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.
The Rangers were hoping to extend their win streak to seven in Brooklyn, but allowed three straight to the Isles en route to the 4-2 loss. The Rangers and Isles traded chances all game, but it was the Isles who took advantage of bad Rangers defense for those three straight. Win streaks are meant to be snapped, but it stings letting the Isles do it.
Make no mistake, this was not a pretty game. Fun to watch, but not pretty. The Rangers were hemorrhaging chances to the Isles, as they couldn’t get past the tenacious forecheck. New coach Doug Weight had the Isles pressing hard, and forcing the defense to make passes, a horrible weakness for the Rangers. It worked, as it led directly to multiple chances, a goal, and sustained pressure. It was a good game plan.
On to the goals:
The Rangers are in Brooklyn tonight to take on an Isles team that got spanked by the Leafs the other night. They had won three of four prior, and given it’s the Rangers, I’m assuming the Isles will be coming out to avoid another spanking tonight. But the Rangers have a unique opportunity to extend their win streak to seven while also delivering a blow to the Isles’ playoff hopes.
Matt Puempel will return to the lineup, and Pavel Buchnevich will be a healthy scratch. With the trade deadline coming up, this could also be one of the last games you see the roster as currently constructed. But I just like feeding the trade rumor wolf. It’s fun. Should be a good Rangers crowd tonight in Brooklyn.
Much was made yesterday when news broke that Alain Vigneault would be scratching Pavel Buchnevich for a game, subbing in Matt Puempel. I’m actually glad I wasn’t around to peruse the Twitters yesterday, because I’m sure I would have lost my mind. I did see a few reactions, and I have to admit, it’s really not worth getting all worked up over this.
I understand that a lot of folks are sensitive to Vigneault’s lineup choices. The defense choices this year alone would make anyone cringe. I understand that last year scarred people for life, as Tanner Glass was routinely in the lineup over significantly more skilled forwards. I get it. But let’s also be clear that sitting a rookie for a game in the middle of a slump can be an educational tool.
On this week’s Blue Seat Blogs-Cast Dave and Pat unpack the team’s 6-game win streak, Pavel Buchnevich’s benching, and a light tease of next week’s trade talks. As always you can find us right here, on SoundCloud, and on iTunes. Be sure to leave us reviews on Soundcloud and iTunes!