Playoff hockey is back. The Rangers begin their quest for another run through the playoffs in Pittsburgh to take on the red-hot Penguins, who are finally getting healthy.
Marc-Andre Fleury is back. It appears Olli Maata is back as well. Evgeni Malkin is still hurt, but that was expected. His absence is notable, like Ryan McDonagh’s is for the Rangers.
The Rangers have recalled forward Marek Hrivik from the Hartford Wolf Pack. The move is surprising, since Hrivik was just returned to Hartford this weekend after the regular season wrapped up. Also, Hartford played a game this morning at 11am, which makes this even more peculiar.
Aside from the surprise, Hrivik has shown he can handle a bottom line role in the NHL, in limited samples. If he plays, it will be a big test for the kid.
The Rangers will continue to add undrafted free agents to the mix, this time signing UFA Swedish forward Malte Stromwall to a two-year entry-level deal. The 21-year-old right-handed forward played with AIK in the SHL last season, putting up a line of 24-17-42 in 49 games, leading his team in goals and points in a notoriously low scoring league.
Stromwall is a bit small (5’10”, 181 lbs), but was a potential draft sleeper in his draft year (2012). For reasons unknown, but I can venture a guess size had to do with it, he was undrafted. By all accounts he is a pretty skilled guy, and a solid add to a relatively depleted farm system.
Stromwall will join the Rangers in camp next season.
Over the past few days, we’ve spent a significant amount of time previewing the series between the Rangers and the Penguins, which kicks off tomorrow night. We’ve looked at systems, goalies, and the overall series preview. We dedicated an entire podcast to it. Suffice it to say, this matchup scares the bejesus out of most of us here.
The Rangers have a clear advantage in net and a slight (in my opinion) advantage at forward, especially with the Evgeni Malkin injury. However the Rangers fall woefully short where it matters the most: Overall process and showing improving play as the season progresses.
A few requests came in to do a BSB only bracket challenge, so I created one over at the bracket challenge website. You can access the league by clicking here, or by typing “BSB League” in the search field.
Personally, I always find these to be fun with fans of a specific team, because they always think their team is the best. While I can’t offer up anything concrete, the winner can certainly write a guest post bragging about how much they know the game and how the losers are peons incapable of knowing anything about hockey.
Have at it folks. Let me know in the comments who joined.
The table is set for another round of the Penguins and the Rangers, who seem to meet in the playoffs as often as the Caps and the Rangers. This time around, it will be old friend Mike Sullivan, who was an assistant with the Rangers during the John Tortorella days, behind the bench in Pittsburgh. The change in coach means a change in system from the last time they met in the first round (last year).
The biggest change for the Penguins is that they are run a more aggressive style of play compared to Mike Johnston last year. They are more like Dan Bylsma’s Penguins in this regard, even without half their roster, as Pat pointed out. But even without key players, the Penguins enter the playoffs red hot and have really adopted this new style of play effectively.
Per Steve Zipay, Dan Girardi is a full participant in practice today after missing the last two games of the season with an upper body injury. Girardi was leveled by Brian Boyle in the third period of that contest.
Ryan McDonagh was on the ice in a non-contact jersey, but holding a righty stick. He’s not close, and AV confirmed he will not play in the opener.
The schedule for the Rangers/Penguins matchup has been released. As expected, they will play Game One on Wednesday, April 13. Also as expected, NBC wants the Rangers as their game du jour, to they won’t play Game Two until Saturday at 3pm. But not expected is the two days off between games two and three. Weird. Full schedule below:
- Game 1 @ Pittsburgh, April 13 (8pm)
- Game 2 @ Pittsburgh, April 16 (3pm)
- Game 3 @ MSG, April 19 (7pm)
- Game 4 @ MSG, April 21 (time TBD)
- Game 5* @ Pittsburgh, April 23 (time TBD)
- Game 6* @ MSG, April 25 (time TBD)
- Game 7* @ PIT, April 27 (time TBD)
The Rangers close out the season this afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings in what is a relatively meaningless game for the Rangers, but means everything for the Wings. The Blueshirts have the potential to end the Wings season, along with potentially Pavel Datsyuk’s career. The Magic Man and sure fire Hall of Famer has hinted he might go to the KHL to wrap up his remaining hockey. Whatever he does, if this is his last game, then let’s watch in awe with what he can do with the puck.
The game itself isn’t completely meaningless for the Rangers. A loss all but ensures the first wild card seed and a date with the Panthers in the first round. A win, and we will need to wait and see what the Isles do this weekend. A Rangers win and an Isles loss means Pittsburgh. That’s the only scenario where we know who the Rangers will face in the first round.
As noted earlier, the Rangers have called up Marek Hrivik to replace one of Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg in tomorrow’s game in Detroit. Hrivik was recalled once by the Rangers this season, playing in four games and registering an assist. Hrivik didn’t look overmatched in that stint, and will get another chance to show he belongs.
This may be an extended tryout for Hrivik, who may be in a battle for a roster spot next year for the cap-strapped Rangers. But for now, it’s a one game call up before being part of the taxi squad.