Yesterday, the Rangers made a surprising little move by claiming the 24th overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, Matt Puempel. Without trying to make this more complex I truly see some good signs regarding this transaction, so lets get to some musings that have sprung from the waiver pick-up.
First and foremost lets get to the semantics, a couple of weeks ago the Rangers terminated Calle Andersson’s contract. In theory, Puempel just takes his slot and the Rangers still have a few spots open for trade flexibility or UDFA signings.
It’s been a few games since I’ve written one of these and made gifs. So….hooray I’m back!
The Rangers came out last night in Pittsburgh very sluggish, spotting the Penguins a quick two-goal lead while playing sloppy hockey. But the second period, which has been their favorite period, proved to be the difference again. The Rangers scored three times in the second, from three different goal scorers to take the lead for good. A fourth goal was added in the third (and a fifth into the empty net) as the Rangers continued to press for insurance.
This was a much better overall game than we’ve seen in games past, and a great character win for a team that needed to right the ship. They were sloppy early, they tightened it up in the second, and then let the offensive juices flow. Antti Raanta was shaky early too, but was much better after a weak goal. He outdueled Marc-Andre Fleury, with both goalies making some solid saves.
On to the goals:
Life without Mika Zibanejad begins today, and it’s going to really test the forward depth for the Rangers. Zibanejad brought more to the Rangers than meets the eye, as he was excellent in most facets of the game, even if he had cooled off since his hot start. The Rangers are already without Pavel Buchnevich, and even with a returning Josh Jooris, the scoring depth has been taking a hit lately.
With two fairly big injuries in the forwards, the Rangers are going to have to find other ways to win games. That means goaltending and defense are going to need to start coming through for them. Henrik Lundqvist isn’t the concern, so it’s the defense (both the blue liners and overall team defense) that needs to improve. Time for everyone to pick up the slack.
As for the Penguins, we know what they are. They are the model that the Rangers have built their team after. However they don’t have the injury bug at the moment, and their blue line is easily more mobile. This is a true test for the Rangers.
Boy, the Rangers play two mediocre games and all of a sudden the world is ending. The focus, as always, has been on the defense. But let’s be clear here. We all knew the defense was in need of an upgrade before the season started. The major problem lies on the right side, where Dan Girardi plays top pairing minutes and Kevin Klein has been bouncing between second and third pair. Brady Skjei has moved to that side to try to stabilize everything.
Dylan McIlrath wasn’t the answer. Adam Clendening may or may not be a viable bottom-pairing guy, and we won’t know until he’s in the lineup more consistently. Alain Vigneault is going to lean on his guys until major roster decisions are made down the road. So let’s try to get into AV’s head and understand why he’s making the decisions he’s making, instead of just bashing him or the players blindly.
The Rangers have claimed forward Matt Puempel off waivers from the Ottawa Senators. The 2011 first round pick was waived by the Senators after not putting up a point in his 13 games thus far this season. Over 52 career games, Puempel has just four goals and two assists to his name.
Puempel is likely one of those “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks” moves by Jeff Gorton as he and the Rangers try to deal with the slew of injuries that have done a number on their forward depth.
The 23-year-old forward is signed for this year making $900,000. Worth noting that the Rangers were 28th in the league in waiver priority. So 27 other teams passed on him, with just Chicago and Montreal behind them. At the worst, he’s a forward for Hartford. At the best, he’s a temporary stopgap until the forwards get healthy.
Hartford Wolf Pack 4, Providence Bruins 3 (SO)
By Henry Lucey
Hartford, CT, November 20, 2016 – For the second time in as many home games, Steven Fogarty notched the shootout winner for the Hartford Wolf Pack Sunday at the XL Center, in a 4-3 win over the Providence Bruins.
After a slow start saw Harford land just one shot in the first five minutes of play, the Pack’s offense caught fire at the 8:32 mark. Chris Brown put the Wolf Pack on the scoreboard when he collected Ryan Graves’ rebound that was bouncing in front of the net and swiftly deposited the puck past the near side of Providence goalie Anton Khudobin.
Just sixty-one seconds later, Matt Carey added to the Wolf Pack’s lead, corralling a Providence turnover and firing a snap shot over Khudobin’s blocker at 9:33. On the opposite end of the ice, Hartford’s defense was dominant, surrendering just six shots, all of which were saved by Magnus Hellberg.
The Rangers game last night was chock full of choppy ice and sloppy play. The Florida Panthers came to New York after beating Ottawa Saturday night to a rested Rangers squad. There were messy goals, homecomings, and a brutal injury to Mika Zibanejad all in the first overtime game all year. Let’s dive in:
- Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello played out of their minds. They’re all animals this year and thank the hockey gods.
- I’m saying this despite Hayes taking the most Hayes penalty of all time, basically clotheslining James Reimer accidentally because he couldn’t quite stop in front of the net.
The injury bug keeps biting the Rangers this year. Center Mika Zibanejad is out 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula after taking a nasty crash into the boards against Florida.
Unless Buch or Jooris are ready to go, the Rangers will need to recall a forward from Hartford.
The Rangers are back home tonight to take on the Florida Panthers, who are stuck in a fit of mediocrity at the moment. But while the game is the focus of the players, most fans have their eyes on the return of Keith Yandle and Dylan McIlrath. Yandle was shipped to Florida before the draft and eventually signed there, while McIlrath was traded this month.
But here’s the irony. The Rangers traded Steven Kampfer to Florida to open roster space for Anthony Duclair. Duclair was traded in the deal for Yandle. McIlrath was traded to Florida and got Kampfer in return. Now McIlrath lives with Yandle. Full circle.
As for the team itself, Florida is dealing with injuries to Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, which has crushed their forward depth, and their bottom-six is pretty bad. Their top four on defense is pretty solid, but the bottom pair can be exploited with speed.
Binghamton Senators 6, Hartford Wolf Pack 3
Binghamton, NY, November 19, 2016 – A four-goal second period carried the Binghamton Senators to a 6-3 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack Saturday night at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena.
Marek Hrivik and Tanner Glass had a goal and an assist each for the Wolf Pack, but Francis Perron scored twice for Binghamton, Jack Rodewald had a goal and two assists, and Kyle Flanagan chipped in three assists.
“We’ve got to find a way to come out of our own zone cleaner,” said Glass of the Wolf Pack’s second-period difficulties. “We had the puck in full possession a few times there and were not making the good first pass that it takes to come out cleanly, especially against a team that was forechecking the way they were.”