Archive for Game Thread
The Rangers have a Sunday matinee today at MSG, taking on the Metro leading Washington Capitals. The Caps are one of four teams with a better record than the Rangers, and three of them are in the Metro Division. That’s just crazy. But the Caps are deep, skilled, get solid goaltending, and have a decent enough blue line.
This is going to be the first real test for the Rangers in February, as they are facing the cream of the crop in the league. A good showing against Washington goes a long way to building confidence for the playoff run. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m focusing more on how they play than about the W. The W is nice, but showing they can skate with the Caps is more important.
The Rangers are in Brooklyn tonight to take on an Isles team that got spanked by the Leafs the other night. They had won three of four prior, and given it’s the Rangers, I’m assuming the Isles will be coming out to avoid another spanking tonight. But the Rangers have a unique opportunity to extend their win streak to seven while also delivering a blow to the Isles’ playoff hopes.
Matt Puempel will return to the lineup, and Pavel Buchnevich will be a healthy scratch. With the trade deadline coming up, this could also be one of the last games you see the roster as currently constructed. But I just like feeding the trade rumor wolf. It’s fun. Should be a good Rangers crowd tonight in Brooklyn.
The Rangers are in Columbus tonight with a chance to tie the Blue Jackets (and Penguins) in points. Doing so would put them in a virtual tie for second in the Metro, nine points behind Washington. However Columbus (and Pittsburgh) does have a game in hand on the Rangers, hence virtual tie. A win (and tying the season series at two a piece) goes a long way towards building confidence against a very good team.
The Rangers are getting Dan Girardi back, which means Adam Clendening sits. Sigh. Antti Raanta gets the start as well, with Henrik Lundqvist getting some rest after securing his 400th win. I think this is the first time the Rangers and Blue Jackets are facing each other with both teams fully healthy. Should be an interesting game.
The story of tonight’s game isn’t going to be the potential for five wins in a row. It’s not going to be about keeping pace in a Metro Division that has four of the top five teams (in terms of points in the standings) in the NHL. It’s going to be about Henrik Lundqvist, who sits at 399 career wins, and is facing a Colorado Avalanche team that is worst in the NHL. The stage is set for career win #400.
Of course, that means this could be a trap game for the Rangers. Winning four in a row, now facing the league’s worst team at home. We’ve seen this before. But perhaps the chance to get Hank to 400 and the need to keep pace with the other three teams in their division will keep them from falling into the trap. What we do know, is we are watching a generational talent in Lundqvist, who is finally starting to find his game. And perhaps, just at the right time.
The Rangers have quietly won three in a row, allowing just five goals in that span. Henrik Lundqvist seems to be rounding into form. The forwards are scoring up and down the lineup, so the depth appears to be back in order as well. The Rangers just played a solid game against the Ducks, and have a matchup against a very similar team in Nashville tonight.
The Predators, like the Ducks, have talent up front, but not much scoring depth. They have one of the top blue lines in the game as well. This is why they are 6th in goals against and 17th in goals for. They recently cut Mike Ribiero and added Vernon Fiddler via trade. That’s probably a wash on the ice, and a net positive in the locker room. Keeping shots tot he outside will be key for the Rangers, but that’s been hit or miss over the course of the season.
Late last week, we learned that Mats Zuccarello would be the Rangers Ambassador for You Can Play. The You Can Play project is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting homophobia in sports. Tonight is You Can Play Night at MSG. A special table will be set up at Section 113/114 where fans can talk to a representative and learn more about the organization and their initiatives. There will also be an online auction, and 100% of the auction’s proceeds will benefit the You Can Play Project.
As for the game itself, the Rangers are taking on potential trade match Anaheim. The Ducks have a ton of defensemen but lack cheap scoring. They are top heavy up front but deep on defense. It’s going to be an interesting matchup. Perhaps the Rangers get a good, long look at Josh Manson.
The Rangers are at home today in a Super Bowl LI kickoff pregame, taking on the Calgary Flames. The Flames are pretty bad, with limited scoring depth and bad goaltending. Outside of their top three blue liners, they are weak there as well. All in all, the Rangers are better than Calgary, so this makes for a solid trap game.
I checked with officials ahead of time, and they assured me that the pucks will be properly inflated for the game. That’s good, we don’t want any distractions and sidebar conversations during the game. It would take away from the on-ice product. Am I right?
After Tuesday night’s debacle against Columbus, the Rangers are back on the road to Buffalo tonight to take on the very potent Sabres. Buffalo is built a lot like the Rangers, with solid talent up front and a weak blue line. Buffalo has a habit of making the Rangers look bad lately, so this isn’t a push over game.
For the Rangers, they need to get back to basics on defense. It’s disturbing how bad they’ve been, and how often they allow high-danger shots on Henrik Lundqvist. Hank has looked human too, which is something we aren’t used to seeing. Perhaps if the high-danger chances subside, Hank will get back to his normal form? It’s a tall order.
The Rangers begin their post All Star Game run tonight against Columbus, one of the few teams with a better record than the Rangers right now. The Blue Jackets are second in the Metro, five points ahead of the Rangers with a game in hand. In the world of three point games and loser points, it’s unlikely the Rangers catch them.
The Rangers aren’t drawing Sergei Bobrovsky tonight, so that’s always a good thing. But the Blue Jackets are skilled up and down the lineup and on the blue line. There’s a reason why they went on their run. This is a tough team to face.
The Rangers are back in action tonight on NBCSN Rivalry Night –oh hey, an actual rivalry on Rivalry Night! Novel concept– looking to make it four in a row before the All Star Break. Luckily for the Rangers, they are facing a Flyers team that is struggling mightily after their ten-game win streak. They have solid forwards, but their defense is a train wreck because they use Andrew MacDonald on the top pair for some reason.
Henrik Lundqvist’s strong play has been the story lately, and it’s good to see The King get back into form. All things considered, he’s going to need to be top notch going forward. He’s certainly capable, and tonight would be a fourth straight strong game from him.