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.
Some notes from practice today, and there were a bunch of them:
- Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg will not play tomorrow in Detroit. They are both “dealing with lower body issues.”
- Oscar Lindberg will be back in the lineup. A call up from Hartford is also expected.
- No surprise here, Antti Raanta will be in net for the Rangers tomorrow. Giving Henrik Lundqvist rest is much needed, considering the workload this year.
- Dan Girardi will be ready for the playoffs. Neither he nor Ryan McDonagh (hand) skated at practice.
After last night’s loss to the Islanders, the Rangers no longer control their own destiny for playoff opponent. The Isles are now tied with the Rangers in points, but have a game in hand. The Rangers hold the tiebreaker (regulation/OT wins), so the Isles will need to finish ahead of the Rangers in points to take third in the division.
Since the Isles have the game in hand, they need three points in those final two games to ensure they finish ahead of the Rangers in the standings. If that happens, then the Rangers are going to drop to the first wild card spot and move to the Atlantic for the playoffs. That means a first round date with the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers.
A lot of folks wanted the Rangers to throw last night’s game. In reality, the best case scenario was a well played game, win or lose. The Rangers played a very strong game, controlling the majority of the game and limiting the Isles at even strength. However it all changed in six minutes in the second period, when the Islanders scored three goals to really put the game away and chase Henrik Lundqvist.
The scoreboard will show domination by the Isles, but it was the exact opposite. The Rangers spent most of the time in the offensive zone, but couldn’t solve Thomas Greiss, who played exceptionally well making 36 saves. After a flukey goal hit off Dan Boyle, Greiss made a fantastic stop on Miller, and the Isles quickly turned the momentum and a blown read into a 2-0 lead. A bad penalty kill read made it 3-0, and it was all she wrote there.
As expected, Mats Zuccarello won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award tonight. Zucc came back from a career threatening injury suffered in the playoffs last year to win the award for the second time in three years. He has a line of 26-35-61 this year.
Tonight’s game at MSG is a bit of an oddity. For the first time I can remember, the Rangers are facing the Islanders with playoff implications late in the season, and fans of both teams are actively hoping their team loses. No one wants to face the two headed monster of Washington and Pittsburgh.
More importantly, the Steven McDonald Award will be presented tonight. The smart money is on Mats Zuccarello, but I think it should go to Henrik Lundqvist. Hank is the only reason why this team isn’t a complete and utter dumpster fire this year. They aren’t in the playoffs without him. I wonder if the voting fans realized that.
Per Steve Zipay, Henrik Lundqvist has been named Team MVP, as voted on by the media. This comes as no surprise, as without Lundqvist this team might not even be in the playoffs this season. This was honestly a no-brainer.
Jesper Fast was named the Player’s Player, voted on by his teammates. I think this means a lot more than people realize. It shows Fast is respected on the ice for the roles he’s been given, and he’s likely a positive influence in the locker room. Not bad for a sixth round pick, acquired by the Rangers for a busted first round pick in Bobby Sanguinetti.
Last season was an oddity for the Rangers. They didn’t maintain their solid possession game from the prior season, one which carried them to the Stanley Cup Final, but their scoring was up. It was tough to argue with the results, even if the process changed. The process change was subtle, it simply shifted the focus on using the tremendous team speed to generate chances off the rush.
It was something I broke down last season, as the Rangers appeared to have set plays for this. They had the stretch pass, the blue line to blue line pass, and the “Chris Kreider play.” They also forechecked in a manner designed to force a turnover at either blue line and turn the play the other way. It was magnificent to watch, as the team speed was put on full display.
Now, it seems the style of play has caught on to the rest of the league. Teams are anticipating the forecheck and breaking through, creating rush chances of their own. They are also anticipating the stretch passes that generate so many rushes.
After last night’s win against Tampa Bay, which I admittedly did not watch in its entirety, there were a few hot takes running around Twitter. First is that Tanner Glass put the Rangers in a big hole by taking an unnecessary five minute major for interference. The second is that Oscar Lindberg played only six minutes, despite Glass being tossed from the game early in the first period.
I did not see the Glass hit, but let’s just go with the assumption that he got a match penalty, so it was likely some form of a dirty hit. But the focus isn’t on that hit, it’s on the fact that Lindberg played six minutes in a meaningless game with the Rangers down to 11 forwards.
At the time of writing this post, the score is 2-1, Rangers trailing by one goal heading into the third period. I honestly couldn’t watch the first or third periods, thus is life sometimes. I guess these are good games to miss, since they are relatively meaningless. Here are some random thoughts from that period.
- Good to see Dylan McIlrath playing. Forgot he existed.
- Oh hey, he looks comfortable on the right side. Let’s play him more. Please?
- Oh hey, Oscar Lindberg is still a scratch. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
- And Tanner Glass got a game misconduct. Didn’t see the play. Interference apparently, but the Rangers killed it off. Not a good penalty –a five minute major for interference is never a good penalty– but a solid kill.