Archive for Game Thread

Mar
31

Game 77: Eric Staal returns to Carolina

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The Rangers are in Carolina tonight with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but the focus of the pregame will be on Eric Staal and his return to Raleigh. There will be big things planned, as the Hurricanes put up a #ThankYouEric wall for Staal to walk past on his way to practice. His teammates also tricked him into taking the ice by himself for practice.

Aside from the Staal fanfare, the Rangers can clinch a playoff spot with a win in regulation or overtime. At this point, a playoff spot is virtually guaranteed, and the Rangers are just jockeying for position. A win gives them a bit of breathing room for home ice against the Penguins, their likely first round opponent.

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Mar
27

Game 76: Easter showdown with Pittsburgh

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Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Well the Rangers have won three in a row, all against Atlantic opponents, in dominating fashion. In doing so, they’ve padded their lead on second place in the Metro, but a critical game with the Penguins awaits them tonight. The Pens are four points back, but have a game in hand on the Rangers. So this is a big four-point swing game and the last chance for the Penguins to take a serious shot at home ice in the first round.

Should the Rangers come out victorious, Pittsburgh would have a hard time making up enough points for second place by the end of the season. So this is likely one of the more important games of the season, as it is a chance for the Blueshirts to put a virtual lock on second in the Metro. Considering the Pens are without Evgeni Malkin and have a shattered blue line, this is a good chance for the Rangers to do just that, while giving themselves a major confidence boost at the same time.

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rangers canadiens

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Rangers have played well over the last two games, rebounding from what may have been rock bottom in San Jose. They beat two playoff-bound Atlantic teams, and are now headed to Montreal to face a Canadiens team that is free falling. There was a time in October/November when people were guessing if it would be the Rangers or the Canadiens that tanked in the standings after unsustainable starts. It wound up being Montreal, who should rename the team to the Montreal Carey Prices.

As for the Rangers, well they are managing their games better. Playing better possession hockey and better defense. The forward lines are a bit of a mess, but honestly you can make any combination in that top-nine and be fine. If the fourth line can hold its own –not getting into a Tanner Glass argument in a game thread– then the team will be fine. But that’s a major if, and has been all season.

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Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After Monday’s strong win against the Atlantic leading Panthers, the Rangers face another playoff bound Atlantic team in the Bruins tonight. The Bruins may not be competing for the division title, but are still a playoff team that are very similar to the Rangers. They have a good group of forwards and strong goaltending, but are weak on the blue line. It’s like looking in the mirror.

In fact, the case can be made that since the deadline, the Bruins are a bit deeper. They don’t have the question mark on the fourth line that the Rangers have, and adding John-Michael Liles really helped their blue line depth. But either way you slice it, both teams will live and die by their goaltending, since their blue lines are still muddled with question marks.

This is a potential second round matchup as well, so the whole “NBCSN Rivalry Night” thing might actually work tonight.

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rangers panthers 2015

Yes, you read that title correctly. The Rangers, with the way they’ve played this month, have potentially played themselves into a wild card situation. That means they may actually face the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, depending how the last ten games of the season play out. This game now has playoff implications.

Regardless of who they face in the first round, the Rangers simply can’t continue playing like this. They are lackadaisical, slow, and relying on their All-World goalie too much. Something needs to change, be it deployment or systems. If nothing changes, then this game will be another train wreck.

But let’s have some optimism. Perhaps Saturday’s game was rock bottom, and the Rangers have something click. You never know. Crazier things have happened.

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AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

So the Rangers beat the Ducks on Wednesday and then lost to the Kings on Thursday. This afternoon they are in San Jose to take on their third straight Pacific Division playoff team. This is also the last game the Rangers play outside of the Eastern timezone this season (unless they make a run to the Stanley Cup Final). I don’t know about you guys, but I’m happy these games are over. I hate the west coast runs, even if this one is in the afternoon.

As far as on-ice product goes, the Rangers played a strong game Wednesday, but blew a two goal lead in LA and lost in overtime after a questionable goal that could have been goaltender interference. That sounds really familiar. But San Jose, while skilled, is not as big as the Kings and play more of a finesse game. It’s another big challenge for an inconsistent Rangers club that has been maddening to watch most of the year.

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Mar
17

Game 71: Stupid late games

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rangers kings 2015

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

After last night’s win in Anaheim —which I predicted on the podcast— the Rangers are now in LA for the second of their tough three game stretch out west. The Kings are with the cream of the West, and one of the few teams that just beat you down physically. They are the exception to the rule, but that’s only because their big guys can also skate, score, play defense, and contribute in multiple aspects of the game. This is a solid team poised for another deep run.

As for the Rangers, they won in Anaheim, but even the Ducks announced called out the Rangers defense for being inept at moving the puck. That’s not a good thing, and cements the thought process that the forwards and goaltending will need to carry the Rangers. It is what it is at this point. But Kevin Klein is (at least somewhat) taking more minutes from Dan Girardi, so that’s a positive. Let’s see how they do against their second Cup contender in a row.

Admin note: No gifs for this game, and no goal breakdown either. These late games are absolute killers. A 7pm game recap usually gets done by 11pm. When you add three and a half hours to it, that’s 2:30am. Sorry folks, none of us are able to stay up that late.

Admin note 2: I wrote this post at 10am, before the lines were released. If they are different, my apologies.

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Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Rangers, fresh off a disastrous weekend where they only managed to get one point against two Eastern Conference playoff teams, are now facing a difficult journey out west. It starts in Anaheim tonight, goes to LA tomorrow night, and ends in San Jose on Saturday. The Rangers have had major fails over the past four months, and need to start playing the way the did in January if they are to right this ship.

Luckily for them, the Ducks are a bit shorthanded. They are without Kevin Bieksa and Sami Vatanen tonight, so that blue line can be exploited. The Rangers feast on weak blue lines simply because their forward depth is great. But the Ducks have been on an unbelievable run and have won something like 700 games in a row, or something close to that. This is a strong test for the Rangers, who will need to show everyone they can play better than they’ve been showing.

Admin note: No gifs for this game, and no goal breakdown either. These late games are absolute killers. A 7pm game recap usually gets done by 11pm. When you add three and a half hours to it, that’s 2:30am. Sorry folks, none of us are able to stay up that late.

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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After yesterday’s tough loss, the Rangers are back at it against the Penguins, who just lost Evgeni Malkin for the season. The Pens are a top heavy, and easily their depth is easily exploited by better teams. Problem is the Rangers haven’t been playing like one of those better teams. They are back playing the way they did in October and November, relying on Henrik Lundqvist and lucky shooting.

Make no mistake, the Rangers need to get back to playing the hockey they played in January. The right on-ice process needs to be followed for this team to be successful. Control the play, work the zone, get shots, and start limit shots against, especially from inside danger areas.

Also, it would be super if they stopped allowing that cross-ice pass in the defensive zone. But baby steps, I guess.

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Mar
12

Game 68: Rick Nash returns in Detroit

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rangers red wings

Photo: AP

The Rangers are in Detroit, and they are finally starting to get healthy. Rick Nash makes his long awaited return to the lineup after missing six weeks with a leg injury. Marc Staal is also returning after missing a few games with back spasms. But perhaps most importantly, Henrik Lundqvist is back after Ryan McDonagh’s latest attempt to hurt a teammate. But the Rangers are without Derick Brassard, who has the flu.

As for Detroit, they are struggling right now. They are 4-4-2 in their last ten. They are barely holding off the Flyers for the final wild card spot. And they desperately need two points this afternoon. While the team may be desperate, they severely lack offensive depth to score consistently. Don’t get me wrong, they have a great top-six, and their third line can score, but they don’t match up with the better teams. Plus their defense is pretty rough.

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