Random thoughts as the playoffs approach

Photo: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

As the playoffs approach, the Rangers have been one of the hotter teams of late, winning eight of ten games to solidify their spot in the playoffs. With five games remaining, their magic number to clinch a spot is three, while the magic number to clinch a non-wild card spot is down to seven. It seems almost a guarantee that the Rangers will make the playoffs.

The Rangers will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them. They have the best goaltending in the Eastern Conference, and a hot Hank will spell doom for most of the opposition. Hank has shown he can steal a playoff series, mainly against Washington, and will likely need to do so at least once this year. The best part is that –Calgary clunker aside– Hank is playing some of his better hockey of late. When the All-World caliber goalie is starting to get hot, it’s a good sign.

As important as Hank is, injuries will play a significant role again. The Rangers are already having trouble replacing Chris Kreider in the lineup, with Dan Carcillo getting top-six minutes. J.T. Miller isn’t ready for The Show yet, and there aren’t many options in Hartford that appear ready. If Ryan McDonagh is out for an extended period of time, that means Justin Falk is getting 10-12 minutes a game. The injury depth isn’t there.

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J.T. Miller returned to Hartford

The Rangers have returned forward J.T. Miller to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. Miller was called up after the injury to Chris Kreider, going scoreless in the first two games following his call up. Miller was a healthy scratch the previous two games before his return to Hartford.

GIF: Burrows high hit on McDonagh

Update: Per Larry Brooks, there is no structural damage on McDonagh’s shoulder.

Original Post: In the final minute of yesterday’s win over Vancouver, Alex Burrows –not known for being the cleanest of players– delivered a questionable high hit on Ryan McDonagh. The hit left McDonagh on the ice in pain, and burrows received a five minute major for elbowing. There is no update on McDonagh’s injury as of yet. The GIF of the hit is below, courtesy of Edge of Sports Insanity:

The hit itself was not from behind, but it was a high hit (two hands to the face) on a player in a defenseless position. It looked like McDonagh went down favoring his left shoulder. I’d try to venture a guess about a possible Burrows suspension, but the Wheel O’ Justice has been random for a while. It’s a coin flip if there’s any supplemental discipline at this point.

What do you think of the hit? Should Burrows be suspended?

Wolf Pack sign Chris McCarthy to ATO

The Hartford Wolf Pack have announced that they have signed forward Chris McCarthy to an amateur tryout, allowing the forward to play in the Pack’s final eight regular season games. McCarthy was recently signed to an entry level deal by the Rangers on Monday, but the deal kicks in for the 2014-2015 season. The original deal would not have allowed McCarthy to play until next season. The ATO allows him these eight games.

St. Louis notches first as a Ranger as Vigneault wins in return to Vancouver

Finally! (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Finally! (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alain Vigneault got the best of his old club in his return to Vancouver, as the Rangers topped the Canucks 3-1 last night.  The Rangers, who led 2-0 after the first, were pretty lucky to have leads after the first and the second. The Canucks really dominated the puck possession game, but Henrik Lundqvist was unbelievable in net, again, and really gave the Rangers the opportunity to win.

It’s late, so I’m keeping the non-goal breakdown stuff to a minimum. On to the goals:

Rangers 1, Canucks 0

Brian Boyle won the neutral zone face off cleanly back to Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh gained the zone and fired the puck off the boards, where it took a weird carom. Eddie Lack whiffed on it, allowing there to be a scramble in front. Lack was never able to freeze the puck, and Dan Carcillo was able to bang it home. There’s no picture on this goal, as all attempts came out really blurry.

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St. Louis’ struggles go beyond goals

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

In the comments section of yesterday’s goal breakdown, BSB regular SalMerc made a comment about how Martin St. Louis’ presence on the ice seemed to be opening up space for others. I thought that was a solid idea for a post, since he isn’t scoring. We’ve looked past snake bitten players in the past (see: Dubinsky, Brandon) when they are doing other things to assist their teammates, so this seemed to be another case of that. If player’s that just can’t seem to score are doing the right things on the ice, then the ship will eventually right itself and the player will begin scoring again. At least, that’s the theory.

Looking at the Rangers team page on Extra Skater, the first thing to notice is that in his 14 games since the trade, MSL is facing the toughest competition on the team (tied with Nash at 29.9% ToTm% QoC). This helps us conclude that SalMerc’s observation is an accurate one: His on-ice presence is affecting how the opposition matches up against him. He is drawing the top defensive assignments, which opens up the ice for his teammates. It’s a small sample size, so we need to take this with a grain of salt, but since it is MSL, we can assume these matchups will continue.

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Rangers sign Vermont forward Chris McCarthy

The Rangers have announced that they have signed undrafted free agent forward Chris McCarthy, out of the University of Vermont , per Seth Rothman. The 22-year-old –and right handed shooting– forward finished his senior season with a line of 18-24-42 in 38 games. McCarthy’s point production improved each year, and he finished his five year stay with Vermont with a line of 46-68-114 in 150 games.

Dominic Moore nominated for Masterton

In case you missed it, Dominic Moore was nominated for the Bill Masterton trophy yesterday, just hours after Chris wrote a solid piece on why the Rangers should re-sign him next year. The Masterton is awarded each year to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” The nominees are selected by members of the PHWA.

Moore returned to the Rangers this year, his second stint with the team, after sitting out all of last season following the passing of his wife from a rare form of liver cancer. She was 32.

Rangers blank Oilers in 5-0 laugher

Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

The Rangers came into Edmonton last night on the heels of an embarrassing loss in Calgary to a bad team. Edmonton, another bad team, paid the price of facing the Rangers after a bad game, and got absolutely dominated en route to a 5-0 shutout. Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello had a pair of goals a piece, Derek Stepan had three assists, and Cam Talbot made 26 saves for his third shutout of the season/career.

The Rangers controlled play from start to finish in this game, using their forecheck to force a shaky Edmonton defense into multiple turnovers that led to goals. Ben Scrivens didn’t have his best game, but the Swiss-cheese Oilers defense didn’t really help him out that much either. This was the perfect rebound game for a New York team headed to the playoffs.

On to the goals:

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Game 76: Rebound in Edmonton

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers gave away a golden opportunity on Friday night in Calgary, and lost two important points in the race to avoid the wild card. Tonight, they face another bad team that can’t play defense in Edmonton, and would truly benefit from two points, no matter how they come. Edmonton has more weapons than Calgary, the product of years of top picks, but they haven’t been able to put it all together just yet. This isn’t a must-win, but it is certainly a should-win.

Dallas Eakins coaches the Oilers in a very similar fashion to Patrick Roy and the Avalanche, so you will see a lot of the same tonight that you did on Tuesday. On the forecheck they run an aggressive spread 2-1-2 without sitting on leads. The Oilers play a man-on-man, zone defense hybrid depending on puck location. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play and rotate between a box and diamond penalty kill depending on puck location.

Rangers Lineup:

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