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Playoff musings: I still think Marc Staal plays tonight (complete speculation)

I still think he plays tonight (AP Photo).

I still think he plays tonight (AP Photo).

Chris is unavailable to do the musings today, so you’re all stuck with me. The Rangers have had four days off between the last game of the season and the first game of the playoffs, and we’ve been getting a little antsy for some hockey. It’s actually a little funny that the Rangers got four days off in a row, as the schedule seems to never favor them at all. This time around it did, and it gave Marc Staal, Ryane Clowe, and Brian Boyle more time to get healthy.

Speaking of Staal, I know he and the Rangers said he isn’t playing tonight. But let’s look at it this way: He’s been skating with the team for over a week now, he’s been taking regular practices with the team, he’s been skating with the assumed Alex Ovechkin shadowers (note: Dan Girardi). The last time they were this far along with Staal was the Winter Classic, and Staal played that game. I think Staal plays, but the Rangers don’t announce it until warm ups so that the Caps can’t game plan for it. This is complete speculation on my part, but I think Staal is just itching to come back, and he’s an important cog in shutting down Ovechkin.

As for Boyle and Clowe, it’s unfortunate that these two didn’t skate at all during the four day break. We all were hoping that they would at least get back on the ice and maybe return soon. Neither have skated, so I’m going to venture a guess and say they don’t play this round. That is truly unfortunate, as the Rangers need both of them back. Boyle is a critical part of the penalty kill, one aspect that could really sway this series. Clowe provides more depth, which is something I discussed this morning that the Caps might have trouble matching up.

Speaking of injuries, the Caps are going to get Joel Ward back from injury tonight, so that helps them by taking Aaron Volpatti out of the lineup. Ward will slide into a third line role, moving Jason Chimera to the fourth line. That bottom six is very good defensively, and should help with the matchup problems discussed this morning. Ward coming back is as important to the Caps as Clowe is to the Rangers.

The first day of the playoffs sure was something. Two overtime games, one epic gaffe by Jonathan Quick, and a marvelous performance by Masterton shoo-in Josh Harding. Then yesterday was the most anti-climactic day of the playoffs, as the Bruins and Penguins dominated, and the Sharks managed to steal home ice from Vancouver. The first round is going to be interesting. Only two or three series are truly one-sided.

One series, aside from the Rangers of course, that I’m anxious to see is Montreal/Ottawa. Montreal’s underlying stats show that they would have major regression over a full 82 game schedule, but they still won the division. Ottawa overcame injuries to, well, everyone. If Ottawa wins, they get Pittsburgh in the next round, and the winner of the Rangers/Caps series gets Boston or Toronto. Don’t think for a minute that isn’t possible.

Game time is 7:30pm tonight. Are you ready for some playoff hockey?

21 Responses to “Playoff musings: I still think Marc Staal plays tonight (complete speculation)”

  1. Sally says:

    While watching the Pens/ Islanders game last night, I realized how much I hate the Pens. I wish someone could knock them off their pedestal.

    • Walt says:

      Sally

      Welcome to my club!! It starts with that wimp Mario in the front office, on down to a dirt bag coach, and whining captain Cindy!

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        Walt, just curious what your view is on another polarizing player- Eric Lindros?

        • Walt says:

          Hatrick

          Lindros was nothing but a bully. As big a dude as he was, he only dropped the gloves on smaller men, and for that I can’t stand the pig!

          I went to many games in Filthadelphia, vs the Rangers, and when he skated with John LeClare, they were two of the biggest guys in the game, and he always went after the smaller guys, never the players who would kick his ass, ala Scott Stevens. He is the proto type Flyer player, bullies!!

          Today, Lindros wouldn’t be half the player he was then, the NHL has gotten bigger over the last 15-20 years, and he couldn’t run rough shot like he did!

  2. Sally says:

    LGR!!!

  3. Spozo says:

    I too see many similarities with the Staal situation and the Classic. If anything, there has been more coverage this time of Staal skating and practicing as a regular. Before the Classic everyone was very non committal about when he would get back in the game. I think it is very telling that Staal would not give a definitive no when asked about game 1. At this point it sounds like it is a matter of how effective he is with blurry vision but let’s be honest, if he skates tonight he will be skating the 10 minutes Emminger would have gotten. I take Staal at 75% over a 100% Emminger in those 10 minutes.

  4. Chris F says:

    If Staal returns that will go a looooooooong way to compensating for the loss of Clowe/Boyle. Wouldn’t hurt to see Dorsett jump in the line-up as well.

    We need grit this series.

    Let’s Go Rangers!

  5. Joe says:

    Interesting for a guy who claims to know so much about the game that you have completely written off the Islanders, as if the series is over already…HMMMM. Why don’t you just tell us who will win the Cup and we can go do other things.

  6. Bloomer says:

    Boyle was skating too with Stall at the end of the practise session. Would be good to see them both in the lineup.

  7. Pas44 says:

    Joe, did you see game 1, the pens crushed them and then hung out for the last 30 minutes.

    But, ok, I will give your beloved Isles 1 more night, if they lose Fri Nite… its done.

    sorry Joe, there’s always Brooklyn.

    • Joe says:

      Joe is a die hard Ranger fan!! It just that Dave always has intelligent, well thought out ideas, and seems to respect the game so much. It just seems to me a sentence like he wrote takes credibility away from his arguments. In my lifetime, I have seen a lot of games and series in many different sports. What I have learned is the reason they play the games is that you never really know what could happen until the game is over. A wise man once said “it aint over till it’s over” …I think his name was Yogi or something. Either way I believe it devalues all that he says when he says something like that…just an opinion and we know everyone has them just like other things ;)

      • Chris F says:

        Uh… so, it’s Dave’s opinion that the Islanders are toast. He’s entitled to that opinion, and it takes nothing away from his credibility as a hockey observer and commentator, or even analyst, if you will. Just about everyone in the hockey world is predicting pretty much the same. Have they all lost their credibility for this opinion?

        I, for one, thought that the Islanders would surprise everyone and upset the Pens this series. Not looking so good right now, but I still think they’ll make this a closer than expected dog-fight.

        This likely is the most lopsided of all the series. It’s not really incredible that most people are anticipating the Pens to come out decidedly on top.

        • Joe says:

          again, just my opinion, obviously you disagree, your opinion

          • Chris F says:

            That’s my point, Joe. Both are just opinions, yet you’ve sort of came out attacked Dave’s credibility for putting forth his opinion/prediction, which just so happens to align with 99.9% of all observers.

            I’m with you on the Islanders, I think they make this a series. I don’t, however, blame anyone for thinking otherwise.

            • Joe says:

              I probably put Dave on a higher level than most here, based on what I read, so when he just dismissed the series as over, after one game, I was surprised, but you’re right, his opinion.

      • Walt says:

        Hold out Joe, think back to the 1960 World series, Yankees Vs Pirates!! And who won????

  8. Tim B says:

    Dave:
    That is interesting about the Staal “playing game 1″ idea. It makes perfect sense. But i thought he still had blurred vision. However if he does play he coup be rusty and not 100%. So i would think they would bench Eminger and make d lines of

    Mcd-Girardi
    Staal?/MDZ-Stralman
    Staal?/Moore-Stralman

    The Rangers need someone to step up. They were unlucky with injuries last year and years past. Callahan needs to stay healthy. Hopefully Boyle can return soon. Wish we knew the type of lower body injury. As for Clowe i think they need to release how bad that concussion is. Is it a Gaborik concussion where he is out 1 game or a James Neal concussion which he is out for a few months. 4th line needs to step up their game.

    Yes im ready for Rangers hockey

    Lets Go Rangers!

  9. Ray says:

    I don’t understand the take on stopping Ovechkin. Ryan McDonagh crushed Ovechkin last year. I don’t see Girardi as that relevant – he’s on the wrong side. The problem comes when the Caps can get Ovechkin on the ice when McD is not – then I’d like Staal and worry about how MDZ handles it.