The Rangers and Habs have been destined to meet in the first round since before Claude Julien was hired by the Canadiens. But with the Julien hire, the Habs changed the way they play. They have been much more focused on team defense, which is something Julien is known for.
The Habs do not have a ton of depth, and rely on that team defense and Carey Price to carry them. Don’t misunderstand that though. The Habs have a good amount of skill in the top-half of their lineup and are capable of making you pay for your mistakes. Beating Claude Julien is no easy task.
The Rangers are playing host to the Penguins tonight in a game that means nothing to both clubs. Unlike last night, where the Senators were playing for home ice in the first round, the Penguins have been locked into their matchup for quite some time now. They will be using tonight to rest some players before the playoff push begins.
As for the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start, giving Henrik Lundqvist –who has been solid since his return– a night off. Outside of that, expect some more guys to be rested. We likely won’t know until game time what Alain Vigneault does with the roster. Enjoy one more night of stress free hockey.
Hartford Wolf Pack 4, Springfield Thunderbirds 3
By Chris Kohler
Hartford, CT, April 7, 2017 – Nicklas Jensen’s goal with 2:21 remaining in the third period lifted the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 4-3 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds Friday night at the XL Center.
Rookie goaltender Chris Nell made 27 saves to post his first professional win for the Wolf Pack, and Marek Hrivik had a goal and an assist. Chris Brown and Matt Carey also scored for Hartford. Ed Wittchow, Tim Bozon and Chase Balisy had the Springfield goals.
At 5:19 of the first period, the Thunderbirds took the early lead when Wittchow took a pass from Anthony Greco and fired a shot from the left point over the right shoulder of Nell to make the score 1-0.
Earlier in the year, I had made a bet with Becky that the Senators would not make the playoffs. I put too much faith in the Lightning. Well, that sucked for me, didn’t it? I now irrationally hate the Senators. Stupid Senators making me buy scotch that isn’t for me.
Yea this game doesn’t matter. So I’m just having some fun with the preview. We are not going to be able to tell what kind of momentum the Rangers are going to have in this game. The biggest key is to watch Hank, and hope he is dialed in. He needs to be for the Rangers to have a shot in the playoffs.
With the playoffs around the corner, much of the focus for the Rangers is on Alain Vigneault’s lineup choices. Much of the lineup is set. We know 11 of the 12 forwards. We know all six defensemen. But it’s that 12th forward that is drawing a lot of attention, and it’s an emotional topic for a lot of people.
Tanner Glass is the old-school, gritty hockey player that “stands up for teammates and deters others.” While we’ve seen others on the roster (Kreider, Vesey, Smith) step up for others, the focus is always on Glass because he represents a dying breed of hockey players. What he represents is the “blue collar” player. The one who throws his body around and gets in on the forecheck.
The Rangers have recalled forward Taylor Beck from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Beck has a line of 19-44-63 in 54 AHL games with Hartford and the Bakersfield Condors this season. The Rangers acquired Beck from Edmonton in exchange for Justin Fontaine at the trade deadline. He’s been close to a point-per-game with the Pack (6-7-13) since his acquisition.
The call up of Beck means the Rangers are likely resting more players this weekend. He’s also likely the first of many to be called up to serve as the “taxi squad” during the playoffs.
The regular season is basically over at this point, at least for the Rangers. The last two games of the year are meaningless. The Blueshirts are likely going to rest their guys more over those two games, so aside from getting Henrik Lundqvist up to speed, there’s not much riding on those games.
What we do know is that the Rangers are headed to Montreal for the first round. They are going to be a tough test, since they have been playing well lately under Claude Julien. They also have Carey Price. The Blueshirts are going to need to be firing on all cylinders to beat them. But there are three keys to the Rangers’ success in the first round.
Three questions for this week’s mailbag. As always, use the mailbag feature on the right to submit your questions.
Mike asks: How far do you see the Rangers going in the playoffs this year?
Considering the matchups the Rangers are going to get (Montreal, Ottawa/Toronto), I think the Rangers have a real shot at coming out of the Atlantic to face Washington in the Eastern Conference Final. However they need to get through Montreal in the first round, and that is not going to be easy.
In a game where we all expected the Caps to score 50 goals and take 400 shots (given the defense pairs the Rangers dressed), the Rangers actually played pretty well. The Caps dressed their full roster, and the shorthanded Rangers weren’t the disaster that everyone expected. That said, they couldn’t get anything going offensively –expected with the forward lines– and the Caps eventually wore them down.
Honestly, there’s not much to really take away from this game. The Rangers sat most of their roster to give them five days off. Henrik Lundqvist looked really strong, which is the only thing I care about right now.
On to the goals:
Disclaimer: I know I’m trolling with this gif. It was a while ago and it’s still hilarious. Even the staunchest Girardi supporters have to find this to be funny. If it makes you feel any better, in one of my games I covered the puck (I’m a goalie), and shuffled it from my glove to someone who I thought was on my time. He was not. Empty net. I laugh about it now.
The Rangers are in Washington tonight to take on the Eastern Conference favorites. This is the cream of the crop. The team that is likely to come out of the East. Everything is coming up Capitals lately. Guaranteed to win the East. I think if I say this enough, I can curse them.
Tonight is another night where the Rangers take precautions and rest their stars. Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, and Jesper Fast (albeit not a star) are all scratched tonight. The Caps are dressing most of their ‘A’ roster, as they can clinch the President’s Trophy with a win.