Some bad news for the Rangers, who can’t seem to stay healthy. Kevin Hayes is out 2-3 weeks with a lower body injury. Hayes was injured in Sunday’s win over the Red Wings, and was seen with a brace on his left leg and limping.
The loss of Hayes is a pretty big one. However as far as injuries go, the timing on this one is as good as it can be. The Rangers have a pair of games this week, then have five days off for the All Star Game. The schedule gets rough after the ASG though, with two in a row and then every other day for a while.
If the time table for Hayes stays on the shorter end, then the Rangers will luck out, as he won’t miss as many games as he could have, if he were hurt earlier in the season.
There aren’t many bright spots on the blue line for the Rangers this year, nor are there NHL ready prospects in the system that can offer much of an improvement without significant development cost. The only prospect that is really worth mentioning in terms of being ready for the NHL is Ryan Graves.
Graves, by most accounts, is having a solid year in Hartford. Playing on the top pair and in all situations, Graves has a line of 5-14-19 in 42 games. That leaves him two points shy of last year’s full season totals. The 6’4″, 220 lb left handed defenseman is a smooth skater and puck mover, and has been defensively sound and one of the few bright spots on a pretty bad Hartford Wolf Pack team.
Outside of Dan Girardi, there is no one player that divides the Rangers fan base more than Adam Clendening. Opinions on Clendo seem to be at both extremes of the spectrum, with some thinking he should be given regular minutes and is a solid RD, while others think he’s useless. There seems to be very little grey area in this debate, but the grey area is the best area, since that’s where the truth lies.
Before really analyzing Clendo’s strengths and weaknesses, perhaps it’s best to review both sides of the discussion. Those that want him in the lineup regularly see his skating and puck moving abilities and relate that to a big need for the Rangers. Those that believe he is useless see the flaws in his gap control and coverages in the defensive zone. But the question that draws the most discussion is whether or not Clendo is an upgrade on Girardi and/or Kevin Klein.
The Rangers are in Detroit today looking to beat a pretty bad team, something they’ve been struggling to do lately. The Wings are going to miss the playoffs after about 400 years in a row of making them. They have some pretty solid young talent up front, and it’s only recently that they’ve been starting to play more over the veterans. On the blue line, they are almost as bad as the Rangers, but not quite totally bad.
As for the Rangers, well we know where they stand at this point.
Disclaimer: I’m in New Orleans, and wrote this before I flew out Thursday. I did the best I could to predict the lineups. Considering this was done a few days in advance, it’s likely off.
The Rangers are in Toronto tonight to take on the Leafs, a team that is a lot better than you might think. They beat the Rangers the last time they faced each other, and this time the Leafs are facing damaged goods. The Rangers were laughably bad against Dallas on Tuesday. On the bright side, they can’t get much worse. Right? RIGHT?
It’s been a rocky road for the Rangers, who have been either flat or flat out humiliated for an alarming number of recent games. The defense needs to defend. The forwards need to back check. The goalie needs to make more saves on shots he should be stopping. They all need to get their acts together.
Unless you’re blind, you’ve noticed that the Rangers have a huge issue on defense. It doesn’t matter what you think about Henrik Lundqvist’s future, it’s painfully obvious that for the Rangers to be a better team and have a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup, they need to make drastic changes on the blue line. This is beyond deployment, it’s personnel based, and the need is dire.
There are some quick fixes that can be done to make the Rangers into more of a contending team. This would mean giving up a young top-nine forward for a young top-four defenseman and then making a separate deal for a solid bottom pairing defenseman. That, at the very least, is what is needed to turn the current version of the Rangers into a true Cup contender this season. They need not one, but two defensemen.
The Rangers played one of their worst defensive games in years last night, and still found a way to make it exciting. The defense hung Henrik Lundqvist out to dry for five goals, and Hank helped them out by letting in one bad goal and another questionable goal. The first two periods were some of the worst hockey I’ve ever seen from a playoff team. The story by most will be about the comeback, but the Rangers were just putrid. Awful. Terrible.
But then the third period happened, and the Rangers scored three goals early to make the game exciting. Magnus Hellberg made a few good saves to preserve the momentum, but the Rangers still came up short. For those keeping track, this team put up four on Carey Price and lost, then six on the Stars and lost. If that doesn’t scream “defense stinks,” then I don’t know what does.
As an aside, you idiot fans giving Hank a Bronx cheer should just give me your tickets. I can’t afford $200 a ticket on the secondary market, and I would love to get to a game this year. You people are a disgrace. Even the harshest Girardi critics gave him two seasons before really getting on him.
On to the goals:
After going 0-2 in their Ontario stretch, and playing relatively poor hockey to boot, the Rangers are back in action tonight to take on the struggling yet potent Dallas Stars. The Stars have a ton of scoring depth, but inconsistent defense and goaltending has plagued them all year. When you factor in that the potent offense is more bark than bite right now, you get a team that should make the playoffs currently on the outside looking in.
As for the Rangers, they are finally healthy up front. Mika Zibanejad makes his return tonight after recovering from a broken leg. The forwards are finally healthy, and likely will look like this going forward. This is the same group that lit up the entire league in October. Hopefully it won’t take them long to get reacquainted and find that scoring touch again. The team could surely use it.
One of the major storylines this season is the apparent decline of Henrik Lundqvist. At 34 years old (35 in March), Lundqvist is at the age where goalies tend to decline, and it seems that goalies do this relatively quickly. It’s fair to expect some level of decline from Hank, but there is a section of vocal fans that think Lundqvist is done.
Let’s be clear: Lundqvist is not having a good season by his standards. His .907 SV% is well off his career average of .920, his medium danger SV% is in the toilet, and Steve Valliquette mentioned on a recent broadcast that he’s letting in unscreened shots through at a much higher rate (I think it was 1-in-23 this year, as opposed to 1-in-40). However there is a difference between “bad” and “not Lundqvist.”
Here are your updates regarding the lineup for tonight’s game. Some of these came yesterday, so I’m a bit delayed:
- Mika Zibanejad will return tonight. Oscar Lindberg will be the healthy scratch. It was either him or Brandon Pirri. Since Pirri scored the other night, Lindberg was the logical choice.
- Marek Hrivik cleared waivers, and has been assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack. I’m not surprised he cleared, his baseline numbers weren’t sexy.
- Antti Raanta will be out for 7-10 days. Magnus Hellberg was called up, but expect Lundqvist to play all games during that span.
- Matt Puempel and Marc Staal skated, but will not play tonight.