Nick Leddy, Andy Greene, Thomas Hickey, Parker Wotherspoon, and Sebastian Aho are left. Based on age and value, Andy Greene and Thomas Hickey are not getting picked at all. Parker Wotherspoon and Sebastian Aho are unproven, so they’re out of the question. Nick Leddy 100% gets protected over Scott Mayfield based on production.

Goalies

It’s not even a question of who the Islanders are going to protect. It’s between their franchise goalie Semyon Varlamov and their third-string goalie Cory Schneider. At the end of the day, Cory Schneider is not getting protected, but he most likely won’t get picked.