There’s a lot going on in Rangerland lately. With injuries mounting, the Rangers have been forced to call up a pair of forwards from Hartford and have been forced to dress another pair of forwards that have been regular scratches. The goaltending hasn’t been Hank-like. The defense has been suspect, as expected. All that has come to the interwebs being an almost unbearable place to be for Ranger fans. So let’s have some fun.
- The Rangers have basically been forced to replace Rick Nash-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich with some combination of Matt Puempel (now injured himself), Marek Hrivik, Josh Jooris, Nicklas Jensen, and Oscar Lindberg. If you’re wondering why they aren’t scoring and aren’t getting any good chances, that’s probably your first place to look. Michael Grabner’s absence for personal reasons compounds the issue. Hot take: The Rangers aren’t tough enough, and that’s why they aren’t scoring.
- Henrik Lundqvist has not looked Hank-like this season. Some point to the defense hanging him out to dry and allowing him to be peppered with high quality chances regularly. Some point to the age of now 34-year-old goaltender as a sign of his decline. We’ve seen slow starts from Hank and seen that he rebounds. Could that change, and he doesn’t rebound to his usual self? Sure. But again, we’ve seen that after slow starts, he tends to rebound. Hot take: Trade him for pucks, free up cap space, let Antti Raanta be the started with Mackenzie Skapski backing him up.
- Jumping to the defense for a second: It’s clear the Rangers have a giant hole on the right side. We’ve covered that way too often around these parts. But dare I say that the left side has been somewhat decent, bordering on good? Ryan McDonagh is Ryan McDonagh. Marc Staal has been fairly steady when he’s not making passes. Nick Holden has settled into a good 3LD role that seems to suit him. Brady Skjei is a kid, so he’s making mistakes. But I’m willing to let a kid learn. Hot take: Skjei is a bust, trade him for pucks.
- And back to Hank: Before passing extreme judgment on Hank, I think the Rangers need to make an upgrade on defense and get healthy first. It’s clear Hank is overcompensating for porous play. He’s been significantly more aggressive, coming out of the crease quite often. He’s been over pursuing the play to the point of error. And worst of all, he’s expecting pass because of bad defense, and he’s getting beat on shots that he normally stops because of it. Hot take: He should retire.
- Kevin Hayes is now second on the team in points with 19 (10-9-19). If I remember correctly, I believe seven of those nine assists are primary assists. The kid has been an offensive machine. Remember when everyone wanted him traded? Those were the times. He’s the future 2C in New York. Hot take: It’s a flash in the pan, trade him for Jacob Trouba.
- With Hayes’ play, it makes you wonder if –when Zibanejad is healthy– the Rangers explore a major trade involving Derek Stepan for a defensive upgrade. I can see a deal for Dougie Hamilton centered around Stepan. I’d be oddly ok with that trade. Dougie is really, really good. Hot take: People will Dougie way too much if the Rangers land him, forcing the fans to turn on him.
- Michael Grabner leads the Rangers in goals. Hot take: Las Vegas takes him in the expansion draft, Rangers fans revolt because they should’ve left Hayes exposed.
- Have to feel for Matt Puempel, who was finally getting a real chance with some skill players, only to have a cheap shot from Brock Nelson send him to the IR. Hot take: He needs to change his last name to Pimple, just for the laughs.
- The Rangers are still tops in the division (35 points), but fourth place Philadelphia trails by just two points. Pittsburgh (35) and Columbus (34) are in between the two teams. Hot take: Anyone who claims they had Columbus as a sleeper to make the playoffs gets slapped for lying.
- When do you think this current slide will stop?
- Will Hank regain his All Star form?
- Will the Rangers make a defensive upgrade by the deadline? If so, for who, and who goes the other way?