Archive for Game Thread
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.
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.
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.