Well Tuesday’s game was a letdown. The Rangers played well at even strength, but special teams continued to be a train wreck, dooming them to failure. While it is critical to outplay your opponents at 5v5, poor special teams will doom any team. The Rangers are no different, and they need to get these aspects of their game in order.
The Wild are a solid team stuck in the best division in hockey, so this represents a solid challenge for the Rangers. Another potential problem is the team speed of Minnesota, as the Rangers aren’t the swiftest of foot on the blue line. But if they play the same even strength game and shore up the issues on special teams, they may actually begin to make headway.
The Rangers will be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the foreseeable future with a broken thumb, and the injury came at the worst possible time. Klein has been arguably the Rangers’ best defenseman, and absolutely the best right-handed defenseman. Dylan McIlrath will get extended playing time, likely with Keith Yandle.
On paper, the drop-off from Klein to McIlrath shouldn’t be all that terrible. McIlrath actually has better possession numbers, but it’s a small sample. But from what we’ve seen, he’s been able to make the smart first pass out of the zone and manages his gap control very well, which helps hide his weaker skating.
Per Steve Zipay, the newly recalled Jayson Megna will play tonight, and Tanner Glass will be the healthy scratch. This isn’t a surprise, as Megna wasn’t recalled to be scratched, and Paille wasn’t signed to be scratched. Lines were unconfirmed.
Dylan McIlrath is also playing, which isn’t a surprise.
It’s been an up and down season so far for the Rangers as the trade deadline approaches, with an early win streak still keeping them afloat in the standings despite some mediocre play of late. Although the on-ice possession metrics have been improving steadily, the Rangers are still plainly capable of losing badly, as evidenced by their shutout loss against Ottawa and the other night’s defeat at the hands of divisional rivals the Devils.
The Rangers may still likely make the playoffs, but it’s hard to say watching this team that they’re a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. All of this means that this trade deadline will be critical juncture for the New York Rangers, with the organization demonstrating whether or not it recognizes the obvious issues with this team or whether it will recommit to the kinds of practices that got us to this point just two seasons after making it to the Cup finals.
The Rangers have recalled forward Jayson Megna from the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. This is Megna’s second stint with the Rangers this season, playing five games in his recent call up. He notched a goal and an assist in his first game, but was held scoreless thereafter. Megna’s recall likely means two things, 1) Rick Nash likely isn’t back for a few more games, and 2) the Daniel Paille/Tanner Glass duo is likely at its end.
The New York Rangers will be buyers at the trade deadline this year. Make no mistake about it. And depending on the moves they make –assuming they land a legitimate top-six forward– they will be a better and deeper team after the deadline in the short term. It’s still the classic “all-in” scenario, but the Rangers are bluffing.
Buying at the deadline won’t fix the foundation issues that run rampant with the on-ice product. The organization still thinks they can win with a fourth line consisting of one –if not both– of Dan Paille and Tanner Glass. The coaching staff thinks that Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are their two best defenders. The staff thinks they can win playing man coverage in the defensive zone with an aging roster that is slowing down.
These are fundamental issues that go beyond any trade deadline rental.
Kevin Klein is officially out indefinitely with a fractured thumb. Klein suffered the injury late in the third period of last night’s game on a hit from Reid Boucher. The hit wasn’t dirty, but Klein landed awkwardly on his hand.
It is expected that Dylan McIlrath will play in his place, and no call ups will be made.
The Rangers’ first game back from the break was a real back and forth matchup against near their near rivals the New Jersey Devils. J.T. Miller continued with the strong play he demonstrated before the recess, gaining the zone with ease, driving to the net, and scoring two nice goals. Despite this and other solid efforts from players like Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and Viktor Stalberg, it wasn’t enough to power past the Devils, with a bad goal given up by Dan Girardi taking away the Rangers’ lead just after Miller’s second put them up a goal.
Special teams proved to be the difference in this game with the Rangers going 0 for 4 on the power play, with the Devils’ game winner coming on their man-advantage. This Rangers loss now puts them only two points ahead of the Devils, and the blueshirts will have to be better if they expect that gap to widen as opposed to shrink, with the two teams meeting twice more this month.
No gifs in the post today, but you can view them all at Ryan Ohanesian’s timeline here.
Rangers 1 Devils 0
The All Star break is over, and now begins the playoff push for the Rangers. They’ve been playing better of late, 6-3-1 in their last ten, but the overall performance has still left something to be desired. The process is certainly better on the ice, and the forwards have been better as well, but defensive issues remain.
This is a rather important game for the Rangers, as the Devils are four points behind the Blueshirts, but the Rangers have a game in hand. A regulation win makes it a six point cushion with a game in hand –potentially eight point lead– which is almost insurmountable with the three-point game system we have today.
The Rangers are entering a crossroads for their farm system this summer. They have 18 players in Hartford/Greenville that will have their contracts expire at the end of the season. Some of those players are household names that have been in the organization for a while, some are guys on their ELCs that haven’t panned out.
Some of the younger players will be re-signed, either as hopes that they pan out or just to fill roster spots. There are also guys that are expected to be signed to their ELCs (Pavel Buchnevich, Boo Nieves, Steven Fogarty). But with the slew of veterans that are likely leaving Hartford, there will be a bunch of roster spots open.