These are not the droids we’re looking for
The Rangers are in an interesting spot with their lineup decisions. On the one hand, there are guys coming back from injury who could probably do for some ice time and the team is looking to get into a pre-playoff groove. On the other hand guys are banged up and worn down from the long season and could probably go for some rest. In either event, these aren’t the lines/combos we’re looking for.
Let’s go with the first scenario. Dan Girardi is now ready to go, and Kevin Klein likely is not far behind. Henrik Lundqvist too is set to play against Anaheim on this upcoming road trip. There’s a a certain logic that says that you want to find a sweet spot with your lineup as the playoffs approach, and so you play your best guys.
Unfortunately, Dan Girardi on the top pair is not that, and while Kevin Klein’s days may be numbered, Girardi certainly isn’t going anywhere (at least for now). Getting Henrik Lundqvist into a groove might be a number one priority, but even that may not be the best idea (more on that later). In short, if your goal really is to win as many of these games as possible (for whatever reason) then this probably isn’t the way to do it.
The reverse of this line of thinking is that the upcoming games don’t matter, and that you should give guys rest. If that’s the case, then icing your likely playoff lineup is more counterintuitive, with that approach subsuming rest to readiness.
Especially at forward, guys on the top two lines could maybe use some rest. With regard to Dan Girardi, if you do plan on playing him during the playoffs he needs all the rest he can get. The big issue here for me is Henrik Lundqvist. While there’s certainly something to be said for getting him some playing time before games really start to matter, anything with goalies, age, and hip injuries should raise red flags. All precaution should be taken here; despite the fact that he’s a competitor we want him to actually compete when it’s important to do so.
Now, all of this isn’t to say that I think the Rangers are wrong no matter what they do and AV is an idiot and yadda yadda. What I’m trying to get at is the idea that the Rangers are sort of damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Being in this quandary means that they really need to cut the Gordian knot, and instead they seem to not be thinking things through.
If I were them what I would do is, providing you’re insisting on playing Girardi, rotate him in every other game on the first pair with either Kampfer or ideally Clendening coming in. From there rotate a top line forward out each game in order to spread some R&R around. Lastly, play Hank less than half of these upcoming games, preferably the later ones.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like this plan might just work at getting what the Rangers want out of their lineup for these last few games while simultaneously giving the players the rest they need to be at their best. After all, that’s what this is all about – icing the best possible team come playoff time.