The Rangers take on the Flyers again tonight, and it’s ironic that the game will be on Valentine’s Day. There is no love lost between these two clubs, especially since the last matchup. Wayne Simmonds dropped Ryan McDonagh with a sucker punch after a late hit from the former led to a cross check from the latter. Tanner Glass has vowed revenge, so we should expect some rough stuff tonight.
That said, the best revenge is a win in regulation, putting the Flyers even further back in the playoff race. Right now they are five points back of a playoff spot, but have games in hand. A regulation loss tonight all but eliminates them from the race, as points are difficult to make up in today’s three-point game landscape. Personally, I’d rather see the Rangers deliver that nail than see a useless fight against Simmonds.
However, if the Rangers can get an exchange of Glass for Simmonds for a few fighting majors, I’m all for it.
Some news out of practice today from Rick Carpiniello, some of it good, some not good. Rick Nash, out for a few weeks with a bone bruise, has been downgraded from day-to-day to week-to-week. That’s obviously not good, as Nash is the Rangers’ best forward. They’ve been surviving on the recent hot streak for JT Miller, but Nash gives the Rangers a game changing presence in the lineup. Considering the downgrade, the most pessimistic are saying the Rangers will be without him for the rest of the season. Mark Teixeira had a similar issue this season, and it kept him out for months.
In better news, Ryan McDonagh skated in full gear, albeit in a non-contact jersey. He is symptom free, but will not play tomorrow.
The Rangers matchup against perennial contenders the LA Kings ended in heartbreak after the visiting team tied it late and came back to win it in overtime. The Kings opened the scoring early, with Anze Kopitar scoring the first of his three goals just 33 seconds into the game. The Rangers came back to tie it and eventually take the lead, but once again Kopitar had their number, sending his team to overtime and completing his hat trick late in the third with the goalie pulled.
While it’s hard to be entirely happy with the way the team played, struggling to generate sustained offense or connect on passes, it is worth noting that the Rangers were missing some key players, and they still managed to walk away with one point on the evening.
Kings 1 Rangers 0
The Rangers are on a roll at the moment, winning five in a row. They are showing tremendous resiliency, as they are doing this without their two best players, Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash. Others have stepped up, and the process has been much better. They had a slight blip on Wednesday, but Henrik Lundqvist stood tall when they needed him.
Los Angeles is the cream of the Pacific, but that division is a tire fire. All told, they are still a solid team though. The Isles beat them yesterday, so while the Kings are tired, they won’t want to post an oh-fer against the New York teams. LA is a deep team that gives the Rangers fits. If a depleted Penguins team was a barometer for the Rangers, this is a better one.
Happy Friday, BSB faithful. It’s about 5am and I am readying to leave for Canada to get back to my Canuck roots for a couple days, so I’m going to leave you with some brief thoughts before the Kings come to town this evening.
Let’s start the proceedings with a former King. I am very surprised the Rangers did not put a claim in on Christian Erhoff. I know what you are saying; “but Justin, there was a reason the Kings put him on waivers, why would the Rangers want anything to do with him?” Well, for one he would have added defensive depth and he only cost cap space. There have been several nagging injuries this season, and clearly the organization is only looking to call up Brady Skjei in the event of a long-term role. Could also have created some matchup leverage depending on opponent. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Despite rumors that the Rangers would put in a claim for waived Kings defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, he cleared waivers this afternoon. Ehrhoff is on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, and has a line of 2-9-11 in 40 games this season. As a cheap and effective defenseman for an injury riddled club, Ehrhoff seemed like a logical fit.
There are a few reasons why the Rangers may have passed on him, though. The first is that Jeff Gorton thinks the current top-six, without Ryan McDonagh, will be able to hold on long enough until McDonagh is healthy. The second is that McDonagh may be on a path to a faster recovery from his concussion. The third is that maybe they have something else lined up.
After all the talk yesterday that the Rangers would claim him, and the fact that many –including myself– thought he wouldn’t even make it to the Rangers on the waiver wire, this is very surprising.
The Rangers came into Pittsburgh without arguably their two best skaters, yet on a three game win streak. The Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin, but on a six game win streak. Something had to give for these two hot teams. The depleted blue line held the depleted offense in check, in the sense that Henrik Lundqvist was on fire all game, making big stops on every shot he saw.
The ice was tilted for the Penguins most of this game. The Rangers flatlined on quality chances in the second period, and couldn’t get it going in the third. It’s tough to say if they went into a shell though, because it was two periods of the Penguins peppering them with quality chances. Lundqvist stood tall, and always seems to bring his best against this team. Couple that with two timely goals, and you have a solid win against a hot team.
The Rangers have won three in a row and are without Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash. The Penguins are streaking with Mike Sullivan as their new head coach and are without Evgeni Malkin. But the story will be another Carl Hagelin return, this time in Pittsburgh Penguin black, sometimes skating with Sidney Crosby.
This is Hagelin’s second trip to MSG since his trade to Anaheim. He returned once with the Ducks before being sent to Pittsburgh. (This is an away game. Oops.) This time around, he’s with a division rival. Things are different.
Beyond Hagelin, the Rangers have been surging at even strength. They’ve played four straight solid games at 5v5, but special teams have been a bit slow. The penalty kill has been a bit better of late, in the sense they aren’t hemorrhaging goals left and right. On the bright side, with no Malkin, the Pens are pretty weak outside of their top six and Kris Letang. Teams that lack depth have issues with the Rangers, so that could play in their favor.
The Rangers’ defensive lapses and disappointing individual performances have been discussed again and again, but one surprising issue this season has been the frequency with which the team hits the ice with very little energy. We saw so few of those pure stinker games in recent years under first John Tortorella and then Alain Vigneault, but this impossible-to-measure quality has been missing this season with unacceptable regularity.
Part of the problem has been the exodus of key individuals that served as the main spark plugs for the Blueshirts. Former captain Ryan Callahan could always be counted on to give the team a lift by sacrificing his body, Carl Hagelin had the unique ability to fly on ice and wreak havoc in the opponent’s zone, and Martin St. Louis channeled his veteran status and personal experiences into juice for the club. The Rangers survived the departure of Callahan just fine, but losing the latter two last summer may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Read More→
Through the end of January, it seemed to be a sure bet that the Rangers were going to trade Keith Yandle. The club has Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal locked into long-term deals and have Brady Skjei –their 2012 1st round pick– knocking at the door. That’s a pretty crowded left side. Getting the most for Yandle, especially considering the cost, made the most sense.
Even before the season started, many wanted to keep Yandle and preferred to trade one of Staal or Dan Girardi. Yandle is one of the premier puck movers in the game, and both Staal and Girardi either were regressing prior to the season or have regressed since the season started. Either way, Yandle is a better option than both at the moment.
Now that the season is more than half over, we are seeing Yandle emerge as the best option on the blue line. He’s thrived in his recent usage (20+ minutes per game), and while he does make a gaffe here and there, the positives far outweigh the negatives.