St. John’s IceCaps 5, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
By Henry Lucey
Hartford, CT, October 23, 2016 – The Hartford Wolf Pack suffered their first home-ice loss of the season Sunday at the XL Center, falling 5-2 to the St. John’s IceCaps.
St. John’s opened the scoring just thirty-six seconds into the contest when Sven Andrighetto’s wrister found the back of the net. The Wolf Pack were quick to respond, however, as Marek Hrivik evened the score at the 1:27 mark. The goal, Hrivik’s second of the season, was assisted by right-winger Justin Fontaine. Less than a minute after Hrivik’s tally, IceCaps defenseman Joel Hanley beat Harford goalie Mackenzie Skapski at 2:16 to take back the lead.
A bunch of injury news was released yesterday before the win against Arizona. This is a little delayed, but still noteworthy.
- Chris Kreider missed yesterday with neck spasms. Oscar Lindberg made his return, taking him off the IR.
- Pavel Buchnevich was moved to the IR with back spasms. Since he was placed on IR when Lindberg came off, the Rangers don’t need to make any additional roster moves.
- Dan Girardi returned yesterday, meaning the Rangers now have a healthy blue line.
With the return of Dan Girard in last night’s game against Arizona, the Rangers are finally back to full strength on their blue line. Adam Clendening joined Dylan McIlrath in the press box, as it appears Alain Vigneault will lean on veterans, as expected.
Girardi will likely go back to playing with Ryan McDonagh, while Kevin Klein probably ends up back with Marc Staal. That leaves Brady Skjei and Nick Holden in a third pairing role, with Holden still playing on the right side, a place where he wasn’t comfortable to start the year.
After a good win in Washington, the Rangers are back home to take on an Arizona Coyotes team that is better on paper than their record would indicate. The Yotes have been victimized by terrible goaltending early on, allowing a whopping 18 goals through four games. I admittedly haven’t watched much of the Yotes this season, but on paper their blue line is good, so it leads me to believe their goaltending is failing them early on. I could be wrong, though.
As for the Rangers, they just limited the Caps to two goals. Considering the porous defense and mediocre goaltending they had received prior, this is a very good sign for them. If the Rangers can shore up play in their own zone while continuing to score at this pace, they will be tough to beat. Plus, Henrik Lundqvist won’t play to a sub-.900 SV% for very long. He’s a slow starter anyway.
Hartford Wolf Pack 5, Lehigh Valley Phantoms 4 (OT)
Allentown, PA, October 22, 2016 – Nicklas Jensen’s goal at 1:55 of overtime lifted the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 5-4 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in a wild game Saturday night at the PPL Center.
Corban Knight, Andy Miele, Mark Zengerle and Chris Conner all scored for Lehigh Valley, and ex-Yale Eli Alex Lyon, making his professional debut in goal for the Phantoms, stopped 29 shots.
The Rangers are in Washington tonight to take on an “undefeated” Capitals team that sits atop the Metro Division. The Caps are doing what they did last year, scoring at a solid pace while depending on tremendous defense and goaltending. The Caps ran away with the President’s Trophy last season, and seem to be picking up right where they left off.
The Rangers are dealing with some injuries at the moment, but still have the forward depth to keep up with the Caps. This game will be won by the team that makes fewer mistakes in their own zone. The Rangers have been porous on defense and Henrik Lundqvist has been having his usual slow start. So this game could be high scoring.
The Rangers are in an interesting position. They have a pretty big logjam at forward, one that even exists while two forwards are out with injuries. If and when both Pavel Buchnevich and Oscar Lindberg return, two forwards will need to be out of the lineup. This is a magnificent problem to have.
On the other side of the coin, the Rangers have a blue line that is likely one of the bottom-ten in the league. The biggest hole is at 1RD, where the Rangers have no real options. Dan Girardi isn’t an option there anymore. Kevin Klein struggled in the role last season. Adam Clendening isn’t a top pairing defenseman. Nick Holden is a lefty. Dylan McIlrath….yea not opening that can of worms.
PP1: DJ ZBad-Kreider-Pirri-Zucc-McDonagh
Heading into the season, the Rangers were going to showcase what amounts to a brand-new forward group. The offseason focused on speed, skill, and the ability to run four skill lines. It’s a model that won the Pittsburgh Penguins a Stanley Cup last season. It’s a copycat league, but this isn’t a new trend. Most of the league has been focusing on skill/speed up and down the lineup for a few seasons now.
The improved forwards have been the story of the first four games for the Rangers. A new identity for the Rangers is being formed, with speed at the forefront. The Rangers have regained their tenacious forecheck, and have been able to sustain more controlled zone entries, leading to more quality scoring chances.
By all accounts, the Rangers dominated the Red Wings last night. However they could not solve Jimmy Howard after the first period, falling 2-1 in a fast paced game. Howard was the story of this game, standing on his head and stopping many difficult shots as the Rangers peppered him with scoring chance after scoring chance. Alas, they could not solve him.
This is the second time in four games where the Rangers have played a strong game, but got PDO’d into a loss. Howard was magnificent, and it was one bad goal that led to the loss last night. Such is life sometimes. It’s game four of 82, so there’s not much cause for concern. The process is there, and it will even out as time goes on. That is, as long as they continue to play this way.