PREVIEW: This is the series! Bathgate made some amazing moves down the stretch to overtake Jagr for 2nd place in the division, and nearly toppled the Bandits for 1st place. To expect anything less than a great series here would be wrong.
GAME #1:




Game 1 became an instant classic!

1st Period – Guentzel (5) scores the only goal. Both sides with 9 shots a piece.

2nd Period – McCann (1) ties it 1-1 on the PP! Pavelski (9) gets it back, 2-1 Bandits! Then Strome (2) gets revenge on the Bandits trading his brother… tied again 2-2!

3rd Period – Vatrano (4) makes it 3-2!! Then Hertl (3) scores on the PP to tie it again 3-3!!

We go to OT…

1st OT Period… no score despite 24 total shots (BWB 14, BGR 10).

2nd OT Period… 1:59. “The Bread Man” Panarin didn’t loaf when he puts one past Vasilevskiy to help the Rangers steal Game 1 in Brentwood by a final of 4-3 in TWO OT periods!

GAME #2:




The Bandits in a must win already cause we don’t wanna go to Bathgate down 2-0…

1st Period… Bandits waste no time as Josi (1) scores on the PP. 1-0 Bandits! Then Spring has Sprung as Sprong springs on a puck and slides it past Nedeljkovic… 2-0 Bandits!! But Panarin (3) scores on the PP to cut the lead to 2-1!

2nd Period… Captain Bo Horvat (in potentially his last season with the Bandits cause of Free Agency) scores his 1st of the playoffs to make it 3-1! Pavelski (10) continues his torrid pace to make it 4-1!!

3rd Period… Zibanejad (3) makes it 4-2!!! Then Captain Bo Horvat (2) scores his 2nd of the playoffs and the game to make it 5-2… Bathgate would fire 14 shots on Vasi, and he would stop all but the Zibanejad goal to help the Bandits win Game 2… 5-2!!

 SUMMARY: Game 1’s loss was heartbreaking and frustrating… but the boys picked it up and won convincingly in Game 2!

Hoping return the favor and steal one in Bathgate!

 PREVIEW: Rangers return to Madison Oval Garden with a nice 1-1 split at Brentwood. The Bandits have been one of 4 teams to take the season series from the Rangers. They along with Jagr were 6-4 against the Rangers (the other two were California and, ahem, LA – both of those teams were 3-1 verses the Rangers). But the 6-4 series was a close one (except for an 8-0 game that the Rangers haven’t forgotten). But back on home ice, tied 1-1, the Rangers look to do some damage to the Bandits – and they will do it with Alexander Georgiev in goal. His season pleasant surprise, along with his playoff mastery against Charlotte will be called on again – can the surprise of the season keep it going? An OT win in Brentwood needs to be followed up here! However, no one can count out the Bandits and that late season add T.J. Oshie who singlehandedly seems to be redefining the Chris Niespodzianski team!
GAME #3:




Vasilevskiy in goal for Brentwood – he’s been in net for all the Bandits playoff games. 4-2 vs Jagr and 1-1 so far against the Rangers coming off a 28 save (93.8%) game in game 2 of the series which brought the Bandits back into things. Georgiev is 2-0 and this is his first game against the Bandits in the playoffs.

Period 1 starts off quickly as the Rangers seek to assert themselves and the Rangers take the first big opportunity when Donskoi tees up a one-timer 17 seconds into the game – Oh, but Vasilevskiy stops it! Then the Bandits move it the other way and Foegele slaps one that Georgiev stops and both goalies are tested early – and they both pass. Rangers then get their 2nd scoring chance in the opening minute when McCann fires one in low – but Kopitar dives and blocks it. Vasilevskiy is then called on several more times to make big saves in the opening minutes – oh the Rangers are on a mission. Finally the Bandits get a shot off – but it was weak, Georgiev makes the stop. 4 minutes into the game, Josi is leveled – but no call – Oshie then takes it in, over to Horvat to Vatrano – shoots – Georgiev denies it and hangs on. Afer Brentwood wins the faceoff Pavelski slaps one wide and the Rangers gain control. Provorov and Panarin work it up ice, finally to Provorov in the zone – shoots – wide, Panarin gains the puck, to Pionk, to Panarin, around behind the net, turns, the wraparound – GOAL! #4 for the Breadman and it’s 1-0 Bathgate. From here, it more up and down until 8 minutes left when Pionk clears the puck, but over the glass and gets 2 minutes for DOG! But – the Rangers kill it off. On we go – and then with just over 4 to go, Oleksiak gets nabbed for cross-checking. 2nd PP for the Bandits. This time they immediately gain control with Horvat winning the faceoff-to Oshie, to Reilly, he passes to Horvat – snap shot – GOAL! Tie game as Horvat gets the PP goal (3) and we are back to square one. And that’s how the period ends. Teams head to the locker room and you can cut the tension with a knife.

2nd Period – this was one of some great stops, blocks and shots – BUT NO GOALS, NO PENALTIES. Brentwood fired 10 on goal, Rangers landed 12 on Vasilevskiy, but he and Georgiev was brick walls. So on to the 3rd period.

3rd period opens with the Rangers making a charge after winning the faceoff. Provorov gets off a shot and Vasilevskiy makes a great save to keep it tied up. Bandits just clear the zone, but the Rangers get it back in. After a high shot by Provorov, Pavelski is working it along the board, but Pionk checks him, fresh skaters take over. Breadman takes it over the blue line, to Pastrnak, shoots, oh, Tavares with the nifty redirect and Vasilevskiy never had a chance. 2-1 Bathgate as Pastrnak gets his 2nd of the playoffs and 1 minute 8 seconds are gone in the period. You’d think the Rangers would clamp up, but while they did get more defensive, they still pressed the attack when possible – in fact, they get 10 shots on Vasilevskiy in the period. However, heading into the final two minutes of regulation it’s still 2-1 Rangers and now the Bandits are getting desperate. They finally get a steady amount of control inside a minute and a half and of course Vasilevskiy leave and Oshie comes on. Georgiev stops the 1st attempt. Brentwood controls the faceoff. The box is being moved around the box – finally it ends up with Guentzel behind the net, he goes for the wraparound – oh, it’s a softie, but it gets by the skate of Georgiev and we are tied with 51 seconds to go! Then with 27 seconds left, Chiarot and Ritchie get whistled for roughing.

Oh boy – things didn’t take long to change after the 2nd period locker room conversations. Brentwood took the opening faceoff into the Rangers end and Pavelski shots – Georgiev continues to makes saves – Rangers then get off a shot, which Vasilevskiy handles then Guentzel clears it out, both teams change up, Rangers work it in, Vasilevskiy stops it again and hangs on. 4 straight minutes of back and forth charges, shots, saves – no one wants to be the guy that let it get away. 4 minutes in, faceoff in the Brentwood end – Bellemare wins it, Ashton-Reese has it, he’s in trouble and loses control. Colton (rare start) gets control, he feeds it to Strome, who’s looking for a something, and he decised to snap one at the goal – oh, it beats Vasilevskiy glove side high!! And the Rangers win it 3-2 in OT – their 2nd OT win in this series
Panarin (1), Strome (2) and Tavares (3) get the game stars, but Vasilevskiy (32 saves) and Georgiev (35 saves) are the real big guns of this one. Rangers up 2-1!

GAME #4:




1st 2 games in Brentwood went 1-1 with the Rangers getting the 1st one in OT – here at Bathgate they also get the opener in OT. Can the Rangers change things up and get another win for a 3-1 lead, or will Brentwood come back again is big fashion to tie it up.

Rangers decide to stick with the Georgiev in goal for games 3-4 plan and Brentwood again puts Vasilevskiy between the pipes.

This game was different than the rest! The Rangers played some stifling defesne holding Brentwood to 23 SOG (Rangers only took 18 themselves). Scoring chances were minimal, 6 for Brentwood, 7 for Bathgate. No penalties for the Rangers!! No extra chances for Brentwood. Rangers were nil on their 2 chances (both Bandits penalties on Oshie!). But….

Period 1 – 12:26 Brentwood misses the net (Guentzel) with a rocket that comes to Sanheim. Rangers get it up ice. Buchnevich takes it from Stome, over the line, shoots – GOAL! His 1st of the playoffs and it’s 1st of the game and it’s 1-0 Rangers!! That was it for the 1st period.

Rangers do the tight D in the 2nd period, they only fire 4 shots on Vasilevskiy, but they keep Brentwood at bay as they can only get 7 shots off again. And again, Georgiev stops all 7. And the Rangers get another goal when Pionk works it to McCann who gets it to Tavares who winds up and fires and LIGHT THE LAMP, it’s 2-0 Rangers. For Tavares, goal #3. For Brentwood, they need to get some fire and dig out of the hole. But they don’t so it in the 2nd period. So on to the 3rd.

3 minutes in and Martinez shoots one that Georgiev just makes a great save to rob him of a goal. Oh and how the Rangers are just stopping shots or knocking players off the puck. It is like a wall out there as they cross the blue line. 8 minutes in and Sprong gets a slapper through, but again Georgiev to the rescue! Rangers can’t get to much going (they are being defensive) but everytime they try, Brentwood is breaking up plays or stealing pucks. Lots of center ice play – which the home team doesn’t mind. Inside 7 minutes Reilly gets off a slap shot – Georgiev stops it and holds on. Rangers work it out, but lose it again, Brodie gains control in the Rangers end – shoots – Save by Georgiev and holds on. Rangers win faceoff – icing. 5 minutes left now and Ashton-Reese fires a slap shot – Save by Georgiev. We get to 3:50 left and the TV Timeout. Brentwood is now really desperate. Rangers working it out, Pionk just does but Pavelski gets it. to open ice where Rielly picks it up and sends it to Guentzel – Pionk knocks him off the puck and suddenly the Rangers have a something in the works. Puck ends up in the Bandits end and Donskoi gains control after Brentwood gives it up and he’s behind the net, wraparound – GOAL! His 2nd and now the Rangers have a BIG 3-0 lead with 2:56 to go. And again the game is controlled by Bathgate as they keep Brentwood from mounting charges. 1:34 and Vasilevskiy can’t leave the ice. Brentwood manages only 2 shots, and no scoring chances as the games draws to a close and Georgiev and the Rangers pull the wool out from under the Bandits and throw a 3-0 shutout to go up 3-1 in the series!!

Needless to say, Georgiev earns star #1 and Buchnevich gets #2 and Donskoi #3.

 SUMMARY: Whoa – up 3-1 heading back to Brentwood! Will the Rangers continue with Georgiev – No, Nedeljkovic will get the game 5 start. Not changing the pattern. Will Brentwood wake up and assert themselves? Can Oshie right the ship?
 PREVIEW: After two losses in Bathgate, the Bandits are on the ropes… backs against the wall… one foot off the ledge… however you wanna phrase it, we need to… Just… Win…
GAME #5:




Signs are printed up and handed out at the gates that say “Just Win…”

They are all over the arena. It’s a “White Out”.

Players are stone faced and ready.

It all starts… now.

1st Period
Bathgate leads in SOG 10-8, but Guentzel (7) gets the lone goal past Nedeljivichsjkhagsbaj! Bandits lead 1-0!! The arena is deafening!

2nd Period
2:06 – Kopitar (3) makes it 2-0!! And the arena gets even LOUDER!!

5:32 – Former Bandits Captain, Tavares (4) silences the crowd a bit to cut the Bandits lead to 2-1. He is ceremoniously booed and hissed at… a once hero has become an enemy. “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

3rd Period
Can Vasilevskiy do what he has done all season and shut the door on the Rangers to allow the Bandits to live for another day and return to Bathgate to face and even tougher challenge?

An even period by all accounts. Bandits don’t fall into a defensive ball. They’ve seen this backfire before and are maintaining the offensive attack.

The clock hits 1:19 remaining… Bathgate pulls Nedeljichabsjkshdbserg. Pastrnak the extra attacker.

Tavares takes it through center ice as he is rained with boos… passes to Pastrnak. Over to Buchnevich, shoots… SAVE! Rebound back to Tavares, he tries a wraparound… SAVED!! Faceoff… TIMEOUT Bathgate.

Hertl wins the faceoff, Pionk has it. Back to Donskoi at the point. Wrister… DENIED! But Vasi can’t control it… Donskoi follows up and gets it back… he shoots… STICK SAVE!! Rebound controlled by Rielly and knocked away. Pastrnak grabs it, slapper… blocked by Doughty! Doughty gathers the puck, passes to Rielly… up the ice to “McLovin” Foegele, he shoots for the empty net… wide!!

Hertl gathers the puck… 57 seconds left. Line changes.

Donskoi (who apparently stays on) crosses the blue line into the Bandits zone. Passes to Pionk, over to Pastrnak, who finds Provorov… shoots a slapper! Didn’t make it through… Rielly with control, out of the zone.

13 seconds left Provorov gets it again, over to Pastrnak… he shoots, but Vasi saves it! Rebound in front… Pastrnak controls it, to Provorov for the wrister… blocked again by Rielly!

9 seconds left… Ritchie has it but is hit hard by Kopitar. Pavelski grabs the puck and skates backwards to hold on as time expires and the Bandits live to fight another day!!

Whew! I need a drink now!!

SUMMARY: Bandits show their mettle and stave off elimination to head back to Bathgate, where they face yet another elimination game where they have not faired very well this season, and that has continued in the playoffs after dropping Games 3 and 4 there.

It’s in the hands of the hockey gods!

COA file to follow, Bill!

PREVIEW: Not that we mind home games – we love them – but we would have been just as pleased to not need this one. But here we are – the Bandits, and there Just Win posters (poster board and magic markers AND SOME GLITTER) beat NEDELJKOVIC (again – and that’s the proper spelling for those Brentwood challenged bunch). They should talk, you ever try to report on Vasiline a million times during a game when he’s in goal?

So, the Bandits brought their posters to the Round Garden – and the Rangers have their secret weapon between the pipes – Alexander Georgiev – and they will try to end this series now. In fact, I think we are seeing a flurry of “END THIS NOW” banners, posters, Rangers shirts, and anything else that can handle 3 words. The fans are looking to end this and then meeting the LA!! LA, LA, LA – now there’s a chant!

It would help however, if we could control the faceoff circle. In the 2 losses, we didn’t (and in 1 of the wins we didn’t – but in the the other 2 wins it was 50/50 – so that’s a goal for game 6). The other – score more goals then they do (and keep their scoring to a minimum!!) So far we’ve had 3 1 goal games (margin of victory) (Bathgate won 2) and 2 3 goal games – each team winning 1. And 2 of the games went to OT – and the Rangers snuck out with wins in both of them. It’s been pretty much as even as a 3-2 series could be.

GAME #6:




FIRST PERIOD – no score and real tentative game. The Rangers Oleksiak was working hard to thwart the Bandits and gets sent off for holding 4:23 into the game. This gave the Bandits the first big break – but the Rangers pretty much nullified the advantage, 1 scoring chance – NO SOGs! Then with 5 minutes left in the period – he’s called for hooking. And again the Ranger PK team rises to the occasion as they block 3 shots and Georgiev only has to make 1 save! For the 1st, the Rangers get 8 SOGs and 2 scoring chances while the Bandits get 10 SOGs and 5 scoring chances.

Teams head to the 1st intermission – Rangers are called to keep it up, avoid any more penalties, be patient and tight defense. Bandits are told – SCORE, SCORE, SCORE! So what happens – Rangers open up the 1st minute with a scoring chance – but Vaseline saves it, but the pressure in the Brentwood end is pretty intense and Vatrano gets whistled for holding. And for the 1st time since game 2, the Rangers take advantage of the PP. After the Bandits clear the zone, Panarin gains control. He and Pastrnak playing it around in the Bandits end. Panarin a shot-kick save – it comes out to Hertl, shoots, GOAL!! PP goal for Hertl (his 4th) and a big 1-0 lead for Bathgate. Then the Bandits come alive – shot after shot, scoring chance after scoring chance and a PP. Carlo is called for “holding the stick” (not his own obvioulsy) midway through the period and Brentwood has a big opportunity to tie it up. Scoring chance one comes quickly and Oshio shoots high, but Provorov blocks and it’s cleared. Next rush, Doughty to Vatrano to Rielly to Oshie, shoots, deflected by Georgiev. As play continues, Pavelski shoots one that is blocked – finally after a line change, the Bandits get a good cycle going in the Rangers end and they set up Eller – shoots – save by Georgiev. Brentwood gets one more good chance as the penalty winds down, but Georgiev again makes the save – this time on an Oshie slap shot. 3 Bandits PPs now thwarted and it’s still 1-0 Rangers. Rangers then get another break late when Kopitar is nabbed for charging with 1:26 to go. But the Bandits keep them from scoring as the period ends (but the penalty will carry over to the 3rd period. Period ends 1-0 Rangers. 2nd period notes: SOGs – 12 for each team. Scoring Chances: 3 for Bathgate and 11 for Brentwood.

3rd period starts with Brentwood down a man – but nothing happens. Teams trade some shots – some good defense and with 3:20 gone, the Rangers are working the puck around the Brentwood end. Zibanejad has it – he stops and waits as Donskoi opens up – pass, shot, GOAL – Donskoi (3) and the Rangers take a big 2-0 lead. Brentwood now finds their backs severly pressed against the wall. 15 1/2 minutes away from elimination and they TURN IT UP!! 13 shots in the period, 13 scoring chances, the locals are nervous but Georgiev keeps stopping the shots and the defense is blocking shots left and right (26 blocked shots in the game led by Pionk (5) and Snaheim (6). But this is Brentwood and they aren’t going to roll over. So we get to the final 2 minutes, Rangers still holding a 2-0 lead. 1:50 and Vasilevskiy leaves the ice, Guentzel on as the extra skater.

Martinez has the puck and drives through traffic, shoots – he hits the post! Oshie grabs it, to Horvat, oh, a shot – Georgiev stops it, it’s loose in front. Back to Oshie – he shoots – SCORE!!! Oh man, with a whopping 1:45 left it’s now a 1 goal game! Oshie (3) from Horvat. Brentwood calls time. Will they even think of sending Vaseline back on the ice – NO!

OK – center ice faceoff. Hertl wins one (again the Faceoff circle is dominated by Brentwood, but Rangers get a big one. Donskoi with the puck, to Pionk to Hertl, the shot at the EN – Chiarot blocks it and the Bandits mount an attack into the Rangers zone. They are passing it around, looking for the shot – Sprong goes low – Ritchie blocks it. Back to center ice, Brentwood regroups (46 seconds left), into the zone, Pavelski shoots – Hertl blocks it – Pavelski gets it back to Kopitar – he shoots high and Donskoi gets the block. Kopitar shoots, saved and held onto by Georgiev. Faceoff in Bathgate end, Rangers Hertl lwins – oh they are working it out toward the empty net, they get the puck to Ritchie – shoots – Brodie blocks it for Brentwood, 36 seconds, back to the Bathgate end….

Pavelski shoots it – blocked by Donskoi
Bandits again gain control….

Kopitar shoots ….

Save – Georgiev and he dumps it behind to Pionk and now the Rangers past it and avoid the Bandits pressure, get it out and then play keep away as the clock reaches ZERO and the HORN SOUNDS, Rangers win 2-1 and take the amazing series 4-2. Another 1 goal game and stellar defense and goal keeping (on both sides).

The Stars determination was not to tough.
Hertl gets #3 for his goal (and gritty defense in the closing moments – winning faceoffs and blocking shots
#2 goes to Donskoi for his goal and 4 blocked shots – also a big key at the end!
And #1 STAR goes to Alexander Georgiev for his 34 saves performance (35 shots)! He also ended up as the winning goalie in 3 of the games (all the ones he started).

 SUMMARY: Rangers win the Eastern Conference championship in a very hard fought, spirited series with Brentwood. Seemed like the Rangers and Bandits were in deep competition down the stretch on which deals would push them to the championship. Rangers felt real good until the Bandits made the Oshie and Doughty acquisitions. Caused us to 1 more time to the well to add a bit of line 3/4 depth and defense. So far it’s worked! But can anyone contend with LA!

For this series – the hero turns out to be Alexander Georgiev. 3 starts, 3 wins, 3 goals given up including an OT win and a shutout! He had Brentwood’s number which is good because they had Nedeljkovic’s.

Congratulations to Chris Niespodzianski – he put together a team that felt impossible to catch. We couldn’t in the regular season. Year in, year out, they are one of the best!! And with his presence, and his brother and the up and coming Pittsburgh Miners the Metropolitan Division should have some very tough teams.