Archive for Game Thread

Mar
21

Game 70: Rebound in Carolina

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The New York Rangers are in Raleigh tonight to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in an attempt to rebound following their first regulation loss in the month of March. The Canes are not a good team this season, but they should be better than their record. This is a club that has been dealing with a number of injuries all season, but have also made a few seller deals at the deadline. Those deals generally weaken teams in the short term. Goaltending has been an issue all season as well.

As for the Rangers, Alain Vigneault shook up the lines following the regulation loss to Chicago on Wednesday. Kevin Hayes is back to center and Ryan McDonagh is moving to the right side as the Blueshirts deal with injuries to Martin St. Louis and Kevin Klein. Tinkering against the Canes before a showdown with Anaheim tomorrow is a good plan, but the Rangers are going to need a little bit of luck over the next few games while dealing with these injuries.

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Tonight, the New York Rangers look to extend their winning streak to six games –and sweep the season series against the Chicago Blackhawks– tonight at MSG when the Hawks come to town. The Rangers defeated the Hawks 1-0 just five games ago, in overtime, thanks largely to Cam Talbot’s 29 saves.

The Hawks are the first game in a run that sees the Rangers play seven of eight games against teams in the playoffs or fighting for the playoffs. That run includes the Hawks, Ducks, Kings, Senators, Bruins, and Capitals. This comes on the heels of their recent run of five in a row against playoff teams, a stretch in which they went 4-0-1 to calm even the most vocal critics.

While the Rangers have a sizable lead on the Islanders for the Metro Division crown, they need to continue banking points to ensure they have home ice advantage. This current run will also go a long way in telling us if the Rangers can indeed skate with the teams in the West and deal with the physicality of the teams in the East.

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Mar
15

Game 68: Pad the lead in Florida

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After winning last night in Buffalo, the Rangers have won four in a row and five of their last six, including a 4-0-1 run against five teams that will be in the playoffs come April. All that has led to a three point lead on the Islanders with four games in hand. One of those games in hand is tonight in Florida to take on the Panthers. The Panthers are six points back of a wild card spot with 14 games left to play. In short, they need points.

The Panthers went out and grabbed Jaromir Jagr at the trade deadline, hoping he could help push them over the edge. After all, any team with Roberto Luongo in net has a chance every night. But that was before the Luongo and Al Montoya injuries. With both going down in the same game, Dan Ellis now minds the net for the Panthers.

Many thought the Panthers would be a bottom feeder, but the fact that they are still in the hunt is truly amazing. That said, the Panthers have really ridden that loser point advantage, collecting a lead-leading 14 of them thus far. This is a young team fighting for its playoff lives, so this won’t be a cake walk, but the Rangers need to take advantage of Ellis in net.

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Mar
14

Game 67: Keep winning against Buffalo

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The Rangers face life without Kevin Klein for the first time tonight, as they are in Buffalo to take on the woeful Sabres. This Sabres team is actually trying to tank, and doing a bang-up job there. As you’ll see in this game preview, I just don’t even know who the Sabres dress anymore.

The Rangers, meanwhile, went 4-0-1 against the Predators, Blackhawks, Islanders, Red Wings, and Capitals. They did this without Henrik Lundqvist. That is nothing short of impressive. Tonight is a gimme for two points, so naturally it’s a trap game. Buffalo stinks.

Admin note: I wrote this on Friday afternoon, so there’s a chance the lines are incorrect for both teams. I’m at Disney for the weekend, so I apologize if this is off.

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Mar
11

Game 66: Reclaim first place in Washington

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Fresh off an emotional win last night on Long Island, the New York Rangers are in DC to take on the Washington Capitals. The Caps are the fifth straight playoff team the Rangers will face, and they’ve gone 3-0-1 in that span, which is pretty impressive. With the Rangers on the second of back-to-backs, the first time Talbot has played back-to-backs, this will be another solid test for the Blueshirts.

The Caps rode a really hot December/January to a secure playoff spot. They are set as one of the wild card teams, likely the first wild card team, and will get one of the division winners once the playoffs roll around. These are not the same Caps that were all Ovechkin or all zeroes way back when. This team is balanced offensively and has good goaltending. They have a solid blue line as well, but that Brooks Orpik contract is going to kill them sooner rather than later.

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Mar
10

Game 65: Potential Nassau Coliseum finale

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The New York Rangers are on Long Island tonight to take on the New York Islanders in what could be the last game played between these two clubs at the Nassau Coliseum. There is no guarantee these two meet in the playoffs, as it appears that both teams will need to win their first round series in order to meet in the Division Finals.

The Isles are lucky tonight, getting injured winger Kyle Okposo back. Okposo has been out since the All Star break with a detached retina, rumored to have occurred from vomiting after a heavy night of drinking during the break. The Rangers made one lineup change: Tanner Glass for James Sheppard on the fourth line.

The Isles are 3-1 against the Rangers this season, with the Rangers taking the most recent game. This finale likely decides who wins the division, as the Isles are three points up, but the Rangers have four games in hand. A win for the Rangers means they are one point back with four games in hand. A loss puts them five points back with four games in hand. The Penguins are lurking, but it’s tough to leap frog two teams in the three-point game system we have nowadays.

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Mar
08

Game 64: Tough test in Chicago

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The New York Rangers are in Chicago tonight to take on the always tough Blackhawks in a game that will pit Brad Richards against his former team for the first time since the Rangers bought him out this offseason. The Hawks are without Patrick Kane, but made a deal for Antoine Vermette at the deadline to help fill that hole. The Hawks also added Kimmo Timonen on the blue line to help for their playoff push.

Interestingly enough, the Rangers actually have a better record than the Hawks this season. Both teams have 85 points, but the Rangers have done it in two fewer games and have significantly more regulation/OT wins than the Hawks. The Rangers also hold the goal differential edge (+42 vs. +37), and that gets even wider if you don’t factor in the bonus goal for shootout wins.

The Hawks are good, but the Rangers have been better. That said, both teams are without one of their major stars. Let’s call that swap even.

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March is a rough month for the New York Rangers, with their first five games of the month coming against teams that will make the playoffs. They got off to a good start, dominating the NHL’s best Predators on Monday, and now look to continue that strong play in Detroit against the Red Wings. Detroit was supposed to be in a transition season, but they have 81 points through 61 games, and are within striking distance of the Atlantic Division crown.

They have a +21 goal differential, and have ridden strong goaltending and great scoring depth to their current position. The Wings have four players on pace for at least 50 points (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Tatar, Nyquist) and have just one player (Joakim Andersson) with more than 30 games played and less than 10 points. This team gets it done up and down the roster, and are incredibly well coached.

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The stretch run for the New York Rangers begins tonight, as one of the league’s best in the Nashville Predators come to town. The Rangers were the biggest players at the trade deadline, acquiring Keith Yandle¬†and James Sheppard, while shipping out Lee Stempniak. Both Yandle and Sheppard will have a positive effect on the Rangers lineup.

The Preds were busy too, albeit much earlier than the Rangers. Since the last time these two played, the Preds got much deeper, adding Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, while shipping out Olli Jokinen. The Preds are for real folks, and they are a fantastic team. Cam Talbot played one of his best games of the year against the Preds, and the Rangers will need that effort again tonight.

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Feb
28

Game 61: Keep rolling against Philly

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The New York Rangers are going to look to keep rolling tonight in Philadelphia, taking on a Flyers team that has found their way into the playoff race. Philly isn’t in the race by virtue of being good (26-25-11), but by virtue of the Bruins and Panthers being unable to actually win games regularly. The Flyers are still six points out and have three teams to leap-frog, so the chances of them making the playoffs are still slim.

The Flyers are absolutely loaded up front with Voracek, Giroux, and Simmonds forming their top scoring threats.¬†Schenn and Couturier round out the top six with a rotating winger, but the rest of the team is flawed at best. The blue line is an absolute disaster, and while Steve Mason has been playing well (.925 SV%), he hasn’t started in a month. But the Flyers will try to avoid the season sweep to the Rangers, and you should never count out that top line.

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