Game Thread

Game 55: Please, just once, beat the Islanders

The New York Rangers are winner of three in a row against teams that are not making the playoffs, but now are on Long Island to take on the New York Islanders to try and at least win one game against them this season. The Isles have owned the Rangers this season, going 3-0 in games that weren’t really close, with the Isles winning by three goals each time (6-3, 3-0, 4-1). The Isles are a lot like the Lightning –who also own the Rangers– in that they are young, incredibly skilled, and patched up a lot of holes this offseason.

The Isles now roll four lines without fear, and have 2 1/2 solid pairs on defense. Jaro Halak has solidified the net, and made the Isles into the Metropolitan Division leading team they are today. However, the Rangers are within four points, and a win tonight puts them within two points with two games in hand. Suffice it to say, if the Rangers want to win the division, a win tonight is critical.

What have they done lately?

The Isles are just 6-4-0 in their last ten games, but they have won four in a row and are starting to regain form after managing to deal with a bad injury to Kyle Okposo. The Isles manage to be one of the best puck possession teams by making smart, short passes to break out of the zone, and then establishing a solid forecheck. Since they are quick and skilled, they can make life hard on a lot of teams, the Rangers are no exception. The Isles are routinely above 54% FF:

Isles are on top.
Isles are on top.

When you see something like this, you expect that the 2-4-0 stretch they hit was the result of some bad puck luck, be it SH% or SV%. That shows in PDO, and we get that right away from the Isles, a sharp recent drop:

Sharp drop for the Isles.
Sharp drop for the Isles.

So now it’s a matter of isolating if it was goaltending or poor shooting (which is primarily luck driven and hard to replicate). We actually see that it’s a bit of both. Halak hit a rough stretch, posting sub-.900 SV% in four straight games (Isles went 2-2).

Isles recovering, Rangers still dealing with life without Henrik Lundqvist.
Isles recovering, Rangers still dealing with life without Henrik Lundqvist.

And here’s their SH% over that stretch:

Rangers trending up oin SH%, Isles trending down.

This may have to do with Okposo’s injury, or it could just be the Isles coming back down to Earth after riding a 10% rolling average for a while. Either way, it’s better to be facing them when they are in a downward trend in shooting, even if goaltending is on the upward swing.

Isles Systems

Like the Rangers, Isles head coach Jack Capuano has the Isles running a 1-2-2 forecheck and a 1-1-3 lock, which they use aggressively or conservatively depending on the game situation (e.g., score, time left in period, etc.). In the defensive zone, the Isles are bit different than the Blueshirts. Capuano has them playing man-on-man up high, but collapse into a zone defense when the puck is down low. On special teams, the Isles rotate between a 1-3-1 and 1-2-2 power play and a hybrid penalty kill.

Isles Lines

Josh Baily-John Tavares-Mikhail Grabovski
Anders Lee-Frans Nielsen-Ryan Strome
Michael Grabner-Brock Nelson-Nikolai Kulemin
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuck
Calvin de Haan-Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey-Brian Strait

PP1: Tavares-Nelson-Nielsen-TBD (usually Okposo)-Boychuk

PK: Cizikas, Grabner, Hamonic, Strait, Nelson, Strome, Nielsen, de Haan, Boychuk, Hickey, Clutterbuck

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in net.

Rangers Lines

Rick Nash-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-J.T. Miller
Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Kevin Klein
Matt Hunwick-Dan Boyle

PP1: McDonagh, Stepan, Nash, Brassard, Zuccarello
PP2: Boyle, Girardi, Kreider, Hayes, MSL

PK: Stepan, Nash, Girardi, Staal, Moore, Fast, Hunwick, Boyle, Hagelin, Klein, McDonagh, MSL

Cam Talbot is in net.

Scratches/Injuries: Henrik Lundqvist (throat), Jesper Fast (leg), John Moore (healthy)

Be sure to check out our ticket link if you’re looking for tickets to the game. Game time is 7pm on MSG.

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  • Dave, It’s only a game. Only a February game at that. But, I can’t help thinking it’s somewhat more important than that. Lot’s of guys clicking for us, and lots of guys not. Talbot good but not great, trade deadline upon us (stick with the guys we know or try to upgrade?), Glass (at least) half empty, three losses already – if we won just one we’d be tied for 1st, our D suspect and less than touted on so many fronts.
    Lose this game badly and the blogs will be panic mode. Win this game going away and the euphoria will be catching.

    I am expecting a breakout game from MSL and Stepan. A strong 4th line game and a D that shuts them down. We win 4-2.

    From my mouth …..

  • Forget about the first goal, just a missed pass. But the second goal was just pathetic. Staal is playing like he is in a coma. No energy, no smarts with the puck, and no signs of any kind of interest in getting physically engaged. Not just on the goal, but whenever he’s been on the ice during the 1st pd. Just inexcusable. He’s hanging Talbot out to dry.

  • Unbelievable game tonight … we needed that one.

    Also .. watching NHL Network tonight and Dreger is reporting that the Rangers are in contract talks with Zucc. He’s making it sound like the Rangers definitely would rather sign and keep him than trade him. Kind of made it sound like both sides are gonna do what it takes to get it done, whether it’s now or in the offseason.

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