Three questions for this week’s mailbag. As always, use the mailbag feature on the right to submit your questions.
Mike asks: How far do you see the Rangers going in the playoffs this year?
Considering the matchups the Rangers are going to get (Montreal, Ottawa/Toronto), I think the Rangers have a real shot at coming out of the Atlantic to face Washington in the Eastern Conference Final. However they need to get through Montreal in the first round, and that is not going to be easy.
Claude Julien has really done a number with the Habs. They don’t take as many penalties and are much more sound defensively. With improved defensive play, Carey Price doesn’t need to stand on his head on a nightly basis, something he is certainly capable of doing. That said, the Habs are not a deep team.
I personally don’t think the Rangers –who have played very poorly over the past six weeks– will beat Montreal. I put all of that to recent play. Montreal has been solid, the Rangers not so much. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did eke out a series win. Henrik Lundqvist is Henrik Lundqvist, after all.
David (not me) asks: Do you think the Rangers have a chance of solving Carey Price?
Price is a phenomenal goaltender. He’s probably the best in the game at the current moment. But no goalie is going to be able to shutout the Rangers and this offense for four straight games. The Rangers will score goals, but they are going to need to work to get them.
If the Blueshirts can use the forecheck to force neutral zone turnovers, which in turn springs their counter attack game (a major strength), then they will have plenty of high quality chances. Some will go in.
This isn’t a matter of Lundqvist vs. Price. The Habs certainly have the edge there, but the Rangers have a much more efficient offense. Quality and quantity of scoring chances will decide this series.
Looking at the Ducks, they are not in a good spot. They will need to expose both Vatanen and Josh Manson. They can probably ask Kevin Bieksa to waive his no-move clause so they can protect Manson, but there’s no guarantee he will. Either way, it looks like Vatanen will be exposed.
I think Vatanen, who is still an upgrade on the right side over Nick Holden, Kevin Klein, and Dan Girardi, would be a risky proposition. However he’s an offensive-minded right-handed defenseman that has top-pair success. He’s also only 25 years old. The big risk is the contract. I’d be hesitant to give up anything of value for him, but I wouldn’t necessarily be upset if the Rangers traded for him. I’ve backed off the “Vatanen at all costs” train.
That’s it for this week. As always, use the mailbag feature on the right to submit your questions.