Archive for Around the League

Apr
05

Sunday Musings: NHL playoff picture

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Note: this post started as a Western preview and turned quickly into an Eastern post. Consider it a follow up to Justin’s post on Friday 🙂

While the Rangers have been battling for the proverbial cherry on top of a charmed 2014-15 season, a lot of teams have been struggling to get in to the playoffs. The beauty of having so many teams make it there is a really, really exciting late March-early April around the league. As of Easter Sunday, only three teams in the East and four teams in the West have clinched playoff spots, with two divisions entirely up for grabs. What this means is there are a lot of good teams, and a few really terrible teams, who are enjoying playing spoiler.

There are three teams in the West mathematically eliminated from the NHL playoff picture, which pales in comparison to the East, where seven teams have next season to look forward to. The East seems pretty locked up if you were to just look at the numbers, but you’d be grossly mistaken.

Florida was mathematically eliminated after their loss to Tampa last night, leaving what many think is a two-horse race between Ottawa and Boston to take the final Wild Card spot. What people seem to forget is that the streaking Bruins (winning their last five) have 95 points: the same as the sinking Penguins. The Penguins have lost their last two, and are 3-6-1 in their last ten going into Philadelphia today. Should Pittsburgh lose out, they could miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

Though it’ll be hard for Pittsburgh to miss, with Evgeni Malkin coming back and Buffalo as one of their four games remaining, the Detroit Red Wings find themselves in a similar position. Also with 95 points in the Atlantic, they have Boston almost even with them (Detroit has an extra game in hand, meaning the Bruins have one more loss than the Wings) and lots of pressure bearing down. The Wings haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1985-86 season – before lots of us were even born – but barely snuck in last season as well. Coach Mike Babcock is an Olympic gold medal winning coach, but maybe a change of scenery will do him well.

The Ottawa Senators, despite the butt kicking the Rangers dealt their way to clinch a playoff spot last week, have been tearing up the second half of the season following the departure of longtime coach Paul MacLean. Andrew ‘the Hamburglar’ Hammond coming up as their savior with really impressive numbers has rejuvenated the team, which looked flat and dead early in the season. It seems that Erik Karlsson has found his stride as captain and, with defensive partner Marc Methot coming back from an injury that sidelined him for most of the season, Karlsson has also found his unbelievable scoring ability again. With offensive outbursts from forwards Kyle Turris and rookie Mark Stone, they could win out and make the last week of the regular season incredibly interesting.

 

knock knock...

knock knock…

Looking at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, is anyone really safe? Even the Islanders, despite celebrating like they’d won the Cup in November, aren’t officially situated in the playoff picture. It would be really, really difficult for them to miss, but with them losing like it’s their job lately, no fan should really feel super confident.

To close out this post, here are a few Chris-like musing questions:

  • Who do you think will miss the playoffs in the East?
  • Who do you want the Rangers to face in the first round?
  • Which of the teams on the fringe (DET, PIT, BOS, OTT) do you think is most dangerous?
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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→

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Mar
10

So long, Nassau Coliseum

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Tonight, the New York Rangers will play their final regular season game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The building has been home to the New York Islanders since they came into the league, but is easily the most dilapidated building in the NHL. Every time I’ve been in the past five years, my shoes have stuck to the ground, I’ve spent way too much time in the wrong line, thinking I was getting a beer only to be funneled in to the bathroom, and felt my seat was going to break underneath me.

But despite that, since I grew up on Long Island, I have some nice memories of Nassau Coliseum. It was significantly easier for my father to take me to Ranger/Islander games there than at MSG. After all, the Coliseum was a 15 minute drive, not an hour train ride. Instead of dealing with the disaster that is the parking lot, we parked at Nassau Community College and walked over.

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Mar
02

Trade deadline live blog, part 2

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Well, the trade deadline is today at 3pm, and while the New York Rangers are expected to be idle today after a busy day yesterday. There were three trades last night and a few this morning:

  • Detroit acquired forward Erik Cole and a 2015 3rd round pick from Dallas for prospects Mattias Backman, Mattas Janmark, and a 2015 2nd round pick.
  • The Bruins acquired forward Brett Connolly from Tampa Bay for a pair of 2nd round picks (2015, 2016).
  • The Lightning acquired defenseman Brayden Coburn from Philly for defenseman Radko Gudas, a 2015 1st round pick, and a 2015 3rd round pick.
  • The Canadiens acquired defenseman Jeff Petry from Edmonton for a 2015 2nd round pick and a conditional 2015 5th round pick, depending on the Habs playoff performance (could get up to a 3rd round pick)
  • Montreal acquired defenseman Brian Flynn from Buffalo for a 2016 5th round pick.
  • St. Louis acquired defenseman Zbynek Michalek and a conditional 2015 3rd round pick from Arizona for prospectMaxim Letunov.

Anything not in this bullet point list went down after 11am this morning.

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Mar
01

Deadline day comes early: live blog

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Hello one and all. Seeing as the trade deadline is clearly already underway, let’s have a post to discuss all the latest league manoeuvrings. We’ll throw up a fresh post tomorrow as well and of course, we’ll let you know in a little more detail if the Rangers do anything.

1:00 I was away from my computer for a while but it looks like the Rangers are on the cusp of a huge deal involving Keith Yandle and sounds like Dan Girardi may be involved. Stay tuned. This could be an organisation shuddering deal.

1:20 Several reliable sources have confirmed the Rangers have completed a trade for Keith Yandle. What they gave up to do so is yet to be reported. Stay tuned! Consider the powerplay upgraded folks.

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The New York Rangers sloppy defensive play over the last few games finally cost them, losing 4-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers last night. I admittedly did not watch the game, but the highlights showed the following the goals:

  • Matt Read made a nice play on his goal, knocking the puck out of midair to himself then banking it off Cam Talbot. Dan Boyle lost his stick, but Marc Staal didn’t put a body on Read, which allowed him the time to put the puck in the net.
  • J.T. Miller did a good job to get open on his goal, and then followed it up by getting his own rebound. Carl Hagelin did a good job on the forecheck to force the turnover which set this up.
  • John Moore’s goal was nice to see, and hey, it came on an assist from Tanner Glass.
  • Talbot slid way out of position on the Michael Del Zotto goal, but that was horrible defense by all Rangers on the ice there. No one picked up MDZ, who basically had all day. MDZ is too talented to miss that.
  • On a day when the Isles lost, the Rangers blew a chance to take advantage. That said, you can’t win them all.

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Feb
02

Trade deadline strategy

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It’s interesting. If you watched the Rangers play, while ignoring the rest of the conference, you might think they are destined for greatness. They’re playing uptempo hockey, bagging 2.92 goals per game. The power play is over 19% for the first time since Leetch was dropping knowledge on the NHL. Most importantly, they can just flat out fly whenever they play their game.

However, despite winning 15 of 18 games at one point, the Rangers sit in 8th place in the Eastern Conference. A playoff berth seems likely, but a chance to win the Cup still remains an elusive goal.

Tampa has our number. Ryan Callahan has dictated that much. The Bruins still manhandle us every time we take a trip up I-95. The Islanders have out scored us 13-4 this season. While we may be built for West Coast trips, handling our own conference is a different story.

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Who would have thunk it? Every season since this whole “loser’s point” thing that Senor Bettman introduced after Lockout: The Sequel, the playoff picture has been cloudy up until the last week of the season. This time around, the playoff picture is crystal clear, and the games remaining are more about jockeying for positioning than qualifying for the postseason.

In the Atlantic, Boston is finally playing Boston hockey again, and have regained their playoff spot while Toronto free-falls towards Conor McJesus and Florida falls back from the high heavens. With a seven point cushion for fourth place, Boston (along with Montreal, Detroit, and Tampa Bay) are essentially locks for the postseason.

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Jan
20

Hot or Not: Around the NHL

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With All-Star weekend upon us, it’s about that time again to evaluate who’s hot, who’s not, and exactly what has been going on while we’ve been in our Blueshirt bubble. It’s been a season filled with surprisingly good teams, surprising struggles and a strange new tradition up north of throwing jerseys onto the ice.

The Good

New York Islanders – as a Rangers blog, I’m sorry to open on this note, but credit is well due for the Isles so far this season. Given a healthy, talented young core and a steady netminder, the Islanders are sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference, making work of the Penguins this past weekend and making it look easy.  John Tavares is living up to his studly name, contributing with 45 points (21G, 24A) and a 14% shooting percentage.  8 other Islanders, including two defensemen, have 20+ points so far on the season. With contributions coming from every line, if the defense gels up a bit more, they’re a serious playoff threat. Would be an interesting way to leave Long Island, for sure…

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Jan
11

All Star Game team thoughts

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The All-Star selections came out yesterday, making it a huge topic of conversation since it’s been three years since the last All-Star game. Some basic facts to know about the game are that it’ll take place in Columbus this year, it takes place on Sunday, January 25 (two weeks!), and that each team has to have at least one representative there.

If you’re unfamiliar with the selection process, the first six players are selected by fan vote and the remainder is selected by a committee.  Keeping in mind that each team needs a representative will help you with this list of “all stars,” but it still doesn’t sit well with me.

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