Category: Game Thread

Game 45: Facing the best in Chicago

Cally Face (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Cally Face (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

The Rangers are in Chicago for the first time in close to two years to take on the NHL’s best (in my opinion they are better than the Ducks, who are two points ahead). The Hawks are stupid good, and the Rangers are going to need to be at their best to win this game. Luckily they’ve played very well the past couple of weeks, and some of their stars are finally starting to come around. Puck luck is going to be necessary tonight as well.

Joel Quenneville is one of the best coaches in the game. His Hawks play an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck, keeping the back forward and defensemen ready to jump on turnovers. In the DZ, the Hawks play a standard zone defense looking to defend you in layers based on puck location. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play, and a wedge+1 penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 44 vs. CBJ: Build on a strong performance

Image from LoHud

Image from LoHud

The Rangers destroyed Toronto the other day, and now they desperately need to build on that momentum against Columbus. The Blue Jackets have fallen on hard times, and sit in second-to-last in the division.This will be their third and final meeting of the season, and a game the Rangers really need to win to stay relevant.

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 protecting the house. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 power play, and a box penalty kill.

Rangers Lineup:

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Game 43: The Leafs aren’t that good, please win

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After last night’s debacle in Pittsburgh, the Rangers are in Toronto trying to salvage the second half of the season. Playing .500 hockey will not suffice if this team has playoff aspirations, so this is a team that needs to get their act in gear yesterday. Toronto is a team that finds ways to get points despite being one of the worst puck possession teams in the league. This is a beatable team, but the Rangers need to beat them in regulation to gain any ground on them in the “wildcard” spots.

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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):

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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):

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