Much of the discussion this season has been on the defensive issues, Henrik Lundqvist’s inconsistencies, and what the team needs to do to be a true contender in the Eastern Conference. Lost in all this, however, is the season being had by Chris Kreider. Kreider has been a beast this year, and appears to finally be having that breakout season we all expected over the past few years.
Kreider already has 17 goals and 31 points in 38 games this season, and would likely be slightly higher had he not missed a few games with back spasms. Increased production on the powerplay (4-4-8 already) has played a role in Kreider’s breakout season, but it’s the consistency that seems to be the major change this year. Through the first half of the season, Kreider hasn’t gone through one of his traditional long slumps without scoring.
St. John’s IceCaps 4, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
St. John’s, Newfoundland, January 14, 2017 – Late third-period goals for the St. John’s IceCaps 1:29 apart, by David Broll and Anthony Camara, sent the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 4-2 defeat Saturday night at Mile One Centre, in the second of back-to-back games between the two teams.
The Wolf Pack had defeated the IceCaps the night before, winning 2-1 in overtime.
Steven Kampfer and Nicklas Jensen scored power-play goals for the Wolf Pack Saturday, and Brandon Halverson made 30 saves. Max Friberg and Alexandre Ranger had the other St. John’s goals, and Tom Parisi added two assists. Former Wolf Pack Yann Danis was the winner in net, with 24 stops.
The Rangers have waived forward Marek Hrivik. If he clears, he will be sent back to the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL, where he will likely be the first injury call up again. Hrivik played solid if unspectacular hockey in his 16 game stint with the Rangers this year. He registered a pair of assists, the second and third of his career, while playing primarily in a fourth line role.
Hrivik’s success helped stabilize what could have been a disastrous fourth line as the Rangers dealt with a flurry of injuries in December. Hrivik’s weakness is that he isn’t offensively gifted enough for the NHL, which eventually led to the Rangers choosing Matt Puempel over him. Alain Vigneault wants skill up and down the lineup, and it’s tough to really fault that logic.
If Hrivik clears, he will likely be back at some point this season if the Rangers are unable to remain healthy. At the very worst, he will be a part of the taxi squad for the playoff run.
Last night I did something I haven’t done in at least a year. I sat on my couch and just watched the Ranger game. No goal breakdown. Limited tweeting (we will get to that). No gifs. Nothing. Just sat and watched as a fan of the team. Suffice it to say, I was not overly happy with what I saw. And after reviewing Twitter last night, I see a bunch of you feel the same way. There was a wide range of emotions last night.
Three goals in a minute to a team with like 3 legit scorers. Embarrassing.
— Dave Shapiro (@BlueSeatBlogs) January 15, 2017
The Rangers are in Montreal tonight on the second of back to backs to face the Canadiens and Carey Price. This could be a first round matchup in April, as the Rangers are likely to finish fourth in the Metro with the top wild card with the Habs winning the Atlantic. I know, it’s premature. But I like to poke the bear sometimes too.
As for the Habs, they are mostly Carey Price. He always gives them a chance to win on any given night. Outside of him, they are top-heavy with not much depth. But they are without Alex Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov tonight. Even so, they are going to win the Atlantic for a reason. Plus the Rangers seem to struggle in the Bell Centre for some reason.
Hartford Wolf Pack 2, St. John’s IceCaps 1 (OT)
St. John’s, Newfoundland, January 13, 2017 – Chris Brown’s goal at 2:07 of overtime gave the Hartford Wolf Pack a 2-1 win over the St. John’s IceCaps Friday night at Mile One Centre, in the first of back-to-back games between the two teams in St. John’s.
On the winning play, Brown, who had been denied on a chance moments earlier by IceCap goaltender Charlie Lindgren, re-gathered the puck, cut across the middle of the zone and down the slot, and fired a hard snap shot cleanly past Lindgren on the stick side.
“It’s just, get pucks on net and hopefully they go in,” Brown said. “The first one, I had a couple of rebounds and they just didn’t go in. But [Mat Bodie] made a great read, setting a nice little pick for me, and I kind of walked down and just shot it. And fortunately it went in.”
After an emotional ceremony to honor Detective Steve McDonald there was still a hockey game to be played, and the Rangers fell flat against a pretty good Leafs team. This is not last year’s Leafs team. They have a ton of young speed and skill, and they went to work against the Rangers porous back line. The put up a four spot on the Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist playing fairly well, save for that first goal.
The defense allowed a bunch of quality chances from the slot, some with the man advantage and some without. Hank got some, but not all. He also allowed a weak goal to start the game. Frederik Andersen, on the other hand, was not tested that much. It was a disoriented game by the Rangers, who were well rested but had only practiced once since their last game.
On to the goals:
After a much needed bye week, the Rangers are back in action tonight and will see the returns of Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich. While that is the main story for the Rangers, it is not the primary focus of the pregame. The organization will be honoring Detective Steven McDonald tonight, who passed away this week after suffering a heart attack.
The Rangers have presented the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award each season since 1987-88 to the Rangers player who goes above and beyond the normal call of duty, in honor of McDonald, who was shot in 1986 while on duty in Central Park. The incident left him a quadiplegic. McDonald was laid to rest today in a service where Adam Graves –who has won the award a record five times– spoke.
Detective McDonald was an inspiration to many and was a symbol of hope, courage, and forgiveness. McDonald was also a huge Rangers fan. He is survived by his wife and son, Conor, who followed his footsteps to the NYPD. Rest in peace.
The Rangers are finally starting to get healthy, per the notes from practice yesterday. To summarize:
- Pavel Buchnevich and Rick Nash will return to the lineup tonight. With Nicklas Jensen already sent down, one of Matt Puempel, Brandon Pirri, or Marek Hrivik will sit so both can play (unless Jesper Fast can’t play).
- Fast has the flu. AV wasn’t 100% he will be good to go tonight.
- Mika Zibanejad was skating in full yesterday. He will not play this weekend, and will practice again in full on Monday. Alain Vigneault hinted that it’s a matter of getting Zibanejad back in game shape.
- Marc Staal is likely not playing this weekend. That likely means the same defense pairings tonight and tomorrow.
One of the bigger tasks on GM Jeff Gorton’s plate this summer was revamping the bottom six. The Rangers had just met a quick defeat at the hands of eventual Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins and throughout the series (and much of the regular season, depending on the opponent) was that the Rangers depth players simply couldn’t match up against those of elite teams. I won’t beat a dead horse too much, but I will note that Tanner Glass saw significant minutes in the playoffs last year. Enough said.
Gorton rose to the occasion and made savvy acquisitions in the offseason, most notably Michael Grabner and Brandon Pirri, and later picked up Matt Puempel on waivers from Ottawa. While Grabner has obviously been the standout amongst this group the three of them, and call-up Marek Hrivik, have given the bottom six a whole new look. The Rangers’s bottom two lines are now primarily identifiable by their speed and puck handling ability, as opposed to their propensity to bleed shot attempts.