The Rangers went into Glendale last night looking to take advantage of a soft spot in their schedule. They came out with two points, but it certainly wasn’t easy. The Rangers got two powerplay tallies early, but let the Yotes hang around with sloppy overall play. It was also the powerplay that got the game winner, as Matt Puempel book-ended the powerplay scoring with the first goal and the game winner. He also added another one with ten seconds remaining to complete the hat trick.
Antti Raanta was brilliant in this game, making several difficult stops in the second and third periods as the Yotes pressed to tie the game. He could not keep them from tying it, but the Yotes’ speed was on display in the third as he was peppered with quality chances.
Don’t let the score fool you though, this was not the best of games by the Rangers. Arizona is not a good team, and the Rangers let them hang around all night. If not for a 4-for-7 night on the powerplay, this game could have been a lot different. However, it’s amazing what a good powerplay does for a team, right?
On to the goals:
The Rangers have finally hit a soft spot in the schedule, with a hard fought –albeit relatively sloppy– win against Ottawa the other night to kick things off. Now they are in Glendale to take on the pretty terrible Arizona Coyotes. And I do mean terrible, they have 27 points this season. The Colorado Avalanche, the Saturday night opponent, have 25 points.
Suffice it to say, this is the time when the Rangers need to start focusing on proper process again, as they’ve been slacking over the past few games. They can get away with it against the Senators, Avs, and Yotes, but playoff teams will run all over them. But proper process also needs to be met with consistency.
There is no reason why the Rangers shouldn’t beat the Yotes, especially when you look at the team they are dressing.
It’s been a bumpy few games for the Rangers. First they allowed touchdowns to Pittsburgh and Minnesota, then they needed to rely on two sloppy goals against a backup goalie on a mediocre team in order to right the ship. After a few weeks of strong defensive play, they regressed back to their old selves. It wasn’t pretty, and I have some thoughts.
1 – I’ve been harping on this for a while, but if it isn’t clear to you that the Rangers need an upgrade on defense, then please tell me why you disagree (politely). The effort against Ottawa was atrocious, and fast forwards will continue to burn the likes of Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi on a regular basis. It’s no coincidence that playoff teams like Pittsburgh can basically score at will against the Rangers. They need to get some mobile defensemen that can get sticks in lanes and force the rush to the outside.
Providence Bruins 3, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
By Henry Lucey
Hartford, CT, December 27, 2016 – The Providence Bruins’ Jordan Szwarz notched the third period winner Tuesday night, as the Bruins skated past the Hartford Wolf Pack, 3-2, at the XL Center.
Hartford dominated the majority of game’s opening frame, but with just one minute to play, the scoreboard remained unblemished. After failing to convert on a number of promising chances, the Wolf Pack’s up-tempo offense was finally able to break through at the 19:25 mark, when Adam Tambellini sent a gorgeous snap-shot into the top-right corner of Malcolm Subban’s net. The goal, Tambellini’s sixth of the year, was assisted by Nicklas Jensen and Robin Kovacs.
On the opposite end of the ice, Hartford net-minder Jeff Malcolm, playing his first AHL game of the year, denied all seven of the attempts that came his way, sending the Pack into the dressing room with a 1-0 advantage.
The Rangers decided to spot the Senators a two-goal lead early in the game, but then came back from that two-goal deficit twice on the way to a 4-3 win. The Rangers took a while to realize that the hockey season had actually resumed, but luckily for them the Senators aren’t a good hockey team. Antti Raanta was shaky early, but made some marvelous saves to keep the Rangers in the game.
Nick Holden, Derek Stepan (two goals each), and Ryan McDonagh (three assists) carried the offense for the good guys, and luckily they showed up. It was a three man show offensively, with Raanta bailing out the Rangers defense in the second and third periods. Definitely not a complete win for the Rangers, but they didn’t allow a touchdown. Sometimes, baby steps is all you can ask for.
On to the goals:
The title of this post sounds like something out of a bad comedy where no one knows hockey and insist touchdowns are scored. However the Rangers have allowed a seven-spot to both the Penguins and the Wild in their last two games, so touchdowns for everyone! Hooray! Luckily for the Rangers, it’s the Senators tonight, and they aren’t very good.
I say this, of course, knowing that the Rangers laid an egg the last time these two teams faced each other, giving Craig Anderson the easiest shutout of his career. With just one game over the past six days, including the most recent three day break, the Rangers have no reason to be tired. The schedule isn’t an excuse (should never have been anyway, every team has these issues), so stop allowing touchdowns. Also, play defense. These are related.
Hartford Wolf Pack 5, Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2
Bridgeport, CT, December 26, 2016 – Nicklas Jensen scored a natural hat trick, the Hartford Wolf Pack’s first hat trick of the season, Monday night at Webster Bank Arena, to lead the Wolf Pack to a 5-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The victory extended the Wolf Pack’s longest winning streak of the season to four games, and brought Hartford (11-14-3-1, 26 pts., .448) to within one point of sixth-place Springfield in the Atlantic Division.
“We started off okay, but definitely as the game went on, it was better and better,” Jensen said. “Our whole team played a strong defensive game, and at the end we took over. I think we’re playing as a team right now, and we’re having fun together and enjoying going to the rink. Everything’s obviously a lot more fun when we’re winning, and we have a good streak going, so we’ve got to keep it going.”
The Rangers have recalled goalie Brandon Halverson from the Hartford Wolf Pack for tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators. Antti Raanta will get the start, and Halverson will serve as the backup, as Henrik Lundqvist is out with the flu.
Halverson has had a bit of a shaky year, spending time in the ECHL as well as the AHL. In his six AHL starts, he’s sporting a 3.88 GAA and a .861 SV% although the overall quality of the Wolf Pack team likely plays a role in those poor numbers. In his four ECHL starts, he has a 1.70 GAA and a .943 SV%.
The Rangers need defensive help. Most of that is because of the rapid decline of Dan Girardi, who continues to play on the top pair due to lack of other options on the Rangers. No matter where you sit on the Girardi spectrum, it’s tough to argue against Girardi being a shell of what he was five years ago. Players like him deserve a leash, but that leash should have run out two years ago.
Beyond his declining play, his contract is an albatross to the Rangers. He is signed for another three years following the 2016-2017 season, with a $5.5 million cap hit. The Rangers were able to get some cap breathing space in the Derick Brassard/Mika Zibanejad swap, but not enough to make an adequate fix to the defense. Even if the Rangers had the space to make an upgrade, there’s no room for additions. Something has to give.
For anyone watching the Rangers this season, it’s been clear that they need help on defense. More specifically, they need a true 1RD. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein, it’s clear neither of them are capable of being successful in that role. For the Rangers to be true contenders, an upgrade is needed.
However in the NHL, you need to give to get. If the Rangers are truly going to land a Dougie Hamilton or a Jacob Trouba, they need to give up something of value. A package of a bottom-six forward and a bottom-pairing defenseman is simply a laughable proposal. The Rangers need to give a top line forward in order to land their prized defenseman.