Per Steve Zipay, Derick Brassard will not play tonight with flu like symptoms. Kevin Klein will return to the lineup though, and was skating with Ryan McDonagh this morning. The new lines to account for Brassard’s absence:
In case you missed it, the Rangers are in a bit of a funk right now. Well to be fair, “a bit” is just slightly understating the funk. The Rangers have just 17 points since December 2nd, and only the Montreal Canadiens (nine points, and don’t tell me Carey Price isn’t their entire team) have fewer points in that span. It’s a good thing the Rangers banked all those points in October and November, or else this would have been an ugly season.
We’ve taken a few looks at this team from an analytical standpoint. After ten games we –along with 99% of the folks who look at these numbers regularly– predicted that the Rangers would have major regression. It wasn’t that hard to predict. Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t going to continue stopping 96% of his shots and the Rangers weren’t going to continue to shoot 12%. It was just logic. But through all that, we never once believed the Rangers were this year’s pretenders or pure smoke and mirrors.
Then the crash came, and boy was it ugly. But in mid-December there was cause for optimism. The defense was tightening up. The offense was starting to generate more sustained pressure. They were still getting ugly goaltending and poor shooting, but the overall process on the ice was getting better.
The Rangers are in need of another scoring forward, preferably a shoot-first guy, in order to really round out the lineup. The thought process is that a top-six forward is acquired, moving J.T. Miller down to the third line with Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg. That pushes Jesper Fast to the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg/Tanner Glass, and the Rangers are balanced.
The recent playing time of Jayson Megna, a right-handed shot, really emphasized the need for a player of that type. Megna is not a top-six guy, and to be fair is a borderline NHLer at this point in his career. When Megna started getting legitimate playing time, the hole at forward was exposed further.
Two weeks ago, we looked at some potentially available top-six forwards that the Rangers might try to target at the trade deadline. Since then, only James van Riemsdyk has really come off the market, with the Leafs saying they have no interest in trading him. Let’s look at a few more potential targets.
The Rangers couldn’t stay out of the box last night, shooting themselves in the foot in what was otherwise a well played game at even strength. The Caps scored twice with the man advantage, and those goals wound up being the difference in the game. But this is why they are the Caps. They make you take penalties and then make you pay. It’s not just the powerplay goals, it’s that the Rangers can’t generate any momentum when they are killing penalties.
Justin Williams recorded a hat trick, showing that he is the true Ranger killer. No matter what team he is on, he finds a way to burn the Rangers on an almost nightly basis. Antti Raanta played well, and you can’t really fault him for any of the goals given up. He also made what will probably be his save of the year.
I thought the Rangers had a shot when they pulled to within one with Braden Holtby out of the game, but then the Miller turnover happened.
Another day, another game against the Caps. This is the third time these two meet in roughly four weeks, and the fourth time this season. The Caps dominated the first two outings, with Henrik Lundqvist stealing the first and the Caps blowing out the Rangers in the second.
The third meeting was the best this season, with the Rangers coming back from down 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead. The Caps then scored with six seconds left to tie it, and Alex Ovechkin went end-to-end in a way only he can to win it in overtime. This was the first game that appeared to be evenly matched throughout.
Tonight’s game will be interesting, with the Rangers coming off a lucky win in Philly and the Caps coming off a 4-1 loss in Buffalo. Plus it’s Antti Raanta in net, so you never know.
The loss on Thursday was a tough one, since the Rangers played well for most of the game, but a lapse for three minutes eventually cost them the game. Luckily the Flyers aren’t as good as the Isles, although they are playing very well of late. Continued process will eventually net results. As long as that process continues –and we are seeing better process with the lineup choice today– then we should be happy.
That said, the Flyers may not be a good team, but they are playing well lately since their salary dumps. Credit Ron Hextall for creating room on the roster and in the cap. His team has responded with four wins in a row and a 6-3-1 record over the last ten games. Steve Mason is a great goalie as well, so this team is no push over.
The defense pairings remained the same. Safe to assume Girardi will play if he can go.
The Rangers played a solid game last night, but weren’t able to hold on to their 1-0 lead in the third period, giving up a pair of goals in relatively quick goals, blowing their 1-0 lead in the process. An empty net goal made the final score 3-1 in what was probably one of the worst third periods we’ve seen from the Rangers in a while. In addition to giving up the goals, they couldn’t generate anything offensively for most of the period, as the Isles shut it down with a 1-4 forecheck.
I think the flow of the game changed when the refs didn’t allow Dylan McIlrath and Matt Martin to fight at the end of the second period. McIlrath came out aggressive in the third and took a penalty that eventually led to the game winner, and that was all she wrote from there. In the end, three minutes killed the Rangers. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Tonight is another big four-point swing game for the Rangers, as they travel to Brooklyn to take on the Islanders. The last time these two teams played, the Rangers were mired in a slump but managed to grab a point in a shootout loss. This time around, the Isles are without two of their top defensemen in Johnny Boychuck and Travis Hamonic.
As for the Rangers, Dan Girardi is a game-time decision with a laceration on his hand. Dylan McIlrath will play if Girardi can’t go. They’ve been played better of late, and are 4-2-1 in their seven games since Washington embarrassed them in December. Process is getting better on the ice, even if there are still roster decision questions made nightly.
Corey Pronman, one of the best in evaluating prospects, released his updated top-50 prospects, and Pavel Buchnevich sits at #7 on the list, up seven spots from last year. Buchnevich was taken by the Rangers in the third round of the 2013 draft, and has put together a marvelous age-19 season in the KHL. His line of 12-19-31 in 47 games is the best age-19 season since Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The best part about the review is this line:
He could take a top-nine NHL shift right away starting next season.
That bodes well for the Rangers, who are in desperate need of a scoring forward and shooter to be a permanent staple in future lineups. There are high hopes for the kid, and he is probably the most hyped prospect in New York in a long time. He may not make it to the Rangers this year, but he’s expected to come to North America next season and compete for a roster spot with the Rangers.
If you’re looking for that skilled, home-grown player, Buchnevich is it.