Archive for Game Thread
Hockey has arrived, and boy am I happy to say that. The Rangers begin their preseason tonight at home against the Islanders. There are a bunch of roster battles taking place this preseason, with the focus primarily on the bottom six. There are seven players dressing tonight who are in contention for those spots, and we will continue to keep an eye on them and all others fighting for a spot as the preseason moves along.
The blue line isn’t up for as much debate, but the Rangers still have some question marks there. Will Dan Girardi and Marc Staal be able to rebound to some level of respectability? We will get a first glimpse of them tonight. We also get to see if Brady Skjei can be a regular, and if Adam Clendining was truly a shrewd offseason signing.
Could this be the final game of the season for the Rangers? Logic and past performance in these situations says no, but recent performance in this series says yes. If this is the final game of the series, then let’s hope it is one we can be proud of, as the Rangers have stunk the past two games. At the very least, make it a nice send off for Dan Boyle.
But then there’s the part of me that remembers what they’ve done the past two years. This is the third straight year they’ve been down 3-1 in a series. The core from both those comebacks is still here. But do they have the mindset required to make another comeback? They can, we know it. Let’s hope they figure it out. No one wants this season to end in April.
Well the Penguins completely shut down the Rangers in Game Three, allowing just a shorthanded goal to Rick Nash. Tonight the Rangers will look to avoid falling down 3-1 in a series for the third straight year. To do so, they will need to adjust their offensive strategies to account for the Penguins clogging the neutral zone and slot area.
More specifically, the Rangers are going to have to get a few dirty goals. They are a skilled team, but with the Penguins taking away their space to skate, they will need to just throw pucks at the net, hope for bounces, or bang home rebounds. This is how they’ve won in the playoffs in the past, and this year is no different.
Game Three is here, with both teams looking to take that all important 2-1 series lead. The Rangers have been dominating possession against the speedy Pens, playing a heavier game and neutralizing their speed. Their sloppy defense in Game One was shored up in impressive fashion in Game Two.
Both teams are playing games with each other regarding injuries. Marc-Andre Fleury may be back. Ryan McDonagh may be back. What we do know is that Dan Girardi is not back, and one of Dylan McIlrath or Raphael Diaz –who was just recalled– will sit. We won’t know until game time though.
After dropping Game One, the Rangers are back at it in Pittsburgh with a need to even the series. Evgeni Malkin may be back (as of this writing nothing was official). If he is back, and he’s on the third line, where he was taking line rushes yesterday, then that is some scary depth for the Penguins. This is a team that made the Rangers eat their mistakes, and Malkin will only help that.
The Rangers are without Dan Girardi, so Dylan McIlrath will get his first taste of playoff hockey today. Call it harsh, but that is likely a net-win for the Rangers, as Girardi (and Staal) was downright awful in Game One. Regardless, the Rangers need to continue to pressure like they did in Game One –where they dominated the possession game– but limit the defensive zone mistakes. As we’ve been touting, possession is part of the process. DZ mistakes are the other part.
Playoff hockey is back. The Rangers begin their quest for another run through the playoffs in Pittsburgh to take on the red-hot Penguins, who are finally getting healthy.
Marc-Andre Fleury is back. It appears Olli Maata is back as well. Evgeni Malkin is still hurt, but that was expected. His absence is notable, like Ryan McDonagh’s is for the Rangers.
The Rangers close out the season this afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings in what is a relatively meaningless game for the Rangers, but means everything for the Wings. The Blueshirts have the potential to end the Wings season, along with potentially Pavel Datsyuk’s career. The Magic Man and sure fire Hall of Famer has hinted he might go to the KHL to wrap up his remaining hockey. Whatever he does, if this is his last game, then let’s watch in awe with what he can do with the puck.
The game itself isn’t completely meaningless for the Rangers. A loss all but ensures the first wild card seed and a date with the Panthers in the first round. A win, and we will need to wait and see what the Isles do this weekend. A Rangers win and an Isles loss means Pittsburgh. That’s the only scenario where we know who the Rangers will face in the first round.
Tonight’s game at MSG is a bit of an oddity. For the first time I can remember, the Rangers are facing the Islanders with playoff implications late in the season, and fans of both teams are actively hoping their team loses. No one wants to face the two headed monster of Washington and Pittsburgh.
More importantly, the Steven McDonald Award will be presented tonight. The smart money is on Mats Zuccarello, but I think it should go to Henrik Lundqvist. Hank is the only reason why this team isn’t a complete and utter dumpster fire this year. They aren’t in the playoffs without him. I wonder if the voting fans realized that.
The third time was a charm for the Rangers, who finally clinched a playoff berth last night in Columbus. With that done, they will likely be resting some of their top guys to gear up for a potential playoff run. They are also without Ryan McDonagh for what could be an extended period of time, so we may get a look at what the defense looks like without him.
Luckily for the Rangers, the Bolts are pretty banged up too. Anton Stralman is out. Steven Stamkos is out. But that doesn’t mean this team isn’t dangerous. They are still deep and skilled, and Ben Bishop is a solid goalie.
Depending on where the teams wind up at the end of the season, there’s a chance they may meet in the first or second rounds of the playoffs. So this has playoff implications, even for a relatively meaningless game for the Rangers.
This is getting to be ridiculous. Two prior opportunities to clinch a playoff spot against non-playoff teams, and the Rangers came away with exactly zero points. Now they are in Columbus to face old friends on attempt number three to clinch a spot. You can bet your *** that John Tortorella would love to stop the Rangers from clinching on his ice.
There’s not much else to say here. The Rangers are backing into the playoffs in a manner that is inexcusable. It’s beyond coaching –of which we’ve had our issues– at this point. If the team isn’t mentally prepared to play in April, then it’s on the players. Show up today, please.