Category: Game Thread

Game 42: The Captain returns in Pittsburgh

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Ryan Callahan returns from his third injury (wrist, thumb, knee) this season as the Rangers are in Pittsburgh taking on the Metropolitan Division leading Penguins. The Rangers are 5-2-1 in their last 8 games, while the Penguins went 11-3 in December. One of those wins was in the shootout over the Rangers, so suffice it to say the Penguins are white-hot right now. This will not be an easy matchup, even with a fully healthy squad.

Dan Bylsma has the Penguins running an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck in the offensive zone and encourages puck pursuit in most situations.  In the DZ, Pittsburgh uses a low zone defense, taking out lanes and protecting the slot. The Pens are ranked 5th in the league in blocked shots and still average over 3 goals a game.

On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play which is ranked first in the league, clicking at an incredible 25.5% rate. They employ a diamond force penalty kill, which they’re ranked 2nd in the league behind the Canucks.

Rangers Lineup:

Read more »

Game 41: End 2013 the right way against the Panthers

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Rangers built on their strong performance (even though they lost) in Washington with a win over Tampa Bay on Sunday night. Tonight they are in Ft. Lauderdale in an attempt to close out the year with a win that will put them over .500. These aren’t the same bad Panthers that started the season competing for the top pick with Buffalo. This is a team that had five straight wins in the middle of December, even if they are 1-3 since that streak.

Peter Horachek employs a north/south game and has the Panthers running an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck. In the DZ, they run a low zone collapse and bring all five guys back to protect the house. On special teams, they run an umbrella/1-3-1 power play and a more passive four man box penalty kill. The Panthers tend to collapse vs. challenging the point shot, so our d-men should get some looks tonight.

Rangers Lineup:

Read more »

Game 40: Continue doing the right things in Tampa

Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers played a very good game against Washington on Friday night, but came out on the losing end after Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves. If the Rangers continue to play like they did on Friday night, they shouldn’t have a problem beating a lot of teams in the Eastern Conference. They face a tough matchup in Tampa Bay tonight, and the Rangers dodged a bullet with Anders Lindback starting tonight instead of the Team USA bound Ben Bishop. That said, beating backups hasn’t been a club forte this season.

Jon Cooper has the Lightning playing a pretty similar system as the Rangers. They run an aggressive 1-2-2 forecheck with a lot of pinching from their defensemen. Once they get a two goal lead, they tend to sit back in the neutral zone with a more passive 1-2-2. In the defensive zone, they mix man-on-man and zone coverage. On special teams, they still run a 1-3-1 power play and a diamond/box hybrid penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

Read more »

Game 39: Stop Ovechkin, continue winning streak

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Rangers are in Washington tonight after a nine-game home stretch where they went 3-4-2, but were 3-1-1 in their final 5 games. A team in a losing streak tends to take baby steps to get back to their winning ways, and the Rangers did just that with stronger showings against Calgary, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Toronto that sandwiched an abysmal game against the Isles. The Caps are no pushover, having beaten the Rangers 4-1 the last time they faced.

Washington coach Adam Oates runs an overload 1-2-2 forecheck, same as the Rangers. They generally send one man in, but if the chances at a turnover are high, they will send the second and third man in. They are fairly aggressive when it comes to defensive zone schemes, playing an overload style along the walls and collapsing down when the puck is down low, also like the Rangers. Their power play strategy is a 1-3-1, and their penalty kill formation changes based on opponent’s setup.

Rangers Lineup:

Read more »

Game 38: Building momentum against Toronto

Scott Levy / Getty Images

Scott Levy / Getty Images

The Rangers played very well last night, dominating the Minnesota Wild in a 4-1 win. After showing signs of life in the past three games (erasing two goal leads in all three games), the Rangers finally put it all together. Tonight the Maple Leafs come to town in the middle of a slump that has seen them crash down to Earth in a big way. If the Rangers are to build any form of momentum, now is the time to do so. After all, a win puts them back in third place in the Metro Division and back into the playoffs.

On the ice, the Leafs mostly rotate between an aggressive 1-2-2 forecheck  and a passive 1-2-2. However, they’ll also mix in a 2-1-2 forecheck on occassion depending on game situation. In the defensive zone, the Leafs generally play a collapsing box, which will leave the point men open for opportunities. Their powerplay (umbrella) is fairly standard. On the kill, the Leafs will rotate between PK strategies depending on opposition setup.

Rangers Lineup:

Read more »

Game 37: Parise Returns

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Parise returns to the Garden tonight, but will be sporting Minnesota green instead of Jersey red. The Minnesota native, along with Mikko Koivu leads the Wild in scoring (27 points), and will be looking to rebound after a 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh last Thursday.

Under Mike Yeo, the Wild run a 1-2-2 forecheck which they use aggressively or conservatively depending on game situation. In the defensive zone they use a low zone collapse pretty much exclusively. The Wild prefer to attack the blueline with speed so the Rangers are going to have to be good defending the rush tonight and not leaving Talbot on an island. On special teams, the Wild run an umbrella power play and a diamond force penalty kill.

Tonight marks the second to last game of this 9 game homestand before playing 6 of their next 7 on the road. Time to finish strong.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed):

Read more »

Game 36: Please score a lot against the Isles

Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

The Islanders come to town tonight, and those are always fun nights. Even though they stand no chance of making the playoffs, they always show up for a fight against the Rangers. Goaltending is a big issue on the island, and the Isles have the worst goaltending in the league. Ignoring GAA, the best Isles goalie is starting today (Evgeni Nabokov) and he sports a woeful .900 SV%. If there was ever a team to build scoring confidence on, it’s the Isles.

The Isles run an aggressive 1-2-2 forecheck and a 1-1-3 lock depending on the score, which they use to counter other teams mistakes. In the defensive zone, the Isles play man-on-man, so expect our defense to get pressured along the blueline. Look for blown coverages, as this Isles team is still a bit raw on defense. On special teams, the Isles run a 1-3-1 power play and a hybrid penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed):

Read more »

Game 35: Penguins vs. Rangers

Wah

Wah

After an ugly win against Calgary, where the Rangers made some baby steps in the right direction, the Metropolitan Division leading Pittsburgh Penguins are in town. The Pens are beaten up, with half of their defense (Orpik, Martin, Scuderi) and two key scorers (Malkin, Neal) either injured or suspended. If you’re going to catch Pittsburgh at any point, now is the time to catch them.

Dan Bylsma has the Penguins running an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck in the offensive zone and encourages puck pursuit in most situations.  In the DZ, Pittsburgh uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and protecting the slot. The Pens are ranked 4th in the league in blocked shots and still average over 3 goals a game. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1/umbrella power play which is ranked first in the league, clicking at an incredible 26% rate. They employ a diamond force penalty kill, which they also execute real well as they are 2nd in the NHL just behind Vancouver.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed):

Read more »

Game 34: Flames make a rare trip to MSG

On the block?

On the block?

Tonight the Calgary Flames (13-15-4) make a rare trip to MSG. The two teams haven’t played against each other since October 2011 and haven’t squared off at MSG in 3+ years.  There isn’t much history between these two teams, so tonight’s game could be a dud. Hopefully it won’t be, as both teams are sub .500 and searching for some sort of identity.

Bob Hartley has the Flames running a 1-2-2 forecheck that can be used aggressively or conservatively depending on the game situation (time left in period, score, puck location, etc.).  In the DZ, Calgary uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and keeping things in tight. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 and a diamond penalty kill.

On a separate note, I’m going to be doing a Q&A/mail bag post tomorrow. Drop me some questions in the comments section or shoot me an email.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed):

Read more »

Game 33: Dubinsky, Anisimov return to MSG

Remember this? (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Remember this? (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Tonight marks the return of two former Rangers and fan favorites: Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. Both were sent to Columbus after the 2012 playoff run for Rick Nash, and one (Dubinsky) has been very vocal about wanting to stick it to the Rangers tonight. Tonight is also the first time Nash will face his former team. Marian Gaborik (sent to Columbus seven months later for Derick Brassard, John Moore, and Derek Dorsett) is injured, and will not be playing tonight. There’s good drama off the ice, but on the ice is what matters.

Under Todd Richards, the Blue Jackets run a 2-1-2 forecheck, but with less active defensemen. In the DZ, CBJ uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and blocking shots. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play, and a box penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

Read more »