Archive for Game Thread
Tonight the Rangers are looking to bounce back from their awful 2-6-1 stretch against the Oilers, who beat them 7-5 in the ugliest game of the season over the weekend. The Blueshirts will be without Dan Girardi, who is out with a knee injury. This means Brady Skjei will get his first game with the Rangers tonight. Worth noting: He’s not Brian Leetch.
I’d say this is a must win, but that’s a bit much. I’d like to see a much better process from the Rangers. Control the game, control the tempo, win the puck possession battle, and play proper defense. These are critical aspects of a championship caliber team that the Rangers haven’t exhibited yet this season.
Last night’s game was a disaster. Against any other team, the Rangers would have lost 7-0, but since it was Edmonton, they were in the game the whole time. The defense needs to be much better tonight in Calgary. Of course that shouldn’t be too hard, since the defense really can’t get much worse than what we saw last night. That and Calgary is pretty terrible too.
The Flames have a pretty decent blue line and some solid skill up front, but have awful goaltending and depth, making them the perfect team for the Rangers to right the ship. Last night’s stinker aside, the Rangers have actually played fairly well this month. Assuming they can get it together tonight, then they should be able to salvage this western Canada road trip with at least one win.
The Rangers played a solid game on Wednesday night, but lost to the Canucks in a weird third period. The process was there, but those are the bounces in hockey. Since the process was there, and has been for most of this month, the hope is the process continues in Vancouver and the Rangers get better results.
Luckily the Oilers are not a good team. They have great talent, but are very top heavy and have a terrible blue line and goaltending. Anders Nilsson has been solid of late, guiding the Oilers to four straight wins though. It’s not about who you meet, it’s when you meet them. The Rangers are meeting the Oilers while they are streaking. But again, right process is the goal. Right process breeds good results, even if in the short term there is a slide, as mentioned this afternoon.
The Rangers are in Vancouver tonight for a late night game against the Canucks. The Canucks are not a good team, and the Rangers should be looking to build on their strong performance on Sunday night. It is December after all, and this is usually when the Rangers start turning it on. It’s a bit weird that the Rangers don’t get it all together until December, but it’s been the trend the last two years.
The goal of this game shouldn’t just be to win, since Vancouver isn’t good, but to dominate and dictate the flow of the game. This means doing the little things properly and getting shot attempts. It’s about proper back checking and small passes out of the defensive zone. Winning puck battles in the corner and transitioning to offense/getting more shot attempts. Playing the game properly with good process and execution is the most important battle.
There are two teams that the “stats folks” are looking at as the next major PDO crash: the Rangers and the Senators. Both have abnormally high SV% and SH% while riding poor possession numbers. However the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist and significantly more depth/skill. There are only two teams that have worse possession numbers than the Rangers, and one of them is Ottawa. Of course, the other is Colorado, who beat the Rangers in a terrible game the other day.
The Rangers are in the midst of a bad run, going 1-4-1 over their last six. But this goes beyond the record. They’ve looked like crap most of the season, with the past month or so being especially craptastic. It’s an entire team thing, but it really starts on the blue line. The defense needs to slow things down and make safe passes to start the rush. They are either homerun or bust, with bust being a lazy dump off the glass and turning the puck over. Ottawa isn’t a very strong team, so now is the time to get back to basics.
The Rangers played a very strong game last night, but lost the coin flip that is the shootout. Such is life. The big thing to take away from that loss is that it was the best game they’ve played all season. That performance will beat most of the teams in the NHL. Consistency has been lacking for the Rangers, so continuing that strong play is critical going forward. Also worth noting: It’s December, so the Rangers realized it’s hockey season again. This happens on an annual basis. Kind of weird.
The Avs are a train wreck right now. Rumors are they are looking to trade Tyson Barrie and Matt Duchene, which makes absolutely no sense to me. But hey, if they want to send them to the Rangers, I’m all for it. There aren’t many players on the roster I wouldn’t deal for Duchene. I can’t imagine a world where the Avs had Duchene, ROR, Stastny, and MacKinnon and only kept one of them. But hey, this is what happens when the team is run poorly.
This is becoming a recurring theme for games lately. The Rangers haven’t played well in a long time. Henrik Lundqvist is masking a lot of problems so the team wins games. There’s no way you can look at the last two weeks or so and think to yourself, “This team can win a Stanley Cup.” Now they are without Derek Stepan and Kevin Klein for extended periods of time. Tanner Glass was recalled to play for the sick Emerson Etem. All signs point to a downturn in results to match the process.
That said, this is a team that fights through adversity with regularity. They haven’t been playing well, but they win. They deal with injuries that should hurt them, but they deal with it and win. This is another consistent trend for the Rangers over the past three seasons. Perhaps injuries are the kick in the tail they need. Perhaps a date with the Islanders in the World’s Most Off Center Arena is what they need.
This is another one of those four point swing games with the Rangers up six in the division on the Isles. Wins against division opponents are critical, and this is no different. The Isles have had pretty terrible goaltending, so the hot-shooting Rangers need to exploit that with shots. You never know what happens when you take a shot.
After Wednesday night’s debacle and last night’s implosion, the Rangers are in desperate need of righting the ship against a bad Philly team. The Rangers are going to be without Derek Stepan, lost to broken ribs, so it’s expected that Kevin Hayes will center the second line with a different RW, perhaps Jesper Fast. Maybe Emerson Etem will get a shot in a top-six role. that would be ideal for me. The good thing is that the Rangers have the depth to deal with the injury.
The Flyers also played yesterday, so maybe there is some hope that they are tired. That said, Steve Mason is still a solid goalie. He keeps the Flyers in games they have no business being in. They also have some solid talent, just no depth to support it.
We are in the middle of the forewarned PDO crash, and it hasn’t been pretty. Perhaps a date with a nasty division rival is the wake up call this team needs.
It’s time for the annual day after Thanksgiving showdown with the Bruins. This is the third year in a row the Rangers and Bruins play on the day after Thanksgiving (I think), and it’s the first game to be nationally televised on NBC. Something I never understood, though, is why NBC airs this game, then nothing until the Winter Classic. I don’t get that. But I digress.
The Bruins had a really weird offseason. They matched that weird offseason with an equally weird start to the season. Tuukka Rask has been pretty bad, with just a .900 SV%. They also aren’t a solid possession team. Rask rebounding to a .920 SV% is expected. Their top guys should continue to rack up points, although they have a few (Loui Eriksson) on unsustainable paces. The Bruins have top end talent, but lack depth. That may be enough for a playoff push, but it wouldn’t shock me to see them fall out of the race later in the season.
Just a note: This post will also serve as the post-game thread. No one is available to do a goal breakdown. Sorry about that.
The Rangers were horrid on Monday night, and somehow came away with a win. Tonight they face a Montreal Canadiens team that thoroughly dominated them last month, and are one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference this year. Montreal has been superb. Carey Price is following up his Vezina/Hart campaign with another solid year. The Habs basically score at will, and their defense has been great thus far.
As for the Rangers, well they need to play better. For the first 21 games, they’ve been hemorrhaging shot attempts, and it’s taken herculean efforts from Henrik Lundqvist to ensure victory. That can’t continue, and Montreal is a team that will beat them into the ground if they continue to play that way. Play better with the puck, and the ice will finally tilt in the other team’s direction. No team, none, can continually win by sitting and waiting for counter attacks. Sooner or later, those opportunities won’t come. Puck possession, dirty shots, dirty goals. They are needed.