(Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
As I sat on my couch watching the game tonight, I found myself repeating the same phrase over and over throughout the tilt: “it’s not their night”. I mean, this was a trap game, anyway. I watched as pucks bounced around Jacob Markstrom’s crease, deflected off defenders, and bounced into the Ranger net. The Blueshirts pummeled the young Swede and aside from a nifty move from Marian Gaborik, came up completely empty. They dominated play for most of the night, but nothing went right this evening.
The top three lines showed flashes of brilliance, Hank looked very sharp, and the cycle/puck possession game looked fairly strong. They created chances, but Markstrom played a tremendous game. Hopefully they came build off some of the positives against the Caps. Onto the goals…
Panthers 1, Rangers 0
After Roman Hamrlik took a high sticking penalty around the 8:00 mark, the Panther powerplay went to work. Dan Girardi misplayed a clearing attempt, allowing the cats to retain possession. The puck was worked around to Brian Campbell, who blasted an absolute beauty over the left shoulder of Lundqvist. Read more »
“Line changes? what line changes?”
For the sake of himself, the Rangers, and their entire season, John Tortorella needs to do something that is almost foreign to him as a coach and stick to his line combinations for the rest of the season. The Rangers season, and indeed the coach’s own future, may depend on his willingness to do just that.
Against the Hurricanes Monday night Tortorella reverted to Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards-Rick Nash once again being on the same line. While the line didn’t score its reunion coincided with the most assertive game Richards had played in weeks (including some exceptional passes that led to scoring chances) and saw Gaborik look much more dynamic than he had done for the majority of the season. Rick Nash was simply Rick Nash; as the game developed the big winger was consistently dangerous. These lines were left the same for last night’s game, and it was one of the most complete efforts we’ve seen all year. Plus, this mega-line scored.
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Marian Gaborik hasn’t exactly torn up the league this season. With a very up and down campaign the Slovakian winger’s future with the Rangers is very much up in the air, something that beat writer Andrew Gross has also speculated on this week. While Gaborik is among the Rangers’ leading point scorers his production, based on his age, expectancy, and most importantly his salary cap hit is underwhelming to put it mildly. When you’re pulling down $7.5 million per season you need to deliver more than a game here and a game there.
Gaborik is just one of the problems that this Rangers team is facing at the moment. The team in its entirety seems stuck in neutral unable to get sustained, consistent performances out of anyone not named Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, or Rick Nash. The reason this team is battling for its playoff lives is that the vast majority of the roster is under performing, and that begins and ends with Gaborik (and Brad Richards).
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Photo credit: ctpost.com
While the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are still a little under a year away, discussions continue on between the NHL, NHLPA, IIHF and IOC to determine whether NHL players will participate in the games. As it stands right now, all signs point to an agreement being reached to keep the game’s best players representing their respective nations.
In the spirit of these discussions, I thought I’d take a look at which Rangers might be making the trip over to Russia next year…
Henrik Lundqvist – Sweden: After a gold medal performance in 2006 and general NHL dominance over the past eight seasons, Hank is the guy for Sweden. Not even a disappointing 5th place finish in Vancouver could begin to dethrone The King.
Ryan Callahan – United States: Cally assumed a penalty-killing, bottom-6 role in Vancouver in 2010, often paired with former Ranger, Chris Drury. Callahan will play a much more prominent role on a still young US roster this time around. A letter is a distinct possibility for the Ranger captain. Read more »
Plenty of goal celebrations tonight please.
If you think the Rangers media/fan base is bad, you should have seen the stink kicked up by Jake Gardiner’s agent in Toronto. One naughty tweet (“free Jake Gardiner”) created a storm of speculation. Rangers’ prospects should relax knowing they don’t need to deal with the overzealous Toronto market.
Following on from his recent upturn in form, Michael Del Zotto is averaging a point per game against the Jets franchise. The Buffalo game aside (almost everyone stank), it will be interesting to see MDZ on the puck tonight and see whether he can continue to bring the level of poise and confidence he’s had recently. He’s an important part of this team, and when he’s on can make other players around him more dangerous.
Something about tonight’s match up; if the team can’t enter this game motivated, hungry, and with serious energy I’ll be slightly concerned. The Rangers and Jets are 8th and 9th in the standings, with the same points. There is a lot riding on this game. This is the kind of game where the Rangers better players need to step up.
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Rangers and the Islanders played a tight game before Rangers won in OT
The Rangers beat the Islanders 2-1 in overtime, in a game that was a goaltending duel and in a game that was well contested by both teams. Both clubs had chances, both clubs played relatively well in all three zones but in the end it was the Rangers improving powerplay that was the difference. We discussed earlier today how the offense – but specifically Gaborik – had to step up over the next few games and an overtime, powerplay game winner is a great start. Rick Nash had another two point night, quickly becoming his standard. On to the goal breakdown.
1-0 Islanders; Michael Grabner
The first goal came as the Islanders cycled the puck along the wall when the puck eventually comes to Colin McDonald who immediately back hands it, throwing it up the middle of the ice where he finds a streaking Michael Grabner in the high slot. Grabner then wristed it top right corner past a helpless Lundqvist. Just before the goal Grabner had circled through the zone creating time and space for himself and was relatively open as he received the puck. The goal was typical of the Islanders’ start as they were looking to put the puck on the net at every opportunity and were constantly looking for traffic in front.
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The Rangers need Gaborik and the offense to help accommodate for Staal’s injury
It may seem an odd statement to make in light of an important defenseman being lost to injury, but the Rangers offense will need to produce consistently now more than ever. Despite the addition of Roman Hamrlik and the presence of multiple defensemen on the roster, the Rangers cannot reasonably expect to fill the void Marc Staal will leave. This is despite the presence of Henrik Lundqvist and the still impressive, remaining top four blueliners.
Any time a team loses a player of Marc Staal’s ability it’s going to hurt. When Staal went down the Rangers lost their best offensive blueliner (going by points alone), and lost a player that had returned to his All Star defensive best. Take an All Star who plays over twenty three minutes a game out of any line-up (except maybe the Blackhawks…) and you cannot reasonably expect the same performance level.
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When Gaborik shoots, he collects pucks. Just don’t ask Lundqvist…
Welcome to this week’s edition of musings. This week’s version is entitled Start-To-Worry-But-Please-Don’t-Panic. With a dose of positivity in my veins, let’s get into it.
Let me immediately address the Zuccarello, Fasth and Lindberg news. I do not think any of the three can have a major impact on the Rangers this year. All three are talented but Zuke can’t cope physically in the NHL (from the evidence thus far) and Fasth and Lindberg would require time to settle in to North American hockey. If they come in as depth then sure; utilise their speed, their confidence from productive seasons. However, if they’re coming in to be difference makers then I am not sure. They’re still young.
The Rangers offense has dried up more than the Sahara desert so the three goal ‘explosion’ against the Jets was a welcome sight. What did they do right to get three goals? Traffic around the net and simply shooting. If only they’d have been willing to shoot more in that game… but it’s amazing how these simple aspects of hockey still lead to offense. This game we love isn’t rocket science.
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Gaborik needs to step up, the Rangers need him.
I almost didn’t want to write this post out of protest at losing valuable sleep having to watch the Montreal game Tuesday night. That said, it probably should have sent me to sleep. Anyway, it’s another musings on another game day. Let’s get at it.
Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik need to be much, much better. Inconsistent at best, invisible at worst these guys should be difference makers in turgid affairs like the one on Tuesday.
Gaborik: I’m a huge fan, one of my favourite Rangers. That said, he’s started to play more on the perimeter again and is getting away from what makes him successful when he’s been scoring as a Ranger. We need to see him in open ice, yes. However, we also need to see him around the net, looking for rebounds, looking to sneak behind defensemen. Gaborik needs to step up.
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I am Nash. HEAR ME ROAR
It’s Musings day. I’m in Germany as you read this on a game day, so enjoy. Unfortunately the Islanders game is the first game I’ll not have caught live this year to any extent but I’m sure you’ll all cope without me.
The Rangers win in Boston; if that finishes 3-0 then half of Ranger nation will be booking time off to attend the Cup parade. It didn’t, and it was almost a shambolic collapse, but lets stay away from the ledge. For most part the Rangers played a great game and at times controlled the Bruins in their own barn. That’s tough to do.
There are goal scorers and then there are truly elite offensive, superstars. Marian Gaborik is a great goal scorer for the most part. Rick Nash is a superstar. He can dangle and create offense out of nothing that maybe 5% of the league (if that) can do. Going on a small sample size, Nash is going to be in New York for a long time and successfully too.
Marc Staal (for the most part) is truly back. Carrying the puck, playing physically, decision making, offense, sound positioning… he’s doing everything he needs to do at an All Star level again.
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