Category: Game Thread

Metro Division Semis Game 1: Flyers at Rangers

Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Playoff hockey is upon us. The Rangers and Flyers will see each other in the playoffs for the first time since the Legion of Doom bowled over the Rangers in 1997. For a complete preview of this series, including the systems Craig Berube has the Flyers playing, check out this post by Suit. Justin wrote a post on Steve Mason’s goaltending style, but he’s not playing tonight for the Flyers. Instead the Rangers will get Ray Emery, which gives the Blueshirts an even larger edge in net.

The Rangers will be without Chris Kreider for the duration of the series, but Ryan McDonagh will make his return to the lineup after dealing with a shoulder issue that cost him the final five games of the season. Jesper Fast will skate for Kreider, and after a bit of a scare, Derick Brassard will indeed be in the lineup.

Rangers Lines:

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Game 82: Meaningless game in Montreal

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Tonight’s game is meaningless for the Rangers. They have locked up the #2 seed in the Metropolitan Division, and will likely play Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. None of Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Martin St. Louis, or Ryan McDonagh (despite being 100%) will play tonight, as the Rangers are resting their vets for the playoffs. Justin Falk and Dan Carcillo will play in place of Girardi and MSL, and Cam Talbot will get the start tonight.

Under Michel Therrien, the Canadiens play a 1-2-2 forecheck, but do use a 2-1-2 style from time to time based on the score and puck location. Though this team prefers to want to play passive and clog up the neutral zone. Like the Rangers, Montreal’s defensive zone system is to overload when the puck is along the boards and collapse around the slot when the puck is behind the net.

What’s interesting is that Therrien has said in the past that they overload the boards because of their team size and speed (note: small and fast). On special teams, the Habs play your standard umbrella powerplayOn the penalty kill, they rotate between a diamond force and a box depending on puck location. They really look to pressure the opposition all over the ice when shorthanded.

Rangers Lineup (lineup confirmed, lines unconfirmed):

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Game 81: Home finale against Buffalo

Frank Franklin II/AP

Frank Franklin II/AP

The Rangers play their final home game tonight, as the lowly Buffalo Sabres come to town. A win tonight can clinch at least a #3 seed in the Metropolitan Division, ensuring the Rangers avoid the Penguins until the second round, and the Bruins until the Conference Finals. The Rangers can clinch the #2 seed and home ice against the Flyers in the first round with a win and a loss by the Flyers in regulation in Tampa Bay.

Ted Nolan has the Sabres running a 1-2-2 forechecking system and try to shut down the middle of the ice. For the defensive zone system, he has them playing the low-zone collapse pretty much exclusively. On special teams, the Sabres run an umbrella power play and a wedge+1 penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 80: Secure a non-wild card spot

Photo: Star Ledger

Photo: Star Ledger

In case you missed it, the Rangers clinched a playoff spot last night when the Devils lost to the Flames. That doesn’t mean the remaining three games are meaningless, as the Rangers would probably like to avoid the wild card and a date with the Penguins or Bruins in the first round. With the magic number at four, they can actually clinch at least a #3 seed tonight if they win against Carolina and Columbus loses against Phoenix. After that, it’s just about home ice against the Flyers.

The Canes play a bit of a hybrid forechecking system. They play an aggressive 2-3 to start the game, but will switch to a trap late in the game with a lead. In the defensive zone , they run box + 1 system, which is a box setup in front with a player pressuring depending on the puck location. On special teams, the Canes run an umbrella powerplay and a hybrid  penalty kill (varies between the systems based on puck location).

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 79: Getting a point vs. the Sens will clinch a playoff spot

Photo: Star Ledger

Photo: Star Ledger

The Rangers return from a successful west coast swing to a potential playoff clinching game tonight. The Rangers can clinch a spot with a point tonight against the Ottawa Senators. They can also clinch if the Leafs and Devils lose tonight in any fashion. The team probably doesn’t want to back into the playoffs, so beating an Ottawa team that can’t seem to play defense would be nice.

The Sens forechecking strategy is a bit complex, as they are a hybrid forechecking/lock team. When they are trailing or tied, they’ll send two or three guys after the puck in a 2-1-2 formation. When they are ahead though, they lock it up with a 1-1-3 forecheck, a variation of the 2-3 lock. They are an overload/zone defense team depending on puck location. On special teams, they run a standard umbrella power play, but run a hybrid PK (box, diamond, wedge+1) depending on puck location and opposition formation.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 78: Staying hot in Colorado as the playoffs approach

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers are in Denver tonight to take on the Colorado Avalance, who have recently passed the Chicago Blackhawks for second in the Central Division. The Avs are playing for home ice against the Hawks in the first round, while the Rangers are playing to keep the distance between them and the Flyers at three points. The Rangers beat the Avs once, and are fully capable of doing it again, even without Ryan McDonagh. If you’re scoreboard watching, the Flyers and Blue Jackets face each other tonight as well.

On the ice, the Avs run a very aggressive style of play. On the forecheck it is a straight 2-1-2 without sitting on leads. In the defensive zone, the Avs play straight man-on-man, so expect a lot of pressure and rushed/hurried decisions. On special teams, the Avs run a 1-3-1 power play and a hybrid penalty kill with very active defensemen.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 77: Alain returns to Vancouver

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

It’s almost fitting this game takes place on April Fools’ Day. What is sure to be a media circus today with a lot of foolish questions and baiting for jabs, hopefully the Rangers can see past the narrative and just go about their business to get the two points.

Under Tortorella, the Canucks play an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck and aim to keep the opposition pinned below the dots, similar to how the Rangers used to play. Although it hasn’t translated into a playoff spot, the Canucks have improved their Fenwick%, which is 9th in the league (up from 12th last year). So this team shouldn’t be taken lightly.

In the defensive zone, the Canucks play a zone defense and try to defend you in layers depending on puck location. On special teams, Gully has them playing a 1-3-1 power play. Sully is in charge of the PK and has them rotating between a box and a diamond formation depending on puck location.

This will be another good test for the Blueshirts as several potential playoff matchups employ a similar style of play (e.g., Penguins, Bruins, etc.).

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 76: Rebound in Edmonton

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers gave away a golden opportunity on Friday night in Calgary, and lost two important points in the race to avoid the wild card. Tonight, they face another bad team that can’t play defense in Edmonton, and would truly benefit from two points, no matter how they come. Edmonton has more weapons than Calgary, the product of years of top picks, but they haven’t been able to put it all together just yet. This isn’t a must-win, but it is certainly a should-win.

Dallas Eakins coaches the Oilers in a very similar fashion to Patrick Roy and the Avalanche, so you will see a lot of the same tonight that you did on Tuesday. On the forecheck they run an aggressive spread 2-1-2 without sitting on leads. The Oilers play a man-on-man, zone defense hybrid depending on puck location. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play and rotate between a box and diamond penalty kill depending on puck location.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 75: Keep rolling in Calgary, make it six in a row

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

The Rangers are on their longest winning streak of the year, rattling off five wins in a row. Tonight they look to make it six in a row in Calgary against a Flames team that will have a bunch of balls in the draft lottery this year. I would say this has all the makings of a trap game, but the next game is against Edmonton. These are two games that the Rangers need to use to build confidence as they head to the playoffs.

Bob Hartley has the Flames running a 1-2-2 forecheck that can be used aggressively or conservatively depending on the game situation (time left in period, score, puck location, etc.).  In the DZ, Calgary uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and keeping things in tight. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 and a diamond penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 74: First round preview against Philly

Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the season, it is all but guaranteed that the Rangers and Flyers will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams have a > 95% chance of making the playoffs, with the Rangers at 98%. They have a 69% chance of meeting in the first round. Both teams are red-hot right now, with the Rangers winning four in a row and the Flyers on an 8-2-1 streak. New York is without Chris Kreider for an extended period of time, and this looks to be the exact matchup we will see in the first round.

The Flyers play a 2-1-2 forecheck, and once they get a late lead, they switch to a more conservative 1-1-3 left wing lock. In their own zone, the Flyers play a mix of zone and man-on-man defense, depending on puck location.On special teams, the Flyers run a 1-3-1 and an umbrella power play and a diamond force penalty kill with the strong side forward looking to pressure the point.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed, won’t know until game time):

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