Eight is Great Too

Eight is Great Too

Photo Credit: bluelinestation.com

Rangers fans thought they were dreaming when they watched their beloved Blueshirts score nine on the rival Philadelphia Flyers. It in fact was not a dream and instead a prelude. Eight days after their first rampage against the Flyers, the Rangers followed with an eight-goal sequel.

After their nine-goal Broadway show at the Garden, the Rangers took their act down to the City of Brotherly Love. And they certainly did not show any of that love to the Flyers. Instead of potting seven goals in 18 minutes, the Rangers blitzed the Flyers twice. Once in the first, and once in the second period.

Carter Hart was able to hold the Rangers’ offense in check until Artemi Panarin threaded the needle to Ryan Strome to give New York a 1-0 lead. Panarin’s pass was so pinpoint, that I probably could have scored Strome’s goal.

The blitz continued 52 seconds later as Pavel Buchnevich found the net against Philadelphia again. The 2013 third-round pick has turned out to be quite a steal for the Rangers, with Buchnevich racking up 31 points in 33 games this season. Coach David Quinn has rewarded the right winger for his strong play, as Buchnevich’s average time on ice has increased from 16:56 last season to 19 minutes this season. I have said it before and will say it again. Buchnevich is a restricted free agent at season’s end and it would be wise of the Rangers to bring Buchnevich back to the Big Apple for years to come.

Anyways, it seemed the Rangers were in for another night of scoring endlessly on the Flyers. After Justin Braun tripped Kaapo Kakko, the Rangers were given a second straight power play. After coming up empty on the first, Mika Zibanejad made sure the Rangers would not fail on the back-to-back power play opportunity.

In the span of 5:35, the Rangers had put up three on the Flyers. And it would not be the last time New York pulled that act on the night.

As the game moved into the middle frame, it felt a lot like St. Patrick’s Day again for the Rangers. The Blueshirts, led by Zibanejad, began a barrage on the Flyers. Again.

Zibanejad racked up back-to-back power play goals to complete back-to-back hat tricks versus the Flyers. To boot, Adam Fox picked up his third and fourth assists of the night only 2:06 into period number two. The madness did not stop there as K’Andre Miller got in on the fun with a seeing eye shot from the point that found its way through. Three goals in 1:48 extended the Rangers led to 6-0. This has the feelings of a football drive. Three plays for 53 yards in 1:48 resulting in a field goal to go up 6-0. I am no rocket scientist, but I cannot imagine the 2,854 fans in Wells Fargo Center were too pleased. Well maybe not 2,854. Let’s assume some Rangers fans braved their way down the New Jersey Turnpike on a Thursday night. Boy, did they get their money’s worth.

The one rough spot of the Rangers’ night came throughout the final 17 minutes of the second period. The Flyers despite a six-goal deficit picked up their play with goals from Claude Giroux and former Ranger Kevin Hayes. Things could have gotten a lot more interesting had Igor Shesterkin not made 24 saves on 26 shots through two periods.

Photo Credit: foreverblueshirts.com

Taking a 6-2 lead into the third period, the Rangers kept their foot on the gas. Zibanejad again assisted Buchnevich on another goal, this one of the short-handed variety to go up 7-2. The goal completed another six-point, three-goal, and three-assist game for Zibanejad against the Flyers.

It is no secret that Zibanejad struggled for the first half of the season with only 11 points in 27 games. In the two-game 17-goal rampage versus the Flyers, Zibanejad compiled 12 points on six goals and six assists.

Filip Chytil put a bow on this one for the Rangers with 1:58 remaining to give the Rangers the great number of eight. The 8-3 victory propelled the Rangers 15-13-4 on the season, but let’s not forget about Shesterkin’s efforts in his first game back from injury. The Flyers outshot the Rangers 44-22 on the night, giving Shesterkin 41 saves on the night.

As fate would have it, the Rangers have dropped two in a row since their eight-goal parade. The Flyers responded on Saturday with a 2-1 win as the Rangers ran out of pixie dust vs. Philadelphia. Sunday saw Coach Quinn’s return to the bench in a 5-4 loss to Washington.

As painful as Saturday’s and Sunday’s losses were for the fringe playoff team, the Rangers will always have the memories of 17 goals in two games against the Broad Street Bullies. Yes Rangers fans, feel free to crack a smile.

Rangers Rack up Two Wins in One

Rangers Rack up Two Wins in One

Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

It has been multiple days, but it still has not fully processed through my mind that the New York Rangers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by netting nine goals against the Philadelphia Flyers. Safe to say the Rangers’ St. Patrick’s Day gold was successfully potted. The Flyers of course are a playoff contender that the Rangers ran off the ice in a 9-0 win. A win which got the Blueshirts back to NHL .500 at 12-12-4. Nine-goal outbursts are fun, and it is great to put two points in the bank, but the Rangers’ drubbing of the Flyers saw slumps go by the wayside. In a 56-game sprint of a season, the individual performances were the biggest victory for the Rangers. The team and certain players needed to get going, and they certainly did just that.

Mika Zibanejad, who had been in a season-long slump with 11 points in 27 games, must have been feeling the luck of the Irish on this night. Before Zibanejad, the main event, Adam Fox came off the COVID list with a savvy pass to set up Brendan Lemieux to put the Rangers on the board first.

Quite a way to announce your return from COVID protocol.

To close out the opening acts, Artemi Panarin did what Artemi Panarin does: shoot rockets.

The Rangers should have signed Bruce Buffer to a one-day contract because as mentioned, Zibanejad was the main event. And he announced himself as just that with his second period performance. Zibanejad recorded two hat tricks in the middle frame. One being an assist hat trick, and the other being an actual hat trick as Zibanejad deposited three pucks in the net.

The Rangers’ star center was organized in his efforts as well, notching all three helpers to start the period, and all three goals to end the period. With his three assists in the span of five minutes and 52 seconds, Zibanejad almost equaled his season total of four. He obviously got tired of assisting, so Zibanejad started scoring. In the span of 10 minutes and 10 seconds, Zibanejad equaled his season total of goals of three with his natural hat trick. It was the perfect hat trick for Zibanejad with one short-handed goal, one power play goal, and one even strength goal.

To recap Zibanejad’s rampage of a game, or should I say second period, number 93 recorded three apples and that natural hat trick to give him six, yes six, points in the period. The six-point performance by Zibanejad gave him more than half his previous season total.

Going into the second period, Zibanejad had four goals and seven assists. It took Zibanejad only 16 minutes and 59 seconds to turn four goals into seven and seven assists into 10. That is a jump from 11 points to 17 in just under 17 minutes. In a surprising nine-goal onslot, Zibanejad dropped Rangers fans’ jaws the farthest.

Not to be forgotten is Alexandar Georgiev, who came out of a slump of his own with a 26-save shutout. In his two appearances prior, Georgiev allowed seven goals on 20 shots, which comes to a .650 save percentage. With Igor Shesterkin injured, Georgiev put his struggles behind him and proved to be a blockade between the pipes. Even with the offensive outburst, Georgiev still cracked the highlight reel with this extraordinary save on Nolan Patrick to preserve his shutout.

As Zibanejad and Georgiev got back on track, Pavel Buchnevich maintained his solid play as chipped in two goals and two assists. Buchnevich, who is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, has been scoring like he is in a contract year with 29 points in 30 games. It would be smart of the Rangers to give Buchnevich a nice chunk of change and keep him as a piece to the puzzle of the young and rising Rangers team.

Along with Zibanejad, Buchnevich was the other ringleader of the Rangers seven-goal barrage in the second period. The two combined for five goals and five assists. Buchnevich has shown he can and could continue to be a solid line mate for younger and developing players like Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière.

It was Lafrenière who assisted on the final goal of the night as Filip Chytil scored the ninth and final tally of the night for the Boys in Blue. 9-0 is beautiful in the box score, but when Rangers fans see how 9-0 came to be, they will smile a little wider. Especially now after seeing the Rangers’ last two games, which has seen Buchnevich and Zibanejad continue their strong play. The two have picked up a combined six points en route to two wins including a game-winning goal from Zibanejad in Washington on Saturday.

But last Wednesday’s explosion on Philadelphia was the upstart the Rangers needed. It was a complete team effort from the top to bottom of the roster. An effort that will be remembered as one of two parades in New York City that day. First came the St. Patrick’s Day parade…and then came the Rangers’ nine-goal parade on the Flyers.

Photo Credit: bluelinestation.com
Hakeem Nicks’ Giantly Underrated Career

Hakeem Nicks’ Giantly Underrated Career

Photo Credit: Bleacher Report
Founded in 1925, the New York Giants are a storied franchise with greats spanning time from Frank Gifford and Y.A. to Michael Strahan and Eli Manning. With eight total NFL championships under their belts, the Giants clearly have had multiple deep teams. On those championship teams, several players have flown under the radar while helping Big Blue to a title. The Giants’ last championship came with a Super Bowl XLVI win over the New England Patriots. A playoff run that could not have been completed with the astute receiving abilities of Hakeem Nicks.

Drafted by the Giants 29th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, Nicks was thrown right into the fire of New York’s young receiving corps. Alongside Kevin Boss, Mario Manningham, and 1,200-yard receiver Steve Smith, the 21-year old rookie chipped in 790 yards of his own along with six touchdowns. Averaging 16.8 yards per reception on 47 catches, Nicks was a key part of the Giants’ eighth-ranked offense which averaged 25.1 points per game.

While the offense was sailing along, the defense had its struggles in 2009. Struggles that ultimately kept Nicks and the 8-8 Giants out of the playoffs. Big Blue’s offensive prowess was overshadowed by their defense, which was ranked third worst in the NFL.

Heading into 2010, Nicks entered his sophomore season looking to expand his role in the offense, and he certainly did. The 22-year old was Eli Manning’s right-hand man with 79 receptions. Nicks also led the Giants in receiving yards with 1,052 and in touchdowns with 11, a career high. Let’s go a step further and put these numbers into context.

Manning threw for 4,002 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2010, which means Nicks was responsible for more than a quarter of the Giants’ receiving yardage and more than a third of their receiving touchdowns that season. Nicks’ numbers were not close to being matched by other Giants receivers. Boss was second in receiving yards and touchdowns with 531 yards and five touchdowns. In only year number two, Nicks had become the go-to guy.

Photo Credit: GiantsWire
Manning’s top target also ranked amongst the NFL’s best in 2010. Nicks’ 11 touchdowns were tied for fourth in the league, putting him right behind Calvin Johnson and Greg Jennings who caught 12 touchdowns. Dwyane Bowe led the league with 15 touchdowns receptions.

Nicks’ superstar season also got him ranked in the top 15 in targets, receptions, and yards. Despite being a top pass-catcher in 2010, Nicks fell short in the vote count and missed out on a trip to Miami for the 2010 Pro Bowl.

A possible reason for Nicks missing out on a Pro Bowl selection? The Giants collapsed in 2010 and missed the playoffs despite a 10-6 record. New York had the NFC East title in front of them, but a certain Week 15 meltdown at the Meadowlands against the Eagles sent the Giants’ season spiraling downward.

As it turned out, blowing a 31-10 lead to the Eagles with 8:17 remaining was just the chip the Giants needed on their shoulder for the 2011 season. Coach Tom Coughlin preached the importance of finishing all season long and Nicks held up his end of the bargain.

The third-year receiver put up a career high in receiving yards with 1,192, which was second on the team to Victor Cruz’s 1,536. Cruz also became the Giants’ leading touchdown receiver with nine, but Nicks was right behind him with seven. Cruz and Nicks proved to be the dynamic one-two receiver punch Manning needed. Manning had a career year throwing for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns with a 61% completion percentage. Of Manning’s 359 completions, Nicks hauled in 76 of them.

As the 2011 season wound down, the Giants again found themselves in the thick of the NFC East race. The season’s final regular season game featured the 8-7 Dallas Cowboys and the 8-7 Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday Night Football with everything on the line. The winner would claim the NFC East crown, and the loser would head home.

New York jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead thanks to a 74-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Cruz and a rushing and a receiving touchdown from Ahmad Bradshaw. The Cowboys cut the Giants’ lead to 21-14 with two Laurent Robinson touchdown receptions from Tony Romo in the second half. After the Giants tacked on a field goal to go up two scores, it was Nicks who put the icing on the Giants’ NFC East title cake.

Photo Credit: UPI.com
The Giants defeated Dallas by that same 31-14 score to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. This was of course when New York ran the table on the road and beat the 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. With a receiving corps headed by Nicks and Cruz, the 9-7 Giants looked to go on a magical playoff run again.

This time around as a division winner, the Giants got a home game in Wild Card Weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. Nicks and the Giants had the Falcons flying back down south for the winter.

The Giants cruised past the Falcons 24-2 and got themselves a date with the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau Field. Green Bay beat the Giants 38-35 in Week 13 at MetLife Stadium to keep their perfect season intact at the time. Some thought the Giants would need a Hail Mary to take down the Packers. As a matter of fact, the Giants had their Hail Mary prayers answered and then some by who else? Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks’ seven catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns led the Giants’ 37-point barrage on the Packers as the Big Blue defense held the NFL’s number one offense to 20 points. On to San Francisco.

The Giants were halfway home to their fourth Lombardi Trophy. The San Francisco 49ers, another team the Giants fell to in the regular season, were the only thing standing in New York’s way of a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots.

In what was a trench warfare type of game in the mud and rain at Candlestick Park, it was a defensive battle all night. Nicks was held to five catches for 55 yards, but the 49ers couldn’t bottle up both Nicks and Cruz. Cruz hauled in 10 passes for 142 yards, while Manning found Bear Pascoe and Mario Manningham for touchdown passes. Nonetheless, it was a 17-17 tie as the NFC Champion would be decided in overtime.

In sports, we often hear how you need the ball to bounce your way. That is exactly what the ball did for the Giants in the extra frame. Steve Weatherford’s punt bounced off returner Kyle Williams’ knee and the loose ball was recovered by Devin Thomas of the Giants in prime field goal range.

Lawrence Tynes trotted out in the soppy conditions and knocked the game-winning 31-yard field goal through the uprights to send the Giants to Indianapolis with a 20-17 win. It was Nicks’ first Super Bowl appearance.

Photo Credit: UPI.com
Football’s February finale saw Giants vs. Patriots II. The Giants were looking to become the first 9-7 team to lift the Lombardi Trophy with the 13-3 Patriots standing in their way. Big Blue already beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick up in Foxboro in Week 9 24-20 thanks to a last second touchdown catch from Jake Ballard. Twelve weeks later, the Giants were looking to come out on top again.

As had been the case all season, it was Cruz and Nicks getting it done for the Giants’ receiving game. After a safety and a Cruz touchdown catch gave New York an early 9-0 lead, New England responded with 17 straight points.

Trailing 17-9 in the third quarter, Manning leaned heavily on number 88. Nicks made key catches on back-to-back drives that both ended in Tynes field goals to cut the deficit to 17-15. Super Bowl XLVI headed to the fourth quarter with that same score, and it almost stayed that way until the Lombardi Trophy presentation.

After Wes Welker dropped a Brady pass that could have iced the game, Manning of course started the ensuing Giants drive with the sideline dime to Manningham. As the two-minute warning approached Manning who else, Nicks, for 14 yards down the middle to put the Giants in prime field goal range at the Patriots’ 18-yard line only trailing by two.

The Giants approached the endzone with still plenty of time for a potential response from Brady. As it turned out, it was a go-ahead field goal Tynes never kicked. After Nicks was forced out of bounds on a first down reception, Bradshaw sat down in the endzone with 57 seconds remaining to put the Giants in front 21-17.

Big Blue’s defense held off Brady and the Patriots to secure the Super Bowl. It was the Giants second Super Bowl win over the Patriots in four years. As someone who was not around four years earlier, Nicks reached football immortality for the first time, and finished as the game’s leading receiver with 10 catches for 109 yards. In the four-game playoff run, Nicks proved to be the Giants’ most valuable receiver. He hauled in 28 passes, a team high, for 444 yards and four touchdowns, both also team highs.

Photo Credit: xflnewshub.com
2011 would be the first and only time Nicks would climb to the top of football’s mountain. The 2012 and 2013 Giants missed the playoffs, but Nicks still racked up receiving yards. Although he only found the endzone three times over the next two seasons, Nicks compiled 1,588 yards on 109 receptions.

Nicks closed out his seven-year career with a stop in Indianapolis in 2014 where he bounced back with four receiving touchdowns.

Nicks would go on to be waived by the Titans before returning home to the Giants in 2015 for six games.

He did not have the longest of careers, but you cannot talk about the success of the early 2010s Giants without saying Hakeem Nicks’ name. A dynamic route runner who always racked up yards after the catch and converted third down after third down. So next time you go to MetLife Stadium, do not be surprised if you see multiple Giants fans donning a Nicks number 88 jersey.

Resilient Rangers Sweep Two in New Jersey

Resilient Rangers Sweep Two in New Jersey

Photo Credit: blueshirtbanter.com
Yes, Sunday night in Pittsburgh was a wash for the Rangers, but let’s not forget what they did to their cross-river rivals in the two games prior. Sitting at 10-10-3, the Rangers are still a young team on the rise. While it would be a big step forward for third-year coach David Quinn to make the playoffs for a second straight season, this is the time to look at the little things the young Rangers are improving on. And what we saw in Newark was their ability to respond.

In the two games against the Devils, the Rangers hit a rut in each game. On Thursday, the Devils controlled the opening frame by out shooting the Rangers 14-6 and dominating in the dot 14-7. New Jersey went into the locker room leading 1-0 thanks to Jack Hughes, but big saves from Igor Shesterkin kept the Rangers in it early.

Heading into period two, the Boys in Blue responded and picked up their goaltender. In a game that could have very easily gotten away from the Rangers, the offense, or should I say Chris Kreider, came to life.

Photo Credit: blueshirtbanter.com
With not one, but two second period goals from Kreider, the Rangers escaped into the second intermission leading 2-1 despite being out-shot 23-12 through two periods. The Devils led in every category except the one that mattered, the scoreboard.

After the response in the second, the Rangers came out in the third and did not give the Devils a turn to respond. Instead, the Rangers kept their foot on the gas. You may look at the score sheet and see a 6-1 final score, but I really meant what I said about the Devils dominating the game except for the scoreboard. New Jersey put up 36 shots on the Rangers who only managed 19, but the Blueshirts made them count. New York tacked on four third period goals from Kreider, who completed his second hat trick in five games, Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Smith, and Alexis Lafrenière.

The only downer on Thursday’s win was Shesterkin going down with what appeared to be a long-term injury. The hockey gods were on the Rangers’ side the next morning as an MRI revealed only a mild groin strain for the goalie. With a day off on Friday, how would the Rangers come out on Saturday for the rematch?

Sharp.

The Rangers picked up right where they left off Thursday with Adam Fox and Ryan Strome scoring two early goals to give Alexandar Georgiev an early cushion. Fox appeared as though he took the Transcontinental Railroad coast to coast to score on MacKenzie Blackwood.

But when would the moment of resilience for the Rangers come on this afternoon? Like Thursday, it came in the early part of the game. Leading 2-0, the Rangers gave it back to the Devils in the blink of an eye. Goals from P.K. Subban and Mikhail Maltsev 17 seconds apart knotted the score. But this time around, the Rangers did not wait until the middle frame to respond. Heck, they did not even wait for the Devils’ public address announcer to finish crediting Maltsev’s goal.

Former Devil Kevin Rooney put the Blueshirts back in front thanks to a sweet saucer pass from Filip Chytil, who the Rangers could not be happier to have back in the lineup.

Rooney’s goal sent the Rangers into the first intermission leading 3-2 as opposed to tied 2-2. Considering the Devils had tied the game in 17 seconds, the momentum would have been completely on New Jersey’s side going into the middle frame. Instead, the momentum belonged to the Rangers and they carried it through the rest of the afternoon.

Let’s stop for a second and think about the importance of not only the Rooney goal, but the mindset of the Rangers. There have been numerous games this season the Rangers have trailed or been tied going into an intermission. Games earlier in the year against the Bruins, Devils, Penguins, and Sabres turned into losses because the Rangers have not been a good team at winning games late. When heading into the third period tied or trailing, the Rangers are 2-9-1 on the season. Yes, Rooney’s late goal gave the Rangers the lead heading into period two instead of the third, but it was a lead New York would not relinquish.

Just as they did on Thursday, the Rangers added on to the lead once they had it. A second period goal from Libor Hajek and third period goals from Chytil and Strome salted the 6-3 win away for the Rangers. Back-to-back six-goal performances is just what the doctor ordered as the offense finally solved Blackwood after he had beaten the Rangers twice earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: NJ.com
The victory gave the Blueshirts a three-game winning streak, their longest of the season. No, they could not extend their streak to four against the Penguins, but the rising Rangers took another step up the mountain of team growth with the two wins in Newark.

The Boys in Blue will have another opportunity to show resilience as they face off against the Penguins again on Tuesday in search of their first win in Pittsburgh this season.

Rangers Fans Back on their Feet at the Garden

Rangers Fans Back on their Feet at the Garden

Let’s look past Sunday’s loss for a moment.  Friday night brought us more than just a regular season game in February at Madison Square Garden.  The Rangers welcomed fans back into The World’s Most Famous Arena for the first time since March 7, 2020.  With 1,800 fans in the stands, the Blueshirts put on a Broadway-worthy performance.

Facing off against the Stanley Cup contender Bruins, the Rangers seemed to not fear the team that had already swept them in a two-game series earlier in the month.  After stemming the tide in the early minutes, New York’s offense went to work.

Julien Gauthier fired a shot through traffic which was deflected in by Phil Di Giuseppe to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead.  It also gave fans a chance to do something they had not done in almost a year: cheer from the stands instead of their couch. 

But this is the Bruins we are talking about.  Odds are not in your favor that you will carry a 1-0 advantage all the way home.  Less than two minutes later, the Rangers appeared destined to go up a deuce thanks to highly touted rookie Alexis Lafrenière.  Cutting in on the backhand, Lafrenière tried to score on Tuukka Rask where grandma puts the cookies but just missed off the crossbar.

This was the most important part of the game for the first overall pick.  The 19-year old could have gotten in his own head and been invisible the rest of the night.  Instead, he was quite the opposite.

As the game moved into period two, Lafrenière dished a precise pass through the entire Bruins’ defense over to Ryan Strome.  Strome went short side on Rask to put the Rangers up two as Lafrenière earned his first career apple.  I guess the rookie just wanted to wait until fans were back in the stands to get his first assist by saucing a perfect pass.

Unphased, the Bruins came right down the ice 90 seconds later as Patrice Bergeron cut the Rangers’ lead in half.  The young Rangers bent, but they did not break.  Boston’s seventh-ranked power play was poised to tie it with an opportunity thanks to a roughing call on Brendan Lemieux.  New York’s seventh-ranked penalty kill got the job done and winded the clock towards the second intermission with the lead still in hand.

With 78 seconds remaining in the middle period, the Rangers got a power play of their own after Nick Ritchie tripped Brendan Smith.  Before fans could process the power play chance, Adam Fox, who has been worth those two second-round picks, shot a rocket tipped in by Colin Blackwell.  At this moment, a sense of normalcy was felt.  Sam Rosen excitedly announcing, “It’s a power play goal!” with fans cheering in the background is the sweet sound Rangers fans had been longing to hear.  Pure jubilation.  

But wait there’s more.  Before fans could sit down, Chris Kreider, who should keep playing the piano, kept them standing 12 seconds later by firing a shot off Charlie McAvoy’s skate and in. The goal was Kreider’s fourth since his pregame piano show in Philadelphia on Wednesday, spanning five periods of hockey.

Taking a 4-1 lead into the final frame, the Rangers put the icing on the cake with tallies from Pavel Buchnevich and Jonny Brodzinski.  Rangers fans had waited 356 days to watch their beloved Blueshirts take the ice, and the Rangers did not disappoint toppling the Bruins 6-2.

For those wondering, 356 days before Friday’s contest, the Rangers lost to the Devils 6-4.  Not a last memory Rangers fans wanted before the pandemic.  The bright side?  The Rangers’ last win in front of the Garden Faithful came two days earlier when Mika Zibanejad potted five goals including the overtime winner in a 6-5 win over the Capitals.  358 days between games, but back-to-back victorious performances with a six-goal output for the Boys in Blue.

But best of all from Friday was no score or stat.  Friday night was about the fans.  And for the first time in almost a full calendar year, Rangers fans were on their feet at the Garden once again.