Earlier this week, the Rangers extended head coach Alain Vigneault’s contract another two years through the 2019-2020 season. The timing was a bit odd, as AV still had another full year on his initial deal and was fresh off a pretty embarrassing playoff defeat last season. But it’s tough to argue with AV’s success with the Rangers. He sports a 175-97-23, good for a .632 win percentage.
AV is a very smart coach. His systems on the ice generate solid offense. There’s a reason why he is as successful as he is. It’s not just dumb luck. But he is not a perfect coach. His flaws not only overshadow his successes, but follow him from team to team.
The Rangers and the Sabres traded tons of chances in the game, with both getting one past the strong goaltending in regulation. It was the story of goaltending, as Robin Lehner and Henrik Lundqvist put on a show, making save after save in a game that started slow and ended with the teams trading chances left and right. Lehner finished with 42 saves, and Hank finished with 36 saves.
The forwards were able to generate a good amount of chances, using their speed to burn by a very vulnerable Sabres defense. Unfortunately, the Sabres did the exact same thing to the Rangers. It’s actually kind of fun to watch. Both teams are built the same way, so watching them trade chances was a good time, even if the game started slow for the Rangers.
On to the goals:
After Tuesday night’s debacle against Columbus, the Rangers are back on the road to Buffalo tonight to take on the very potent Sabres. Buffalo is built a lot like the Rangers, with solid talent up front and a weak blue line. Buffalo has a habit of making the Rangers look bad lately, so this isn’t a push over game.
For the Rangers, they need to get back to basics on defense. It’s disturbing how bad they’ve been, and how often they allow high-danger shots on Henrik Lundqvist. Hank has looked human too, which is something we aren’t used to seeing. Perhaps if the high-danger chances subside, Hank will get back to his normal form? It’s a tall order.
Mats Zuccarello is showing that hockey is for everyone. He has been named the You Can Play Ambassador for the Rangers. The You Can Play project is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting homophobia in sports.
Per the Hockey is for Everyone calendar, the Rangers will participate in festivities on February 5th when they host the Calgary Flames, and on February 7th when they host the Anaheim Ducks. I’d like to see them on the calendar more, considering the city in which they play.
The NHL is doing a wonderful thing for equal rights and fighting hate. Kudos to Zucc for taking on a role in the effort.
The defense pairings remained the same.
Hellberg made one appearance in his previous call up while Raanta was hurt, stopping four shots in 19 minutes.
The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away, and as always the big market New York Rangers are at the center of online trade rumors. It’s no secret that the Rangers are in need of upgrades on defense, but that doesn’t stop outlets for saying the Rangers are in the running for names like Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan. The Rangers are also in a very odd position this season that may throw a monkey wrench into possible plans.
The Rangers are in the best division in the league, where 5th place in the Metro would be 3rd in the Atlantic division. This provides something odd as the Rangers will likely play either the best team in the Atlantic Division (Montreal) or the second place team in the Metro, which will likely be better than Montreal. Either path provides a difficult and path in round 1 and an even tougher matchup in the second round.
The New York Rangers are a good hockey team. Their top 14 forwards as a unit are some of the best in the league. They have skill, speed, and most importantly, depth. They have one of the best goaltenders in the world. But as we’ve all seen, the Rangers are deeply flawed on the blue line.
Flawed teams are generally inconsistent. I say generally because the size and type of flaw matters here. A flawed fourth line, for example, isn’t as big of an issue as a flawed blue line. It’s tough to hide three or four bad defensemen. With that flaw, and the division the Rangers play in, we are going to get what we’ve been getting. Some bad losses, some great wins, and some in between.
Note: No goal breakdown from last night. Sorry about that.
Today marks one month until the trade deadline and buzz continues to build that the Rangers are seeking help for the right side of their defense. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the Blueshirts don’t want to part with any of their young forwards in a swap – but they are expected to look for cheaper solutions.
We’ve already discussed Michael Stone and Ryan Murphy, so today we’re taking a look at Cody Franson. Two years ago, Franson was one of the hot commodities at the deadline and he was shipped from Toronto to Nashville with Mike Santorelli in exchange for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Lipsic and a first-round pick.
The Rangers begin their post All Star Game run tonight against Columbus, one of the few teams with a better record than the Rangers right now. The Blue Jackets are second in the Metro, five points ahead of the Rangers with a game in hand. In the world of three point games and loser points, it’s unlikely the Rangers catch them.
The Rangers aren’t drawing Sergei Bobrovsky tonight, so that’s always a good thing. But the Blue Jackets are skilled up and down the lineup and on the blue line. There’s a reason why they went on their run. This is a tough team to face.