On this week’s episode of the Blue Seat Blogs-Cast we’re joined by special guest Sean Hartnett of WFAN 66/CBS Local and Blueshirt Bulletin to preview the upcoming trade deadline. As always you can find us right here, on iTunes, and on SoundCloud.
Springfield Thunderbirds 4, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
By Chris Kohler
Hartford, CT, February 19, 2017 – Justin Fontaine and Steven Kampfer scored first-period goals for the Hartford Wolf Pack Sunday at the XL Center, but goaltender Mike McKenna and the Springfield Thunderbirds were able to fend off Hartford’s offensive attack for the remainder of the game, to earn a 4-2 victory.
The Thunderbirds did not take long to open the scoring, as just 1:07 into the contest, Mackenzie Weegar fired a shot from right point, off of a pass from Jayce Hawryluk, that found its way past Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg (23 saves).
Damn does it feel good to beat the Washington Capitals. A standout performance from Henrik Lundqvist and some ludicrous pace from the rest of the team early on helped the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over their perennial playoff rivals in Sunday’s matinee game. Although the Rangers took their foot off the gas in the second period, a solid third frame helped seal the deal.
Depending on how you look at things this was either a positive litmus test for the Rangers heading into the home stretch or emblematic of the team’s inability to play three solid periods of hockey, all while hiding behind their all-star goaltender. I’ll leave that up to you to decide – here are the goals.
RANGERS 1 CAPITALS 0
Lehigh Valley Phantoms 6, Hartford Wolf Pack 4
Allentown, PA, February 18, 2017 – The Hartford Wolf Pack outshot the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 44-27, and had a 24-5 shots advantage in the third period, Saturday night at the PPL Center, but fell to the Phantoms 6-4, in the second of back-to-back games between the two teams.
It was nearly a mirror image of the previous night’s game, which saw the Wolf Pack outshot 44-18, including 25-5 in the third, but prevail by a score of 3-2.
Justin Fontaine had a goal and an assist for Hartford Saturday, and Steven Kampfer and Chris Brown had two assists apiece, but Danick Martel had the game-winning goal and an assist for Lehigh Valley, and Andy Miele and T.J. Brennan added a goal and an assist each.
The Rangers have a Sunday matinee today at MSG, taking on the Metro leading Washington Capitals. The Caps are one of four teams with a better record than the Rangers, and three of them are in the Metro Division. That’s just crazy. But the Caps are deep, skilled, get solid goaltending, and have a decent enough blue line.
This is going to be the first real test for the Rangers in February, as they are facing the cream of the crop in the league. A good showing against Washington goes a long way to building confidence for the playoff run. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m focusing more on how they play than about the W. The W is nice, but showing they can skate with the Caps is more important.
With every passing day the trade deadline draws closer, with teams already likely in the preliminary stages of making whatever deals we’ll eventually see transpire. The Rangers are likely to be active at the deadline one way or another, and while I’m not going to make specific recommendations or prescribe particular remedies to what’s ailing the team (given that I’ve already done that, and given that there’s certainly more than one way to improve this team) I do want to unpack the crucial thought process that a team must undertake in the run up to the deadline.
In short, it all has to do with whether or not this team sees itself as a true contender, and whether or not that’s actually true. We’ve seen in previous years the Rangers’s tendency to go all in, adding pieces at the deadline in order to give the team a shot at the Cup. While I think it’s certainly admirable to try and contend every year possible and give Henrik Lundqvist a shot at his Cup, we’ve also seen in previous years that this hasn’t exactly worked out.
The Rangers are finally going to retire Jean Rattelle’s #19. It took them long enough, as Rattelle is largely regarded as one of the best Rangers to ever put on the sweater. He was also recently placed in the NHL’s Top 100 players. Rattelle will be the 9th player to have his jersey retired by the Rangers.
He currently ranks among the top-three in Rangers history in the major offensive categories: goals (second with 336), assists (third with 481), points (third with 817). The Rangers traded Ratelle, along with Brad Park and Joe Zanussi, to the Boston Bruins in 1975 for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais. A trade that most Ranger fans cringe at when it is mentioned.
Hartford Wolf Pack 3, Lehigh Valley Phantoms 2
Allentown, PA, February 17, 2017 – Brandon Halverson made a Hartford Wolf Pack season-high 42 saves Friday night at the PPL Center, as the Wolf Pack defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-2, despite being outshot 44-18.
The game was the first of a back-to-back set between the two teams in Allentown.
Philip McRae had the third-period game-winning goal for the Wolf Pack, and added an assist, and Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen also had Wolf Pack goals. Mark Alt and Scott Laughton scored for the Phantoms in the third, in which Lehigh Valley outshot Hartford 25-5.
There’s not much going on today in the world that is the Rangers. Regurgitating the same content about the team is getting old. We know the forwards are good. We know the defense stinks. We know the goaltending is getting better. The trade deadline is coming, and with it comes the hopes (fears?) that the Rangers will make a move to address their weaknesses. But in the back of everyone’s mind is something coming up in June: The Expansion Draft.
There are some that think this year’s trade deadline will be quiet because of expansion. Multi-year deals are going to be tough sells, especially if teams can’t protect an additional player. Teams can only protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie (or 8 skaters and 1 goalie). Rookies/second year pros are exempt, but players with NMCs must be protected. But all AHL guys beyond their second year must be exposed. Teams can only lose one player to expansion.
Last night, the Rangers lost a disappointing game to the rival Islanders in Brooklyn. The loss snapped a six game winning streak in which the Blueshirts were able to move into a temporary three-way tie for second place in the Metro. Since it’s Friday and we are all looking to kill some time at work, I have some thoughts…
1. I am not a big believer in picking your preferred playoff matchups. I generally find it to be a fool’s errand, but this season, I really can’t see any upside in trying to vie for position in the stacked Metro division. Nothing good can come from the meat grinder of potentially playing the Penguins, Blue Jackets and/or Capitals in the first two rounds.