On the eve of Game 13 of the season, the Rangers find themselves firmly in panic mode, needing to right the sinking ship. If the Titanic has taught us anything, it’s that a) Jack could have fit on that door, and b) you need to make sure you have enough life boats to save the ship. It seems the life boats, as the “gimme” games against Montreal and Arizona, have sailed far away.
The Rangers are looking out on Games 13, 14 and 15 this week against two very hot teams and one team playing average hockey. The time to have turned the ship around would have been last week, and it looked like that almost happened against Montreal. Unfortunately, the regulation loss against the Canadiens on Saturday night could prove to be more harmful than it seems.
Let’s take a look at what lies in the week ahead.
Tuesday, 10/31 vs. Vegas Golden Knights (8-1-0)
This expansion team has burst on to the Pacific scene with an impressive 8-1-0 record. They’ve also begun to have their share of asset mismanagement drama, having paid for, and now sent down, KHL talent Vadim Shipachyov, leading to an early favorite tweet of mine:
They say Expansion Teams take time to catch up with the rest of the league, but VGK are mismanaging assets like an original 6 team already. https://t.co/vvTQ5OTdvF
— Matt Cane (@Cane_Matt) October 27, 2017
The down low about this team is that they’re actually beatable, even by the lowly Rangers. Vegas’ PDO — that’s #fancystat talk for your shooting % + save % — is 106.5. Your “true team” would have a PDO between 99-101, and Vegas is leading the league in PDO by two and a half points. Of course this will all even out, but what it means is that a team shooting 12% is due for a grounding back down to earth.
Additionally, the team is down to their third goalie after injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban. Even though backup goalies traditionally give the Rangers fits, Oscar Dansk with a save percentage at .959% is not sustainable. This is a winnable game and would give the Rangers loads of confidence for their next game.
Thursday, November 2 @ Tampa Bay Lightning (9-2-1)
This one will be a doozy. Unlike the Golden Knights, this record is reflective of the actual talent on Tampa, harnessing a (finally) healthy Steven Stamkos with 17 (!) assists already through only 12 games played. Though the Bolts boast a high PDO as well, their primary goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, is actually great, and will most likely be playing on Thursday. Pair that with some offensive talent and there could be issues.
Of course, this will be the first time that the Rangers play scorned love Dan Girardi since his departure over the summer. Girardi has no points and is back on his old shenangians with a -4.6% relative Corsi, so as far as being a great weapon against the Rangers, it shouldn’t be a concern. Expect the media to go nuts over the reunion, however, unless something shakes up Rangerstown by mid-week.
Saturday, November 4 @ Florida Panthers (4-5-1)
The Panthers are always a bit enigmatic, in that they’re always at least relevant and could be dangerous, but when you look at their roster, you had no idea half of these guys still played. After goalie Roberto Luongo suffered a hand injury on October 20, the Panthers picked up Antti Niemi (why) and have been starting him. Backup James Reimer isn’t much better, so should the Rangers get some offense going, they definitely won’t be up against any brick walls.
An interesting player to watch out for is right wing Evgenii Dadonov, a skilled player who is back to Florida after spending five seasons in the KHL. Dadonov has 11 points through 10 games and is lethal on the power play. The Panthers are 6th in the league in goals per game, troublesome if the Rangers can’t get their defensive chemistry correct by next weekend.
Rangers 4 – Vegas 3 (OT)
Lightning 5 – Rangers 2
Panthers 4 – Rangers 2
Looking for some kind of shake up by next weekend, whether it be a call up, send down, or outright firing of some of the coaching staff.
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