The Rangers have won seven of eight, and are now hosting their likely first round opponent in Montreal tonight. Montreal is fresh off a coaching change, swapping out Michel Therrien for Claude Julien. That’s a major upgrade for them.
It’s tough to predict how Julien’s Habs are going to play, but looking at the lineups it appears the Rangers probably have the edge on paper. The Habs are certainly a top-heavy flawed team being carried by their goaltender, much like Rangers teams of the past. I honestly don’t remember any time where Lundqvist vs. Price turned into a goalie showdown. Would love to see one.
This offseason, head coach Alain Vigneault said the plan was to get defenseman Dan Girardi some rest from time to time. The idea made sense, as Girardi played most of last season with a fractured kneecap, and was just downright awful. This was on top of his declining play becoming the focal point among fans. After all, keeping Girardi fresh is the best way to get the best hockey out of him as he ages.
However through this point of the season, Girardi has been a healthy scratch for rest just once. It has showed in his on-ice performance, as he simply can’t keep up with the opposition’s top skaters. But that hasn’t stopped AV from dressing him nightly. He was asked about this after practice on Saturday, and his answer clued us into what his approach will be going forward.
On this week’s episode of the Blue Seat Blogs-Cast we’re joined by special guest Sean Hartnett of WFAN 66/CBS Local and Blueshirt Bulletin to preview the upcoming trade deadline. As always you can find us right here, on iTunes, and on SoundCloud.
Springfield Thunderbirds 4, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
By Chris Kohler
Hartford, CT, February 19, 2017 – Justin Fontaine and Steven Kampfer scored first-period goals for the Hartford Wolf Pack Sunday at the XL Center, but goaltender Mike McKenna and the Springfield Thunderbirds were able to fend off Hartford’s offensive attack for the remainder of the game, to earn a 4-2 victory.
The Thunderbirds did not take long to open the scoring, as just 1:07 into the contest, Mackenzie Weegar fired a shot from right point, off of a pass from Jayce Hawryluk, that found its way past Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg (23 saves).
Damn does it feel good to beat the Washington Capitals. A standout performance from Henrik Lundqvist and some ludicrous pace from the rest of the team early on helped the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over their perennial playoff rivals in Sunday’s matinee game. Although the Rangers took their foot off the gas in the second period, a solid third frame helped seal the deal.
Depending on how you look at things this was either a positive litmus test for the Rangers heading into the home stretch or emblematic of the team’s inability to play three solid periods of hockey, all while hiding behind their all-star goaltender. I’ll leave that up to you to decide – here are the goals.
RANGERS 1 CAPITALS 0
Lehigh Valley Phantoms 6, Hartford Wolf Pack 4
Allentown, PA, February 18, 2017 – The Hartford Wolf Pack outshot the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 44-27, and had a 24-5 shots advantage in the third period, Saturday night at the PPL Center, but fell to the Phantoms 6-4, in the second of back-to-back games between the two teams.
It was nearly a mirror image of the previous night’s game, which saw the Wolf Pack outshot 44-18, including 25-5 in the third, but prevail by a score of 3-2.
Justin Fontaine had a goal and an assist for Hartford Saturday, and Steven Kampfer and Chris Brown had two assists apiece, but Danick Martel had the game-winning goal and an assist for Lehigh Valley, and Andy Miele and T.J. Brennan added a goal and an assist each.
The Rangers have a Sunday matinee today at MSG, taking on the Metro leading Washington Capitals. The Caps are one of four teams with a better record than the Rangers, and three of them are in the Metro Division. That’s just crazy. But the Caps are deep, skilled, get solid goaltending, and have a decent enough blue line.
This is going to be the first real test for the Rangers in February, as they are facing the cream of the crop in the league. A good showing against Washington goes a long way to building confidence for the playoff run. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m focusing more on how they play than about the W. The W is nice, but showing they can skate with the Caps is more important.
With every passing day the trade deadline draws closer, with teams already likely in the preliminary stages of making whatever deals we’ll eventually see transpire. The Rangers are likely to be active at the deadline one way or another, and while I’m not going to make specific recommendations or prescribe particular remedies to what’s ailing the team (given that I’ve already done that, and given that there’s certainly more than one way to improve this team) I do want to unpack the crucial thought process that a team must undertake in the run up to the deadline.
In short, it all has to do with whether or not this team sees itself as a true contender, and whether or not that’s actually true. We’ve seen in previous years the Rangers’s tendency to go all in, adding pieces at the deadline in order to give the team a shot at the Cup. While I think it’s certainly admirable to try and contend every year possible and give Henrik Lundqvist a shot at his Cup, we’ve also seen in previous years that this hasn’t exactly worked out.
The Rangers are finally going to retire Jean Rattelle’s #19. It took them long enough, as Rattelle is largely regarded as one of the best Rangers to ever put on the sweater. He was also recently placed in the NHL’s Top 100 players. Rattelle will be the 9th player to have his jersey retired by the Rangers.
He currently ranks among the top-three in Rangers history in the major offensive categories: goals (second with 336), assists (third with 481), points (third with 817). The Rangers traded Ratelle, along with Brad Park and Joe Zanussi, to the Boston Bruins in 1975 for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. A trade that most Ranger fans cringe at when it is mentioned.
Hartford Wolf Pack 3, Lehigh Valley Phantoms 2
Allentown, PA, February 17, 2017 – Brandon Halverson made a Hartford Wolf Pack season-high 42 saves Friday night at the PPL Center, as the Wolf Pack defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-2, despite being outshot 44-18.
The game was the first of a back-to-back set between the two teams in Allentown.
Philip McRae had the third-period game-winning goal for the Wolf Pack, and added an assist, and Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen also had Wolf Pack goals. Mark Alt and Scott Laughton scored for the Phantoms in the third, in which Lehigh Valley outshot Hartford 25-5.