The Rangers hosted the ailing Penguins, missing half their roster, and still managed to get outplayed for most of the game. Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding all game, bailing the Rangers out with multiple sequences of marvelous saves (here, here, here, here, and here. There were others, but my NHL.tv crapped out on me in the third period). But even with Lundqvist standing on his head, the Rangers couldn’t get anything going against the Penguins and Matt Murray.
All that said, the Rangers were able to keep it close and get a last second (literally) goal to tie it. They pressured hard in the third, and it was Chris Kreider who buried the equalizer with 1.2 seconds left. They were pressing so hard, in fact, they gave up a 2-on-0 rush with Conor Sheary and Sidney Crosby. Hank stopped Sheary then swatted the puck away from Crosby. That kept it a close game, and gave the Rangers a chance to tie it. Kreider answered that call.
After an exciting overtime, the shootout was quick. Kessel and Crosby made quick work of the Rangers as the Pens got the extra point.
On to the goals:
The Rangers return home tonight to take on an ailing Penguins club that is having a rough month. The Penguins are dealing with a ton of injuries. As noted by their lineup, they are basically dressing half of their AHL team to deal with their injuries. Seriously, that blue line is a train wreck right now.
I’m expecting this to be a high scoring affair. The forwards on the Rangers should be able to steam roll that Pittsburgh blue line tonight. Meanwhile, the Penguins still have Crosby and Kessel, so they are capable of scoring despite the AHL lineup around them. This is not going to be indicative of any potential playoff matchup, but is the perfect time for the Rangers to get back to proper process in their own end.
The Rangers had some new lines at practice today, and it appears Jimmy Vesey is the new scratch.
You know what’s going to be fun to watch? Holden-Girardi as the second pair.
Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers have their sights set on Hobey Baker finalist Mike Vecchione of Union College. Josh wrote briefly on Vecchione, stating that he is one of the more dynamic centers in the NCAA. He put up 29-34-63 in 38 games this year with Union. In 149 NCAA games, he has a line of 71-105-176.
The drawback here is that Vecchione is already 24 years old, and much like prior undrafted NCAA free agents, he has more leverage than Vinni Letteri and Vince Pedrie. The Rangers would likely need to sign him this year –ineligible for the playoffs– which would burn a year of his ELC. It’s certainly a risk.
But with risk comes reward. It is likely the Rangers lost one of Jesper Fast or Oscar Lindberg to Vegas in expansion. If Vecchione can make the jump right away, which is no guarantee, then he might be able to fill that fourth line role.
Thursday is usually musings day, but it’s been a while since I’ve actually written one of these. I leave them to Chris, but he’s MIA at the moment. Since there isn’t much going on in Rangerland, today seems like a perfect day to bring it back.
1. There isn’t much for the Rangers to play for in the next two weeks, yet despite our calls to enjoy stress free hockey, it seems to be difficult to do so. Lineup decisions have been questioned, but none moreso than the repeated scratching of Pavel Buchnevich. In short, this is a terrible decision by Alain Vigneault. Buchnevich is better than half the forwards on the roster, and is the long-term future of this team at forward. He needs these games to grow and develop. Putting Matt Puempel and Tanner Glass in over him is folly.
With their overtime loss to San Jose last night, the Rangers clinched a playoff berth. It was a mere formality, as the Blueshirts have been locked into the WC1 spot for quite some time. The lay of the land was that clear as early as January. But despite the 97 points and little check mark, there are concerns with the Rangers.
For all intents and purposes –I hate the loser point– the Rangers are 6-8 this month in 14 games. They have one game remaining against the Penguins. No matter what, the Rangers are going to stumble through March with a losing record. With just five games remaining in the season, that’s not a good look for a team looking to make a run.
Two questions for this week’s mailbag. As always, you can submit questions using the mailbag widget on the right.
Anthony asks (short version): Who are the Rangers going to protect if Jeff Gorton can’t make any moves to prepare for the expansion draft?
This is a pretty straight forward question with a straight forward answer. Assuming there are no moves made, the Rangers will protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie. They must expose two forwards signed next year, and one defenseman signed next year (note: RFAs don’t cut it. They need to be signed). First and second year pros are exempt. Any player with a no-move clause must be protected. So let’s go through the obvious choices (UFAs are excluded):
The Rangers finish out their California trip tonight in San Jose, with another attempt to get that fancy little “x” next to their name in the standings. However if they are going to clinch, they will need to do it against the playoff-bound Sharks, who are one of the top teams in the West.
This is another stress-free game, which sounds about right because I rarely am able to keep my eyes open for these late games. The Rangers are in a unique spot where their games don’t matter anymore. It’s all about preparing for the playoffs right now. Even though the lineups may change regularly, proper process and effort on the ice should not. Those are the keys now.
Much has been made about the lineup decisions made by Alain Vigneault. This is for good reason, as AV routinely dresses “his guys”, sometimes to the detriment of the team. His lineup decisions all year have been questioned, but they have come under a significant amount of fire lately as the Rangers get healthy.
It started with Tanner Glass and Steven Kampfer, and has trickled into Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein. But as Kevin pointed out this morning, the Rangers are in a unique position. They aren’t playing for anything at the moment. Their first round situation is set in stone, even if their opponent isn’t.
Per TDC Men’s Hockey, the Rangers have signed undrafted free agent defenseman Vince Pedrie to a two-year entry level deal. TDC, citing Pedrie’s Facebook page, noted that Pedrie had two years of NCAA eligibility left, so this is a little bit of a steal for the Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack.
In his second year at Penn State, Pedire put up a line of 8-22-30 in 38 games, which was an eight point improvement on his 8-14-22 line in his freshman year. Pedrie was instrumental in helping Penn State, which did not even have a D1 hockey team five years ago, win the Big Ten title this year.
Pedrie’s ELC begins next year, and he will likely report to Hartford on an ATO for the remainder of this season. With Vinni Lettieri in the fold, the turnover on the awful Wolf Pack team has begun.