Finally, after 82 games and 187 days, the Rangers now know they will be facing in the first round of the playoffs. After a relatively strong start to the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins, suffering from a number of significant injuries, limped into the 8th and final playoff spot on Saturday. In preparation for the start of the series on Thursday, we will be running some preview posts so we can see what lies ahead for the Blueshirts in the opening round.
First up is an analysis of Marc-Andre Fleury, who will have the esteemed honor of playing behind an absolutely injury ravaged defense. Fleury had a nice renaissance of sorts this season, posting numbers far above his career averages (2.32 GAA/.920 sv% vs career averages of 2.59 and .911, respectively). He was far from the problem for the Penguins this year. I actually did a preview of Fleury way back in 2012, and the scouting report has definitely changed a bit. Quick refresher if it’s been a while; I’ll cover Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck-Handling Ability and Exploitable Weaknesses. Let’s get after it… Read More→
Last night the Rangers lost to the Ottawa Senators in the first meaningless game they have played in a long time. I didn’t watch a single minute. I was taking full advantage of the luxury of not having to worry about how the Rangers did and just simply enjoyed that absolutely sensational hockey being played around the league.
I was mainly focused on the Bruins-Panthers matchup, Detroit-Montreal, and of course, LA versus Calgary. With so much congestion in the bottom part of the conferences, eliminated teams playing spoiler and seed shuffling taking place all the way to the last day of the season, it’s a good time to be a hockey fan. Read More→
When I sat down to write this post, I thought we might be at a place, 77 games in (and a Metro Division Title), that I could start to preview potential first round goalie matchups. Then, I looked at the standings. There is so much congestion in the bottom of the of the division spots and the wild cards that I honestly didn’t know where to start.
Obviously, the Panthers aren’t catching the Penguins, Islanders or Caps. There is an extreme long-shot that they would even catch Detroit. At this point, the odds are clearly looking like the Rangers will play the Bruins in the first round. However, the B’s have been playing much better lately and find themselves tied in points with the third place Red Wings for the last division spot in the Atlantic (albeit with one less game). They are only two points back of Pittsburgh for the second wild card, as well. Read More→
Good morning, BSB faithful. I scrapped my whole intro because it was terrible and I haven’t had enough caffeine, yet. So, here are some Ranger-related thoughts to kick off your Friday…
- The whole “goalie controversy” thing is already getting old. Dave touched on it already, so I don’t have much too much to add. Basically, no one is saying that Cam Talbot is not a good goalie. I’m also not even saying conclusively that he won’t bring as much value over the next 6+ year as Hank will, considering their difference in age. While Talbot has played great, he has still played in less than 100 NHL games, and less than 30 as a “starter”. Passing over a Hall of Fame goaltender right in the middle of a competitive window for Talbot is not the move here, no matter how well he is playing.
- Martin St. Louis’ injury really wrecks the flow of the roster. With the Nash/Brassard/Zuccarello line and the Hagelin/Hayes/Miller line developing solid chemistry and a consistent scoring threat, it’s a shame to have to break one of those up. Get well soon, Marty. You haven’t played up to your usual standards, but your bring depth and balance.
- I would obviously prefer that the Rangers call up Oscar Lindberg to play on the fourth line and move either Dominic Moore or James Sheppard up to the third line, but I know it’s a pipe dream with Tanner Glass on the roster.
When Keith Yandle was acquired from Arizona prior to the trade deadline, the focus became on the formidable blue line corps the Rangers now possessed (once all the Anthony Duclair consternation died down, that is). With John Moore headed to the desert, Matt Hunwick became a depth guy and Dan Boyle’s minutes were about to become much more sheltered. All was well.
At the end of Wednesday night’s game in Washington, Kevin Klein left the ice and was headed to New York for tests. When the results came back, it was 3-4 weeks on the shelf with the ever mysterious “upper-body injury”. Panic ensues. Don’t get me wrong, Kevin Klein has been very solid for the Rangers this year, even if his torrid goal scoring pace (predictably) slowed down.
The trade deadline came and went on Monday this season with a flurry of activity and some very big moves. Since I usually will write my articles for Friday, I haven’t really had a chance to weigh in at this point. I know that there has been a couple games in the interim, but since the Rangers don’t play again until Sunday, I’m just going to share my post deadline thoughts anyway…
At last season’s trade deadline, the Rangers played chicken with their captain. Ryan Callahan was demanding a relatively outrageous contract extension that the Rangers were extremely hesitant to hand out. He was looking for top line dollars to play a well rounded, third line game. Down in Tampa, the Bolts’ long-time captain wasn’t feeling the love anymore. A first-ballot Hall of Famer left off the Olympic roster by his own GM. It was a recipe for bad blood.
Glen Sather was forced to make a choice between a legitimate top 6 upgrade or letting a homegrown, valuable player walk for nothing if his contract demands did not back down into reasonable territory. Ultimately, I still believe that Sather gave up too much ancillary value in the form of two first round picks, but such is life. The point is, it was appropriate for Sather to make that call in the middle of a competitive run. Upgrades are upgrades. Draft picks can be sorted out later. Read More→
The Rangers shutout the Calgary Flames last night at The Garden, by a score of 1-0. It was a crucial two points for the Blueshirts, as they needed to keep pace with both the Islanders and Canadiens at the top of the Conference, both of whom picked up wins last night. Cam Talbot recorded his 4th shutout of the season and newly un-shaggy Kevin Hayes continued his red hot play with the game winner. Since Dave is sick, we won’t have all his fancy bells and whistles, charts and breakdowns, just some good ol’ fashioned thoughts on this one…
- The Rangers played a very controlled defensive game with very little available to the Flames. It made the game kind of like watching paint dry, but two points are two points.
- I mean, what else is there to say about Kevin Hayes at this point? He has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the season and become a legitimate scoring threat every time he is on the ice. He has brought additional depth since the beginning, but he is starting to really be a player the opposition has to be aware of at all time. Especially if he is drawing third line matchups. Once everything clicks, he is going to be an impressive player.
- This was exactly the type of game Cam Talbot needed. I am coming to the conclusion that he is prone to the big save, but has a tough time making all the routine ones over a lengthy span of games. That skillset was well used last night, when he didn’t face a ton of rubber, but turned away some tough chances in spurts.
- Oscar Lindberg made his NHL debut last night and played a little over eight minutes. Obviously, that’s not a ton of time on the ice to make a lasting impression, but I thought he looked good. He was aggressive on the forecheck and responsible on both sides of the puck. In the spirit of beating the dead horse, I would love it if he could finally force Glass to the press box, either when Fast returns or prior…
- Kari Ramo played very well in this one. He made some very good chances look routine and that glove save on JT Miller was ridiculous. Usually I will lament desperation plays being lauded as great saves, but a tough bounce off the post will force you into scramble mode. That save showed a tremendous amount of athleticism and hand-eye coordination.
- Lack of scoring aside, the Rangers did what they had to do in this one: dominate possession, limit opposition chances and secure two points against a weaker team.
- Just goes to show you how much Rick Nash brings to the table when he is healthy. Having him and Hank back for the stretch and (obviously) playoffs are a make or break reality for any chance of a big run this spring.
- I love the spunk he showed, and I have historically been a fan of fighting, but JT Miller’s tilt just kind of reinforced how unnecessary it has become in the modern game.
- At some point the MSG crew has to give John Gianonne some protection between the benches from errant pucks, right?
- Islanders on MSG and Rangers on MSG+? I don’t understand the world anymore.
*due to the large percentage of the BSB staff who were physically at the Canucks game, Dave’s goal breakdown will be posted this afternoon.
The entirety of the Rangers’ community held their collective breath during the announcement that franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was experiencing continued symptoms from his fluke neck injury. It was a strange coalescence of events that ended in a vascular injury and an uncertain timetable for his return. In his stead, it was a no-brainer to turn to Cam Talbot. What was somewhat surprising was that 20-year old MacKenzie Skapski got the nod to play second string for the big club.
That’s not a knock on Skapski, mind you, who has been playing very solid hockey in his first pro-season in the AHL. After eight games without Lundqvist, Skapski is still yet to start a game (however rumored to be starting tonight in Buffalo). Since Lundqvist’s injury is relatively rare in hockey, his timetable and confidence is his overall health going forward somewhat suspect. All of this begs the question of whether the Rangers would be wise to bring in some additional goaltending depth prior to the deadline. With this in mind, I thought I’d break down some low-cost candidates who could be waived if need be in the event Hank comes back strong and ready to go for the stretch run.
MacKenzie Skapski, New York Rangers:
Let’s start with the obvious. The Rangers could simply give Skapski a try and see if he can handle the speed of the NHL game. I admittedly haven’t seen much of him, but the little I have watched shows a quick, athletic tender, with a tendency to get too busy in his movements and can overplay his positioning. Beniot Allaire is a master at quieting a goaltender’s motions (see Talbot, Cam), so I think this possibility is worth a shot. Better than Skapski riding the bench until Hank returns.
Yann Danis, Hartford Wolfpack:
Alternatively, the Rangers could swap Skapski for career journeyman Yann Danis. The 33-year old Quebec native has seen NHL action for the Habs, Islanders, Devils and Oilers over the course of his career, posting decent numbers in small samples. Something tells me he would make it through waivers on his way back down, and I would much rather see him decorating the bench at MSG and letting Skapski play in Hartford in the Rangers don’t see playing time in MacKenzie’s short-term future.
Anders Lindback, Buffalo Sabres: (1 year/$925k, pending UFA)
Just a couple years back I was a big fan of Lindback. He was a big goalie who had played well in limited time behind Pekka Rinne and looked to break out as a starter with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead, Lindback tanked and another massive goalie in Ben Bishop stole the crease in Florida. His large frame has gotten away from him and his mechanics have gotten all out of whack. He is as dispensable as it gets, though, turning UFA after the season.
Scott Clemmensen, Albany Devils: (1 year/$600k, pending UFA)
We’ve all seen plenty of Clemmensen over the years, both with New Jersey and Florida. He is about as vanilla as a backup goalie gets, but we can be confident in his competency for a few games at a time. The bigger question is whether Sather and Lou could get together for a trade even of this microscopic magnitude.
Reto Berra, Colorado Avalanche: (2 years/$2.9m remaining)
Two years and almost $3 million left on his deal. Pass.
Mike McKenna, Arizona Coyotes: (1 year/$550k, pending UFA)
Another career journeyman and pending UFA. McKenna has bounced around with the Lightning, Devils and Blue Jackets before landing in the desert. For what it’s worth, he has better AHL numbers than Danis does, but that’s hardly a conclusive argument for going out and getting him. Plus, it’s not like the ‘Yotes have goalie depth to spare at this point. McKenna is not likely worth the hassle for an incremental upgrade on what the Rangers already have.
Richard Bachman/Viktor Fasth, Edmonton Oilers (1 year/$615k, pending UFA/1 year/$3.4m cap hit remaining)
Bachman is another McKenna-type. Pending UFA on a small deal, but since they are overflowing with mediocre goaltenders in Edmonton, maybe this makes a little more sense. Fasth on the other hand has another year on his deal at a $3.4m cap hit. Yuck.
Jason LaBarbera, Norfolk Admirals (1 year/$750k, pending UFA)
When I first looked up old friend Jason LaBarbera, I was almost positive he was a free agent. Apparently the Ducks snuck him down to Norfolk, where he has very solid numbers in twenty games. Might be worth a flier, but not much of a huge upgrade to be had here. If he was a UFA, I’d say grab him and let him play a few games to rest Talbot, but he’s not exactly an ideal trade target.
As you can see, the pickings are slim. I don’t suppose you can really seek a meaningful upgrade when Lundqvist will hopefully be back in the next couple weeks, but depth is never a bad thing. Personally, I would soldier on with out internal options, whether that is Danis or Skapski. If I had to go outside the organization, I think Clemmensen is your best bet, but good luck with that. Moral of the story: get well soon, Hank.
Before we get started, I just wanted to take a minute to lament west coast games. Last night wasn’t even a proper 10:30pm west coast game, and I still hated it. It forced me to admit that I am an old man when I fall asleep half way through the third period and miss everything. It’s stupid. All games should be played based on Eastern Standard Time. Get off my lawn!
Ok, onto some actual Ranger-related thoughts after five Hank-less games…
- Wow, Kevin Hayes.
- Speaking of Hayes, I’m going to state the obvious and talk about how great that third line has looked. JT Miller needs to stay in the lineup.
- I think Chris Kreider has an unbelievable amount of talent. However, he seems to be developing into a seriously one dimensional player. He can use speed to the outside and fire off a slightly off-angle shot. If he doesn’t get to the front of the net, it’s a pretty exciting build up, but nothing usually comes of it.
- I’m going on record and saying Marty St. Louis is in a slump. Far from done. Although, that turn over on the Av’s second goal last night was borderline inexcusable.
- Cam Talbot has looked very good in Hank’s absence. He has good composure, positioning and is prone to the big save. The key will be how consistent he can be if Hank is out for more than 10 games or so. That is the real separator of starting-caliber goalies. Can they rely on him night in night out?
- Rick Nash is awesome. I love that I get to say that now almost every time I write one of these posts.
- Speaking of Hank, his injury is one that is rarely seen in hockey. I’ll be cautious whenever he returns and I don’t know how confident we can be that he will be fully healthy when the time comes.
- I need to starting seeing some losing out of NYI, PIT and WSH very soon. I’m getting sick of their crap.
- The fanbase seems to be very split on how intense this year’s trade deadline should get. As long as Tanner Glass gets a good seat in the press box to watch from, I’ll be good.
- We are officially in the grind portion of the season. Especially without Hank, it’s tough to get up for a run through Feb/March. It’s about collecting points and jockeying for the highest conference position possible. Still on pace to fight for the top if games in hand are won.
- It never ceases to amuse me how much my wife loves watching the dad’s up in stands during their visits.
- How about that Evander Kane trade? I’m not going to like seeing Buffalo on the schedule in a couple years.
- I’d love to see MacKenzie Skapski get some action. For one game, let’s see what the kid’s got.
Rangers are right back at it tomorrow against the lowly Coyotes before a big tilt (relatively speaking) against the Isles at the Coliseum.