Today’s review is provided by Scottsdale Ranger, who attended the game in person. Great job! As a reminder, I’ll be out of commission through the weekend and I’ve handed the keys to E3 to cover for me. God help us all. Clearly, this is a HAV.
First off, let me give you a little background about myself when it comes to hockey and our beloved New York Hockey Rangers. I am a 37-year-old, 3rd generation Rangers fan as my grandfather, a native of Goteborg, Sweden, was the original Rangers fan in the family that lived and died (mostly died) with this organEYEzation. He took my grandmother on their first few dates to Rangers games back in the late- 1940s. when she politely told him that she would like to go somewhere else on their next date, he showed up for their next date with 1 ticket to the Rangers game that night, and another ticket for a Broadway show that night…true story. When they got engaged my grandfather made sure that their wedding was going to be on the day of the Rangers home opener against the Montreal Canadians on Sunday, October 29th, 1950. They had the wedding in the afternoon and went directly to the old MSG that evening…another true story. That game ended in a 2-2 tie btw. My grandfather would later go on to take my dad (Scottsdale Dad) to many Rangers games at the old Garden and the current Garden when it opened in ’68. My first Ranger game was on January 15th, 1989 vs Mario Lemieux and the Fat Birds. The Rangers were down 3 goals twice that game before storming back with 5 straight to win 6-4. It was a Sunday matinee affair, but despite that I remember the crowd at the Garden being really impressive to this 10-year-old. I think Ogrodnick and my favorite Ranger at the time, Tomas Sandstrom, both tallied for the Blueshirts. Ah the memories.
As for this game, since I was there I will give you some observations about the actual game plus some observations about the crowd/atmosphere/general in-game experience.
1. I went with my dad, my sister who actually grew up a Tire Fires fan but now roots for the good guys, and my father-in-law who isn’t a huge hockey fan like we are. When we first got there it took me about 10-12 Rangers jerseys before I saw one stinking AZ Puppy Dog jersey. That’s not an uncommon thing however, because I figure there are about 6,000, maybe 7,000 die-hard Puppy-Dog fans in the whole world. That might be a generous estimation, too.
2. While we’re on the subject of the AZ hockey club, I am really not sure how Dave Tippett still has a head coaching job with that team. He clearly screwed Don Maloney out of the organization, that’s for sure. He probably did him a favor though.
3. Watching the Rangers warm up I noticed a couple of things. First, the Rangers’ siblings were watching warmups from the bench. Pretty cool. The 2nd thing that jumped out at me were Mike Smith’s enawwwwmous black pads. I knew he’s a tall dude but I’m not totally sure that those things are legal.
4. So the game starts and just 26 seconds in the Rangers go on the PP. Faceoff win-shot-crossbar. So close. Then after some fancy-boy passing Puempel (I believe his bonehead nickname is “Pimple”) [Editor’s note: I’m partial to Puempelnickel] notches his first tally of three on the night (all on the PP) with just 2 seconds remaining on the PP. Good start.
5. Then at about the 6-minute mark, the Rangers get another PP. Watching from section 222, Row E, I thought Zuuuuuuuuuuc was a little too fancy on this PP… passed a couple times when he should have shot. Then, similar to the first PP, this time with 3 seconds remaining, Nick “Bobby Orr” Holden scores his 7th of the campaign to give the good guys an early 2-0 lead.
6. A couple of minutes later the Pups turn it over and Hayes breaks in one-on-one on Mike ‘’definitely not Billy’’ Smith (the left post would later disagree) and is not able to give the Rangers the dreaded 3 goal lead as Smith makes the nice save with his ginormous black pads.
7. With about 5 minutes to go Christian Dvorak (nephew of my coworker) skates in and if Brady Skjei seemingly screening Uncle Auntie is not enough, Skjei also deflects in the puck for the Puppies first goal. I was very happy for my coworker, Kathy, but felt the opposite about Mr. Skjei. Cmon kid, learn how to block shots! I thought the 5/76 pairing was horrendous btw…and I don’t think even Girardi apologists will disagree. More on that later…
8. The Rangers successfully kill another Oscar Lindberg penalty at the end of the 1st and they take a 2-1 lead into the second. I felt the lead could have been much more though.
9. A little more than a minute into the second period we see Chris (3rd year in a row scoring in the Desert) Kreider deflect a shot from Nick Holden. Beauty. 3-1 and another good start to a period.
10. A few minutes later the Rangers have a horrendous 3 hour shift in their own zone where Fast can’t clear the zone at least twice with easy opportunities. I thought the Swedes had a tough night…even Shampoo Boy had a rough night on the bench.
11. Holden, who had another great night in my opinion and not just because he scored again and added another helper, saved an AZ goal on a 4-on-4 about midway through the period. He’s been a great pickup by our GM and he hasn’t been the only one.
12. And then we have the predictable former Ranger scoring against the Rangers goal when Anthony Duclair makes the 5/76 pairing look silly (and that’s being kind) and makes it a one-goal game again. I’m surprised Josh Jooris didn’t score too in this game. Ugh.
13. The 3rd period begins with the Rangers clinging to a 3-2 lead and predictably start playing typical AV inspired prevent-hockey. Raanta is forced to make a GREAT save about a minute in. I actually had Raanta as my 3rd star tonight. I thought he was solid again despite giving up 3 goals which were mostly not his fault.
14. If you saw my notes from the game you’d notice that I took a lot less notes in the 3rd period. This was due to being a die-hard fan and being very nervous about only having a one-goal lead against a garbage team/organEYEzation.
15. Sure enough the captain “holds” I believe it was Duclair and the Rangers have to kill off what is a horrendous penalty call against them. I mean what was the captain supposed to do there? I thought he played it perfectly. Disgraceful call in my opinion. [Editor’s note: that same ref made an equally bad makeup call that led to the winner] It reminded me of some “holding” calls the NY Football Giants get called against them that are phantom. Whatever.
16. On that PK AZ ties it when Girardi loses Tobias Rieder not once, but twice before Rieder scored. Girardi almost made matters worse when he went after Rieder right after the goal causing a scrum behind the net. He’s lucky he didn’t get escorted to the box for that. I’m not sure how anyone defends this guy anymore. It’s not a personal thing because he seems like a great guy and I’m sure he’s a good teammate and very good with the media personnel as well. He was a warrior for many years for this team and was also one of the best defensemen in the league in my opinion. But let’s face it… he’s been atrocious starting with the 2014 SC Finals. At best he’s a #5/6 D right now. He’s slow, handles the puck like it’s a grenade, out of position a lot, and makes bad decisions and simply gets beat A LOT. Yeah, this season has been slightly better than last season for him. But, that’s not really saying much at all, is it?
17. Btw, the in-game production at Gila River Arena or whatever they call it now is so bush league and amateurish. But of course the amateurish Puppy Dog fans love it. I wonder what percentage of those fans there actually are aware that AZ is one of the worst teams in the league and is in last place in their division. I’ll say 50% at best.
18. So long story short, the Rangers go on another PP and the captain sends one on net and Puempel deflects in his 2nd of the night giving them a 4-3 lead with 5:20 to play. Nice. Not only am I happy that the Rangers retook the lead, but they play “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who in the arena. Double awesome! Too bad for AZ that they were “fooled again”…twice.
19. Miller adds an EN goal with about 26 seconds left and although I didn’t see it due to celebrating with my sister and dad, Ekman-Larson I guess shoots a puck at a ref or linesman and gets an unsportsmanlike penalty. (Can’t he be suspended for that or at least fined heavily?)
20. Literally 10 seconds later Matt Puempel finishes off a beautiful play to complete his first career hat-trick and the place goes wild. Plenty of hats and even those goofy 20 year Coyotes anniversary tee shirts (btw-they’ve won a grand total of 2 playoff series in that time…twice as many as the Tire Fires though) litter the ice. Mike Smith would also take his frustrations of losing the final of his fantasy football league on the left post. [Editor’s note: I know how he feels] Great, great finish. Good for Puempel, too.
21. When my 22-month old daughter and I were on our way out of Starbucks earlier in the morning in the Kierland Commons in Scottsdale we ran into Dave Maloney. I said, “Let’s Go Rangers!” He laughed and said, “Happy New Year!” before saying hello to my daughter. She was too busy munching on a piece of cheese Danish to acknowledge him. He then said, “Enjoy the game.” Nothing special but a pretty cool moment nonetheless for me.
22. Let’s Go Rangers!
My 3 Stars:
1. Matt Puempel
2. Nick Holden
3. Annti Raanta
HM: Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist’s sister