Archive for Game Thread
The Rangers are rolling right now. They are 5-0-1 over their last six and playing very strong hockey. Their even strength game seems to have finally caught up to how we expected them to play. Special teams are a disaster, which is certainly a concern, but for now it appears the club has fixed one of their major problems.
The club has done well against some of the bad teams in their recent run, and played the Kings to a tough loss. The Blackhawks are another tough Western Conference opponent, one that is a good litmus test for the Rangers. The Hawks are without some key players, specifically Marian Hossa, and have some depth concerns. But they are still the Hawks.
Oh, and Ryan McDonagh is back. Hooray!
The Rangers take on the Flyers again tonight, and it’s ironic that the game will be on Valentine’s Day. There is no love lost between these two clubs, especially since the last matchup. Wayne Simmonds dropped Ryan McDonagh with a sucker punch after a late hit from the former led to a cross check from the latter. Tanner Glass has vowed revenge, so we should expect some rough stuff tonight.
That said, the best revenge is a win in regulation, putting the Flyers even further back in the playoff race. Right now they are five points back of a playoff spot, but have games in hand. A regulation loss tonight all but eliminates them from the race, as points are difficult to make up in today’s three-point game landscape. Personally, I’d rather see the Rangers deliver that nail than see a useless fight against Simmonds.
However, if the Rangers can get an exchange of Glass for Simmonds for a few fighting majors, I’m all for it.
The Rangers are on a roll at the moment, winning five in a row. They are showing tremendous resiliency, as they are doing this without their two best players, Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash. Others have stepped up, and the process has been much better. They had a slight blip on Wednesday, but Henrik Lundqvist stood tall when they needed him.
Los Angeles is the cream of the Pacific, but that division is a tire fire. All told, they are still a solid team though. The Isles beat them yesterday, so while the Kings are tired, they won’t want to post an oh-fer against the New York teams. LA is a deep team that gives the Rangers fits. If a depleted Penguins team was a barometer for the Rangers, this is a better one.
The Rangers have won three in a row and are without Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash. The Penguins are streaking with Mike Sullivan as their new head coach and are without Evgeni Malkin. But the story will be another Carl Hagelin return, this time in Pittsburgh Penguin black, sometimes skating with Sidney Crosby.
This is Hagelin’s second trip to MSG since his trade to Anaheim. He returned once with the Ducks before being sent to Pittsburgh. (This is an away game. Oops.) This time around, he’s with a division rival. Things are different.
Beyond Hagelin, the Rangers have been surging at even strength. They’ve played four straight solid games at 5v5, but special teams have been a bit slow. The penalty kill has been a bit better of late, in the sense they aren’t hemorrhaging goals left and right. On the bright side, with no Malkin, the Pens are pretty weak outside of their top six and Kris Letang. Teams that lack depth have issues with the Rangers, so that could play in their favor.
The Rangers made a dramatic comeback over the weekend, eventually beating the Flyers in the shootout. Today they go for three in a row against the Devils, a team that they dominated at even strength a week ago, but lost in regulation because of special teams. The penalty kill has been better of late, but the powerplay is still a train wreck.
Compounding these issues is that the Rangers will be without Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash, arguably their two best players. Nash hasn’t played since before the All Star break, and McDonagh was sucker-punched by Wayne Simmonds on Saturday. Neither has a timetable for return. Nash has already been missed, and McDonagh’s injury puts the already weak blue line in a precarious position.
A win tonight goes a long way, widening the gap between the Rangers and fifth place in the division, a spot the Rangers want to avoid.
The Rangers played one of their most dominating games of the season on Thursday, one game after dominating even strength against the Devils. Special teams seems to be a major problem for the Rangers, one without an immediate solution, but at least they’ve been playing significantly better at even strength. The Flyers aren’t a bad team, but they lack depth, which is keeping them out of the playoffs.
That said, this is a four-point swing game on a team that is seven points back of the Rangers with two games in hand. If the Flyers win those games in hand, they are three points back, so this game has more meaning than what meets the eye. They aren’t as good as Minnesota though, so the Rangers should theoretically be able to build something here.
Well Tuesday’s game was a letdown. The Rangers played well at even strength, but special teams continued to be a train wreck, dooming them to failure. While it is critical to outplay your opponents at 5v5, poor special teams will doom any team. The Rangers are no different, and they need to get these aspects of their game in order.
The Wild are a solid team stuck in the best division in hockey, so this represents a solid challenge for the Rangers. Another potential problem is the team speed of Minnesota, as the Rangers aren’t the swiftest of foot on the blue line. But if they play the same even strength game and shore up the issues on special teams, they may actually begin to make headway.
The All Star break is over, and now begins the playoff push for the Rangers. They’ve been playing better of late, 6-3-1 in their last ten, but the overall performance has still left something to be desired. The process is certainly better on the ice, and the forwards have been better as well, but defensive issues remain.
This is a rather important game for the Rangers, as the Devils are four points behind the Blueshirts, but the Rangers have a game in hand. A regulation win makes it a six point cushion with a game in hand –potentially eight point lead– which is almost insurmountable with the three-point game system we have today.
After yesterday’s stinker, the Rangers are back home for one last game before the All Star break against the Sabres. These aren’t the same Sabres from last year that Mackenzie Skapski blanked twice. The Sabres basically built their top line in three months, getting Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, and Ryan O’Reilly in separate moves from the trade deadline through the draft.
The good news is that while they are certainly capable of scoring, they haven’t. That’s likely due to lack of depth at forward and defensemen that can push the puck up the ice (sound familiar?). Their team has skill, but hasn’t put all the depth and have very poor possession numbers. This is not a strong team, but they are a talented team. The Rangers usually feast on teams that lack depth, so this should be a good opportunity for a rebound game.
The Rangers are coming off two very strong wins against Vancouver and Carolina where they played the game the way we’ve come to expect. They dominated both games through and through, both on the ice and on the scoreboard (yes, there’s a difference).
The Sens are struggling mightily right now. They’ve given up 11 goals in the past two games to noted offensive juggernauts the Devils and the Islanders. They’ve also given up a whopping 28 goals in their past six games. Suffice it to say, the goaltending and the defense are slightly suspect, especially without Marc Methot. Kyle Turris is hurt as well.
This is another opportunity for the Rangers to really build on what they’ve put together the last two games. They’ve played relatively solid team defense, they’ve generated sustained offense, and they’ve capitalized on chances. A third win in a row, for the first time since their nine game win streak, would be nice.