Archive for Game Thread
The Rangers haven’t lost back-to-back games since December, but just went on a rough 1-2-0 stretch against the three other playoff Metro teams. Luckily they are in Buffalo tonight to take on the lowly Sabres and their significant lack of depth. Don’t get me wrong, the Sabres have oodles of talent, but aren’t deep enough to contend yet.
As for the Rangers, they are without Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, and Dylan McIlrath tonight. Brady Skjei was recalled, joining Magnus Hellberg as the emergency recalls. Skjei should get some significant minutes tonight, or he might make a mistake and get benched for accountability reasons. Who knows.
After Friday’s win in Washington, the Rangers look to make it two in a row against divisional opponents, with the potential first round opponent Isles coming to the Garden. The Isles are five points back of the Rangers for second place, but have three games in hand. This is a critical four-point swing game for second place, as an Isles win puts them well within striking distance.
The Isles are a solid team. They have talent and depth up front and a solid top-four on defense. Their weakness is that third pairing though, and considering how deep the Rangers are, it’s a matchup Alain Vigneault should look to exploit. In net, Jaro Halak is good but he has his moments of ineptitude, as many Isles fans will complain about. This should be an Old Time Hockey game today.
Game 65 is against the President’s Trophy winning (pretty much locked up already) Washington Capitals.
While the Rangers may more or less be a lock for the playoffs at this point, there are still critical games to be played this season that will have an impact on seeding. Tonight is one of those critical games in Pittsburgh, as it is a four-point swing game to potentially avoid the Caps in the first round. And no one wants them in the first round.
The Pens aren’t the disaster they were to start the season, filling out their top-heavy roster nicely with some good complimentary pieces. However they still aren’t a deep team, as their bottom-six are weak and Carl Hagelin probably doesn’t belong in a top-six role. The Rangers prey on teams that aren’t deep, so hopefully this is a solid matchup for them, even if the Pens are playing much better hockey of late.
Eric Staal and Marc Staal are brothers. I hope you knew that. Because if you didn’t, then you will tonight. I’m setting the over/under of “brothers” references tonight at 100,000,000,000. I still take the over. Don’t play the drinking game tonight. Please. Don’t. We like you guys. We want you to be around.
As for the game, the Jackets are not good. They can’t score and hemorrhage goals. This is a good matchup for the Rangers to extend their winning streak and get the right process back on track. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the last two games, although wins, were ugly. They need to start getting things right, and hopefully the older Staal will help that.
The Rangers are in Dallas tonight to take on the explosive Stars, one of the top teams in the NHL. Dallas is loaded up and down the lineup, but their achilles heel is their goaltending and overall team defense. They control the play, but backchecking, positioning, and actually stopping pucks seems to be a challenge. Regardless, they are the cream of the crop in the West, along with LA and Chicago.
The Rangers squeaked by St. Louis on Thursday because Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head. If the Blueshirts play like that today, they will get annihilated. This is a Dallas team that looks primed to make a deep run, assuming they can continually outscore their opponents. Their weakness is defense and goaltending, so getting shots –as in not passing 800 times and passing up good shots– is critical. They beat Dallas once, they can do it again.
After Tuesday’s unraveling in Jersey, the Rangers are in St. Louis to take on a playoff bound St. Louis team that is actually shorthanded at the moment. The Blues lost Alex Steen for an extended period, joining Alex Pietrangelo on the injury train. That said, the Blues would need an epic collapse to miss the playoffs. If they weren’t in the Central, they’d be in first place.
The Rangers will be without Marek Hrivik tonight, so they will be going with seven defensemen in the lineup. No lines were given, but it’s safe to assume Dylan McIlrath will be rotating on the fourth line, as the “starting six” will be “healthy.” Both teams are shorthanded in some capacity, so this should be an interesting game.
Update: McIlrath is a scratch. Hrivik is in.
The Rangers, winners of two in a row and three of four, are back in New Jersey tonight against a Devils team that is somehow still in the playoff picture, albeit barely. Three losses in a row certainly aren’t helping their cause, as the Rangers can deal the Devils a significant blow to their playoff hopes with a win tonight.
The Blueshirts are likely without Ryan McDonagh again, but have been surviving without him and Rick Nash out of the lineup. Overall team defense has been solid, as guys like Keith Yandle and Dan Girardi have really stepped up their games. The forwards have also stepped up in their absence, as the team is slowly starting to regain their identity from the last two seasons.
These are the games that good teams not only win, but make statements. The Rangers failed to make statements against Toronto or Detroit, so this is the time to get the proper process back on track.
The Rangers face the Detroit Red Wings for the first time this season, just one game after barely squeaking by the Leafs in a game that should have been dominated by the Blueshirts. Process is everything right now, and hopefully that game against Toronto was a blip in the recent trend of solid on-ice process.
Detroit is going to be a tough matchup, as the Wings are in the thick of it for a playoff spot, and assuming they continue to play Petr Mrazek over Jimmy Howard, will continue that push. The Wings have a solid set of forwards, but lack depth on the blue line. That’s where the Rangers, who are still scoring without Rick Nash, will need to capitalize on their advantage.
A strong forecheck will pressure the weak Detroit defense into turnovers. It’s something that Detroit struggles with, as any team that can get in with speed will disrupt their breakouts. It’s a strength for the Rangers, so this could be a favorable matchup.
The Rangers, fresh off a tough loss last night against Chicago, are in Toronto to take on the Maple
Tankers Leafs. The Leafs are in full tank mode and are All In For Auston. This is a game the Rangers shouldn’t just win, but completely dominate in all facets of the word.
Process at even strength has been significantly better, but the penalty kill is an unmitigated disaster. Toronto’s powerplay is so uber-talented that they have noted goal scorer Peter Holland playing on the first unit*. There’s not much else to say about this game, except please don’t lose.
*-I ran that line by Becky, and she said I’m asking for trouble. Expect Holland to have a hat trick.