Archive for Game Thread
After winning three in a row, the Rangers’ offense dried up at MSG as they lost to the Blackhawks and snapped their streak. Now the Rangers are in Dallas to take on a very potent Stars offense. I say potent because their 81 goals are actually middle of the road, but that top line can score almost at will. Their defense and goaltending has been killing them, and it’s why they are trailing teams like Edmonton and Calgary.
With a defense and goaltender that are ripe for the picking, the Rangers are getting healthy at the perfect time. Rick Nash will be back in the lineup tonight, hopefully to bring some balance to the
force top-six. The Stars are at the bottom of the league with 98 goals allowed. It would be great to see the Rangers light them up early and often. But remember, Dallas can score.
The Rangers have one three in a row, and haven’t allowed a goal since they were in Winnipeg. That stretch includes a 1-0 blanking of the Blackhawks in Chicago, a game that Nick Holden won in overtime. That game was fun to watch, with both goalies playing stellar hockey. The venue switches to The Garden tonight, as the Rangers look to sweep the always dangerous Hawks.
The same analysis of the Hawks from last week still applies, however it’s Corey Crawford in net this time. The Hawks are still nursing some injuries, as are the Rangers. Both teams like to trade chances, which plays to the Rangers’ advantage, as they have a full four lines of skill. The Hawks have just three. The game is going to come down to who converts on their chances.
The Rangers have won two in a row, their first two wins of the season without scoring three goals. Antti Raanta has been phenomenal while Henrik Lundqvist works out the kinks, and will get his third straight start tonight. As stated before, there is no goalie controversy in New York. Lundqvist is still the go-to guy, but Raanta will play as long as he is stellar.
As for the Devils, well they can’t score, even with a dangerous top-six forward group. They are in the bottom-third of the league in goals-for, and bottom-half in PP%. However they have a great goalie and solid defense. With the banged up forwards for the Rangers, it might be another low scoring affair. However I don’t think it will be as exciting as the Chicago game.
After playing in Winnipeg last night, the Rangers are in Chicago tonight to take on the Blackhawks. That’s a lot of travel for an injury riddled team. But on the bright side, the Hawks are just as injured (no Jonathan Toews), and are playing Scott Darling over Corey Crawford. That gives the Rangers a good chance at winning the second of back-to-backs, as the Hawks are not that deep.
However, while the Hawks are not deep, they have an incredible top end of the lineup. Their top line can basically score at will, and any line with Marian Hossa is a danger to score as well. The defense is going to have to contain those top-six, and Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to be stronger than he has been to start the season. But this is a very winnable game.
The Rangers have had a rough stretch, going 4-5-1 in their last ten while playing some pretty ugly hockey. Given the significance of the injuries, it can be said that staying around hockey .500 is a win for this club. In my humble opinion, the injuries and inconsistent goaltending –based on what we are used to from Henrik Lundqvist– has made the flaws of the team more obvious. That said, the Rangers did play better in Brooklyn, so that’s a start.
As for the Jets, they are dealing with injuries of their own, which has led to a relatively unbalanced lineup. Throw in some pretty rough goaltending, and you have a team that the Rangers should be able to pick apart. That said, the Jets are still at hockey .500 at 13-13-3, and they have a very talented top-six that can make slow defenses pay.
Until the Rangers get fully healthy, expect more of the same from them. Consistently inconsistent.
The Rangers are in the middle of their worst stretch of the season, in terms of on-ice performance, and it’s shown itself in the standings with a 4-4-1 record in their last nine games. Apart from inconsistent play, the Rangers have seen their speed game neutralized due to injuries and blue line regression. It’s eerily similar to last year, but the special teams have been a major source of happiness of late.
And perhaps it’s on special teams that the Rangers will need to take care of business tonight. The Rangers hold top-ten powerplay and penalty kill units, while the Isles are last on the powerplay and 18th on the penalty kill. Couple that with very weak forward lines, and the Isles are a team that the Rangers should be able to dominate. But then again, the Isles always play the Rangers tough, so you never really know. A consistent 60 minute effort would be super, though.
The Rangers lost a sloppy game in Buffalo the other night. Very few players even showed up, but one that did was Adam Clendening, notching an assist and playing a pretty solid game, although he did take a late penalty. But they lost, so it’s back to Kevin Klein and the status quo. But let’s be fair, the entire team needs to start playing better or else last year’s one-and-done in the playoffs is a best case scenario.
This afternoon the Rangers get the Carolina Hurricanes for the third time, having split the first two games. If not for Rick Nash carrying the team earlier in the week, Carolina would have two wins against the Rangers. If not for horrid goaltending, Carolina might be in a playoff position. They are a skilled team, if not that deep yet. But regardless, this is a game the Rangers need to win and do it the right way.
After a roller coaster win against Carolina on Tuesday, the Rangers are looking to build on their strong third period against Buffalo. The Rangers erased a two goal lead and got off the schneid, so building some momentum will help get them moving in the right direction. The Sabres are the perfect team to do that against, as their defense is pretty bad. Might actually be worse than the Rangers.
But that’s why they play the games. The Sabres may be bad on defense and questionable in net, but they are skilled and deep at forward. They can easily exploit the Rangers defense as easily as the Rangers can exploit theirs. Banking points is important for the Rangers, but getting back to proper process –note: not banking the puck off the glass every single time they clear the defensive zone– is perhaps more important.
The Rangers are 2-3-1 in their last six games, and have played some pretty poor hockey in that stretch. They are dealing with injuries, but they are also dealing with a regressing blue line and regressing shooting, which is taking its toll on the offensive potential of the team. No matter which way you look at it, the Rangers need to play better.
Enter Carolina, who is very quietly just three points out of a playoff spot. It’s still very early, but it’s clear Carolina is moving in the right direction. Give them a halfway decent goaltender, and they might be a sneaky playoff team. They are able to move the puck well, but struggle a little to score (2.46 G/G). They have a -4 goal differential, but that is almost entirely on bad goaltending.
This is a perfect opportunity for the Rangers to get some confidence back by lighting up the Canes, but the last time we said this, they lost.
As the Rangers look to get back to the proper process against a pretty bad Ottawa Senators team, the focus at puck drop will be on the return of Derick Brassard. Brassard was traded to Ottawa this summer in the deal that brought Mika Zibanejad. Brassard spent three seasons in New York, putting up seasons of 45, 60, and 58 points (27 goals in that season) while serving as the Rangers 1b center to Derek Stepan’s 1a. I’d expect some kind of recognition from the fans and perhaps an announcement on over the speakers, but no video tribute.
As for the game itself, this is the perfect opportunity for the Rangers to get back to the right process. They’ve been struggling to maintain offensive pressure and generate crisp defensive zone exits. It’s clear that the absences of Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich have had an impact on the forwards, but it’s also clear that outside of Skjei and McDonagh, no Rangers defenseman can consistently make the right pass to start a breakout.