The Rangers won the second game of their back to back set on Friday, with Nick Holden scoring the lone goal of the game in OT to cap it all off. Unfortunately I fell asleep for parts of the game but I did see a good portion of it, and I feel comfortable saying that the Rangers played a much better game than they did against Winnipeg, and a much better game than their recent form in general.
Although there were stretches of struggle for the Rangers during parts of the first and second period, with a couple of shifts in particular sticking out in my mind as areas for improvement, on the whole they carried more of the game than Chicago did. A few quick comments before I pass out:
- First of all, this game was solid evidence that a game does not necessarily need to be high-scoring to be exciting. Both goalies were back-ups and played out of their minds, with the two teams trading odd-man rushes at different points in the game. Overall just a great thing to see two goalies one-upping each other like that, although obviously Raanta was better n the end.
- No, these past two games does not mean there’s now a goalie controversy in New York. Hank is still the number one, and if you need convincing otherwise we’re probably going to disagree on a lot of stuff.
After playing in Winnipeg last night, the Rangers are in Chicago tonight to take on the Blackhawks. That’s a lot of travel for an injury riddled team. But on the bright side, the Hawks are just as injured (no Jonathan Toews), and are playing Scott Darling over Corey Crawford. That gives the Rangers a good chance at winning the second of back-to-backs, as the Hawks are not that deep.
However, while the Hawks are not deep, they have an incredible top end of the lineup. Their top line can basically score at will, and any line with Marian Hossa is a danger to score as well. The defense is going to have to contain those top-six, and Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to be stronger than he has been to start the season. But this is a very winnable game.
The Rangers are in a weird spot right now. Still riding their hot start, they remain tied for the second highest point total in the NHL, with a comfortable playoff position and league best goal differential. On the other hand, they are only 5-4-1 in their last ten games, they are missing four (!) top nine forwards and have seen their shot differentials trending in the way wrong direction.
So, how are we currently supposed to be feeling as Ranger fans? We know the defense has not been up to snuff. Henrik Lundqvist has not been his usual self so far this season (sidebar: I plan to do an analysis shortly about why exactly that is) and the Rangers ability to create offensive chances can be stifled with conservative neutral zone tactics. Yet, despite all this, they are having (overall) success. Now, the old analytics argument is starting to rear its ugly head again on regression versus fan enjoyment, but there are a lot of moving parts here. Let’s break it down a little. Read More→
After laying an egg on the powerplay in Brooklyn, the Rangers scored twice with the man advantage in Winnipeg en route to a 2-1 win over the Jets. It wasn’t pretty, as even strength play was inconsistent, but they were able to keep the Jets of the board for the most part. The lack of scoring is expected for the Rangers, who are missing four of their top forwards. But they persevered for their first win of the season when scoring fewer than three goals.
The defense was pretty solid, and Antti Raanta put up a solid game. He needed to kiss the post a few times, but that’s hockey. Marc Staal had a solid game, and I spotted a lot of smart plays with the puck from him, including several controlled zone exits. Zone exits and entries were something that the Rangers did very well in the first period, which shows up in the quality chances on net. Overall, a fairly decent game for a very shorthanded Rangers team.
On to the goals:
The Rangers have had a rough stretch, going 4-5-1 in their last ten while playing some pretty ugly hockey. Given the significance of the injuries, it can be said that staying around hockey .500 is a win for this club. In my humble opinion, the injuries and inconsistent goaltending –based on what we are used to from Henrik Lundqvist– has made the flaws of the team more obvious. That said, the Rangers did play better in Brooklyn, so that’s a start.
As for the Jets, they are dealing with injuries of their own, which has led to a relatively unbalanced lineup. Throw in some pretty rough goaltending, and you have a team that the Rangers should be able to pick apart. That said, the Jets are still at hockey .500 at 13-13-3, and they have a very talented top-six that can make slow defenses pay.
Until the Rangers get fully healthy, expect more of the same from them. Consistently inconsistent.
Springfield Thunderbirds 4, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
By Henry Lucey
Hartford, CT, December 7, 2016 – The Springfield Thunderbirds’ Joe Diamond and Tim Bozon both scored second period goals to propel the visiting Thunderbirds to a 4-2 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack Wednesday night at the XL Center in Hartford.
Despite taking just over four minutes to record their first shot on goal, the Wolf Pack managed to land several threatening attempts on Mike McKenna’s net in the game’s opening frame. Hartford’s best opportunity came when Matt Carey feed a cross-ice pass to an unmarked Boo Nieves, but like he did nine other times, McKenna came up with the save.
The below is a guest post by Jake Weingarten (@TheJakeWeinz). He’s also got a good idea going, called Blueshirt Faithful, where anyone who wants to write a post about the Rangers is welcome to write on what they want, as often as they want. It gives a voice to people who don’t have/want a blog, but want to write here and there. His post below is a reminder that despite the slide, there is a bright future in New York.
The New York Rangers have become one of the NHL’s youngest forward corps. Most of the core group is under the age of 30, with the majority under the age of 25. They have also grown their minor league teams and have players from all around the world, which will help keep the youth infusion coming for years to come.
The Rangers have one of the oldest goalies in the league in Henrik Lundqvist, but they have some outstanding goalie prospects. Over the past few months, Rangers fans have gotten the attention of Russian goalie prospect Igor Shestyorkin. Shestyorkin, 20, has been playing for SKA of the KHL and has played some outstanding hockey. He was named KHL player of the month in October, he recorded 13 wins, 6 shutouts, and had a .950 SV%, and is the heir-apparent to The King. With college goalie prospects Tyler Wall (UMass-Howell) and Adam Huska (UConn) to add to Brandon Halverson and Mackenzie Skapski, goaltending is a major source of strength.
There’s a lot going on in Rangerland lately. With injuries mounting, the Rangers have been forced to call up a pair of forwards from Hartford and have been forced to dress another pair of forwards that have been regular scratches. The goaltending hasn’t been Hank-like. The defense has been suspect, as expected. All that has come to the interwebs being an almost unbearable place to be for Ranger fans. So let’s have some fun.
- The Rangers have basically been forced to replace Rick Nash-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich with some combination of Matt Puempel (now injured himself), Marek Hrivik, Josh Jooris, Nicklas Jensen, and Oscar Lindberg. If you’re wondering why they aren’t scoring and aren’t getting any good chances, that’s probably your first place to look. Michael Grabner’s absence for personal reasons compounds the issue. Hot take: The Rangers aren’t tough enough, and that’s why they aren’t scoring.
- Henrik Lundqvist has not looked Hank-like this season. Some point to the defense hanging him out to dry and allowing him to be peppered with high quality chances regularly. Some point to the age of now 34-year-old goaltender as a sign of his decline. We’ve seen slow starts from Hank and seen that he rebounds. Could that change, and he doesn’t rebound to his usual self? Sure. But again, we’ve seen that after slow starts, he tends to rebound. Hot take: Trade him for pucks, free up cap space, let Antti Raanta be the started with Mackenzie Skapski backing him up.
Update: Nash will be out one week following an MRI. Puempel has been placed on IR with a concussion, so he will be out at least a week as well. Placing Puempel on IR gives the Rangers room for the Nicklas Jensen call up.
Original Post: More injury news for the Rangers, as their forward depth keeps getting gutted by injuries. They appear to have lost two more forwards to injuries, time tables TBD.
Matt Puempel left the game in the first with a concussion, after taking a rather vicious cross check to the chin by Brock Nelson. Puempel is in the standard concussion protocol
More importantly, Rick Nash tweaked his groin in the second and did not return. That’s a significant loss for the Rangers if it’s long term. More to come.
Hopefully the Rangers won’t have considered shopping JT Miller, Kevin Hayes or any of the ‘core’ kids to help address the team’s obvious flaws but one player who has constantly been touted as a trade chip has been Oscar Lindberg. Thanks to the way the Rangers have utilised Lindberg it’s hard to see any kind package involving Lindberg bringing back any meaningful return.
Yes, Alain Vigneault has openly preached patience with Lindberg (and rightly so) as he came back from a significant injury but the fact Vigneault has prioritised Matt Puempel and Josh Jooris is bad roster management. Neither player likely offer the Rangers more upside than Lindberg whether that is as a trade piece or part of the current roster set up. The fact that Vigneault sees Jesper Fast as a top six winger but keeps Lindberg in street clothes is also baffling even though Fast and Lindberg’s respective destinies should not be directly linked. Fast indeed, has certainly deserved to stay in the line-up despite being misused.