Archive for Game Thread
The Rangers played a very strong game at home against Vancouver the other day, coming out with a 3-2 win in overtime. It was a game where they dominated from start to finish, and eventually solved a hot goaltender for a come from behind victory. Those are usually the types of wins that a team can build on, and that is hopefully the end result against a weak Carolina team.
Although Carolina is weak, especially in net, they are holding their own due to strong possession play and great play from their blue line. They’ve been getting better shot quality as well, so the Rangers will need to play solid team defense and pepper Eddie Lack regularly.
Derick Brassard will return to the lineup after missing the last game with the flu. Jayson Megna was returned to Hartford and Daniel Paille is likely a healthy scratch, so the lines will resemble what we’ve seen over the past few games.
It has been a rough six weeks for Rangers fans. We’ve watched the team free fall, with just 17 points since the beginning of December. There have been process improvements on the ice, but the team hasn’t been able to string together W’s consistently. It’s been maddening.
As noted, there have been on-ice process improvements though. With a relatively poor Vancouver team in town, tonight is a good night to start building something, even without Derick Brassard. It looks like the Canucks are without Henrik Sedin, so that’s a lucky break for the Rangers.
And hey, potential future Ranger Radim Vrbata is playing too.
Another day, another game against the Caps. This is the third time these two meet in roughly four weeks, and the fourth time this season. The Caps dominated the first two outings, with Henrik Lundqvist stealing the first and the Caps blowing out the Rangers in the second.
The third meeting was the best this season, with the Rangers coming back from down 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead. The Caps then scored with six seconds left to tie it, and Alex Ovechkin went end-to-end in a way only he can to win it in overtime. This was the first game that appeared to be evenly matched throughout.
Tonight’s game will be interesting, with the Rangers coming off a lucky win in Philly and the Caps coming off a 4-1 loss in Buffalo. Plus it’s Antti Raanta in net, so you never know.
The loss on Thursday was a tough one, since the Rangers played well for most of the game, but a lapse for three minutes eventually cost them the game. Luckily the Flyers aren’t as good as the Isles, although they are playing very well of late. Continued process will eventually net results. As long as that process continues –and we are seeing better process with the lineup choice today– then we should be happy.
That said, the Flyers may not be a good team, but they are playing well lately since their salary dumps. Credit Ron Hextall for creating room on the roster and in the cap. His team has responded with four wins in a row and a 6-3-1 record over the last ten games. Steve Mason is a great goalie as well, so this team is no push over.
Tonight is another big four-point swing game for the Rangers, as they travel to Brooklyn to take on the Islanders. The last time these two teams played, the Rangers were mired in a slump but managed to grab a point in a shootout loss. This time around, the Isles are without two of their top defensemen in Johnny Boychuck and Travis Hamonic.
As for the Rangers, Dan Girardi is a game-time decision with a laceration on his hand. Dylan McIlrath will play if Girardi can’t go. They’ve been played better of late, and are 4-2-1 in their seven games since Washington embarrassed them in December. Process is getting better on the ice, even if there are still roster decision questions made nightly.
After an exciting comeback that was quickly followed by a crushing defeat, the Rangers are back in action tonight against the Bruins. The Bruins are barely holding on to a playoff spot right now and are dealing with an injury to David Krejci that seriously guts their center depth. But the Bruins are never truly out of any game with Tuukka Rask in net.
This is another test for the Rangers in their toughest stretch of schedule to date. They are playing much better lately and starting to do more of the right things on the ice. They only have a .500 record to show for it of late, but that’s an improvement over their horrid December. As the process improves, results will come.
After a feel good win against Dallas on Tuesday, where the Rangers played extremely well against a very talented team, the Washington Capitals come to town on an 8-1-1 streak in their last ten games. This team is white-hot right now and not showing any signs of slowing down. They are deep defensively, even without John Carlson today, are getting great goaltending from Braden Holtby, and have one of the more potent offenses in the league.
One of the storylines today will be Alex Ovechkin’s quest to get to 500 goals. He’s at 497 right now, and while it is unlikely he puts up a hat trick against Henrik Lundqvist, crazier things have happened. Even if the Rangers tame him, the Caps have oodles of weapons they can throw at their opponents. The stellar defensive game put forth on Tuesday night will need to become the rule, not the exception, for the Rangers to cool the Caps.
There’s also the fact that Washington absolutely dominated the first two games this season. Poor goaltending did the Caps in the first time, but they controlled that game from start to finish. They got better goaltending the second time, and embarrassed the Rangers thoroughly. Keeping it close would be nice.
After a strong win in Tampa Bay, the Rangers failed to show up in Florida and were dealt a 3-0 shutout loss by the surprising Panthers. Now they are back in New York to take on the Dallas Stars who basically score at will. They have 144 goals this season, and the next closest team is Washington at 121. That’s simply amazing. This team is talented, deep, and really friggin good.
Although Dallas scores a lot, they also allow a ton of goals. Their goaltending is average at best, as the Kari Lehtonen/Antti Niemi duo has been porous. They’ve allowed 107 goals thus far, and it’s mostly on the goaltending at this point, since neither has a .920 SV% (Niemi is best at a .918 SV%). The Stars can be beat, but it requires a magnificent defensive effort to do so.
The Rangers played possibly their best game of the season on Wednesday, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-2. They played solid defense, the goaltending was there, they had sustained offense, and they beat a solid team. The Rangers need to build on that performance tonight in Sunrise against a surprising Florida Panthers club that is second in the Atlantic.
The Panthers are getting solid goaltending from Roberto Luongo. They are also deep offensively, with six guys at the 20 point mark already (comparatively to the Rangers, who have just four players with 20 points). They are led by the ageless Jaromir Jagr, who at 95 years old is the team leader in goals (11) and points (26). He and Alex Barkov form a solid duo on the top line. Suffice it to say, this is not your typical bad Panthers team. They are for real, and will provide another solid test for the Rangers.
What have they done lately?
We are at the tipping point in Rangerland as the year comes to a close. The Rangers have not played well at all in December. Their possession numbers are getting better, but that’s largely due to playing from behind so much. The defensive play has been woeful up and down the lineup. It’s fun to constantly blame Dan Girardi and Marc Staal because, well, that’s actually become a bit of a narrative, but it’s every single person in the lineup.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is a team that will crush the Rangers if they don’t tighten up. This is a team that will burn most of the elite defensive teams in the league, let alone a team that is slow and struggling. But asking the Rangers to tighten up defensively seems to be a tall order lately.
What have they done lately?