The Rangers gave away two points today. The Rangers self destructed in their own zone with countless turnovers, poor coverage and the third line aside, the first period can best be described as sloppy. While Henrik Lundqvist looked rusty to begin, the turnovers and general play in front of him left a lot to be desired all game long. Let’s get to the goal breakdowns. Dave’s at a wedding today so you’ll have to excuse me for the less detailed breakdown.
Bruins 1-0 Rangers
The first Bruins goal was a mix of atrocious NHL officiating and rotten luck on the Rangers part, and of course, some bad coverage. After a scramble in front of Lundqvist, from the right hand side Bruins center Patrice Bergeron simply threw the puck on net from a sharp angle and Lundqvist gave up a juicy rebound, pushing the puck out into the slot.
A streaking Milan Lucic, completely alone, appeared to change the angle of his foot to push the puck toward the goal. Was it a kicking motion? Before the puck got to the goal it took a wicked hop, up over Lundqvist and in to the net. Ryan McDonagh was caught watching the puck, as was Chris Kreider, and neither knew where Lucic was. That said, the goal should never have counted. The decision on the ice was no-goal but inexplicably overturned by Toronto.
People questioned the amount Glen Sather gave up for Marty St Louis, baulked at the cost of Rick Nash and panicked when Anthony Duclair was part of the Keith Yandle package. Move forward from each of those deals however and each star acquisition brought into the Rangers fold has made a tangible impact on the Rangers helping turn the organisation into an annual contender. (Of course, Keith Yandle’s true impact is still to be truly measured).
What has allowed Sather to make all these bold moves and show almost blatant disregard to the importance of early round draft picks is the way the Rangers roster has progressively become younger, more talented and well established. The Rangers have eight players who have scored at least 10 goals, five of which have only ever played for the Rangers, while Derick Brassard is just 27 and tied into the Rangers for the long term. That number of ten goal goalscorers doesn’t count JT Miller whose impact is now being felt consistently and who should hit double figures.
As the New York Rangers continue to struggle for offense and as Martin St Louis remains sidelined, prospect Oscar Lindberg has continued to play well for the Hartford WolfPack at both ends of the rink. Lindberg scored another two points Friday night, including his twentieth goal of the season as the ‘Pack won their Friday night game against Leigh Valley, 3-2.
Lindberg did all his damage on the powerplay last night (take note Rangers special teamers…) and has really developed his offense at the AHL level. He has reached the 20 goal plateau for the first time, scoring two more goals than last year but in 13 games less, while he should pass his career high of 44 points imminently. Like JT Miller, it appears Lindberg is outgrowing the AHL.
Lindberg has played consistently well all season for the Pack. His style and skill set should fit seamlessly in to New York and with the Rangers relying on depth for offense Lindberg should be getting a look given that cap space is available and they have enough transactions available to make a move.
The Rangers are in a scoring funk. It’s probably is a mere statistical regression and no long term concern but it’s certainly noteworthy. On the back of a shutout loss to the Blackhawks Wednesday there’s plenty to talk about. So let us muse.
How ridiculous is it to begin this post with a complaint? The Rangers have a ridiculously good record, have been almost impossibly consistent in harvesting points, so a tight loss to fellow contender isn’t a huge issue but this team does need a kick start offensively.
Apparently Henrik Lundqvist will be rusty when he returns? He’s recognized as being a slow starter in recent seasons but I’m not concerned about his readiness. While there’s no replacement for game time he’s been on the ice and his focus will surely be where it needs to be midseason.
I really feel for JT Miller. He’s working hard and getting chances but like the top six, he’s snakebitten.
The next two weeks may tell us a lot more about JT Miller’s future. With Marty St Louis out injured for up to eight games the opportunity for JT Miller to really show his worth to Alain Vigneault has never been greater. Whether Miller gets moved up to the second line or Kevin Hayes goes from third line center to second line wing, it appears more ice time and responsibility will fall on the two young forwards.
While Kevin Hayes has recently been flavour of the month (to an extent deservedly so) and has begun to prove his ability at the NHL level, Miller is still very much in the prove-it stage of his development. That said, even Miller has started to earn praise from Vigneault recently and now is the time Miller can really establish himself as a Ranger moving forward.
Right now, the Rangers are struggling to score and it’s largely thanks to their defensive play but particularly their goaltending that they’re still winning in bunches. With a stretch of difficult games ahead (Chicago, Anaheim and a hot Ottawa amongst others), Miller’s ability to come through offensively wouldn’t go unnoticed. The third line (so Hagelin – Hayes – Miller) has been one of the Rangers more reliable units in recent weeks but it’s expected the unit will be broken up with St Louis unavailable.
In a season where the Rangers, from top to bottom, have done almost everything right the decision to insert Matt Hunwick straight into the line-up is the sign of a missed opportunity. When Henrik Lundqvist went down with an injury the team turned to Cam Talbot. Slowly but surely Talbot has turned himself into a legitimate NHL starter – at worst a high end backup – and moving forward, has developed into an asset for the franchise.
When Lundqvist eventually returns the embarrassment of riches in goal will be a huge advantage for the Rangers. On top of that the team has identified a young netminder in Mackenzie Skapski who may also have a future with the big club. In injury, opportunities lie or so they say.
While Talbot’s form was critical to the Rangers pursuing a high seed and playoff position, there is less pressure (to an extent) on Klein’s replacement in the line-up. Barring a collapse of the most epic of proportions the Rangers have a playoff spot sown up and barring a slightly less but still epic collapse they have a high seed in the bag too. The timing of Kevin Klein’s injury should represent an opportunity to test one of the younger Hartford blueliner’s.
Who else wants to bask in the glory of the Rangers ripping off a bunch of wins against the league’s best? For once, the Rangers aren’t playing and as it’s Thursday let’s muse.
Kevin Hayes – rookie beast extraordinaire. Hayes has literally grown up right in front of our eyes. His patience on the puck is remarkable for a rookie; his strength on the puck undeniable and his decision making has improved immeasurably.
What’s not discussed much is the impact of the college ‘rookie wall’. Hayes has surely (barring a sudden, out of nowhere loss of form) put to bed this theory for the time being. He is literally playing his best hockey as a pro right now and is seemingly getting better every game.
At times, Hayes’ line with Hagelin and Miller has actually carried the Rangers in recent weeks and given that this is a Cup contending roster that’s one hell of a compliment. With a bit of luck Hayes could reach 40 points in his rookie year and given that he’s played out of his natural position, on a depth line, that’s very impressive.
Cam Talbot is starting to put to bed any doubts that he isn’t starter material and is fasting becoming an extremely useful asset for the Rangers. The numbers from the past few weeks bear repeating. Talbot has posted a 3-0-1 record, along with a 0.99 GAA, a .966 SV% (112 saves on 116 shots), and 1 shutout in his last four appearances which alone is incredibly impressive before you even consider who he’s put those numbers up against.
Talbot’s last four appearances have been against the Predators at home and on the road against the Red Wings, Hawks and the Islanders. All four clubs are in the league’s top ten in points and are all rightly tabbed as playoff contenders, so Talbot isn’t just getting the ‘soft games’ like when Henrik Lundqvist previously might have needed a rest.
Fact is, recently Talbot has been nothing short of sensational and has been so at a time when he’s been needed most. The Rangers scoring has dried up as of late just as the schedule has got (much) tougher, so Talbot has not had room for error. Meanwhile he has started 16 of the last 17 games, proving he can handle a heavy load. He has a higher win percentage than Lundqvist and has matched the Rangers uber goalie and resident King in almost every key statistic.
There are precious few quality defensemen that become available in the National Hockey League. It’s why defensemen like James Wisniewski, Ben Lovejoy(!), Marek Zidlicky and Braydon Coburn all fetched far more than any of them should have done at the trade deadline. Most of them still have their uses for sure, but the prices that they were moved for were certainly inflated in each case. This all brings us to Rangers defenseman and the owner of one well discussed, long term and onerous contract, Dan Girardi.
It’s highly unlikely that Girardi gets moved any time soon. This is because Girardi has been incredibly loyal, is well respected inside the organisation and is an absolute iron man. He logs big minutes, he’s a low maintenance kind of guy and he’s a leader. That said, Girardi is regressing; he’s a possession disaster and his (average) skating and puck moving ability don’t really fit well with Alain Vigneault’s system now, let alone as he ages. However, the market for defensemen has never been weaker – get your supply and demand caps on – which means moving Girardi is something the Rangers must consider. This summer the Rangers should be able to find a taker for Girardi as teams are increasingly desperate for defensive help.
The Rangers were unlucky to come out of Detroit with only one point. Then again, how often have we been able to say in the recent past that a Rangers team would be disappointed to come away from Detroit without the points despite out skilling and out skating the Wings? Call it progress.
I saw someone call Wednesday’s game a preview of the Eastern Conference Final. If that becomes fact the Rangers would be delighted with that opportunity. The Wings are a very talented team but over seven games, and with Henrik Lundqvist in net, the Rangers would be confident they would progress.
Yandle watch: You just know a handful of fans are already moaning thathe hasn’t registered ten powerplay points yet… Yandle has adjusted quickly especially when you consider he’s had almost no practice time. It’s hard not to get excited about the upside of this team.
James Sheppard had a solid debut and he looks like he’ll bring a healthy dose of hockey IQ to the Rangers. He keeps it simple, makes smart plays and looks defensively reliable. One game does not a career Ranger make, but it was a promising start for sure.