Happy Friday, BSB faithful! Through more or less the quarter season mark, it has been the tale of two campaigns for the Rangers thus far: the tire fire first twelve games, which saw the Blueshirts go 3-7-2 and the much improved last seven games, when they went 6-1-0. The Rangers have jumped back into the playoff picture with the win streak, so naturally, I have some thoughts…
1. As Dave has mentioned several times, the need for another center (or forward depth in general) just isn’t going away. Mika Zibanejad has been a revelation and Kevin Hayes has been a much more effective 2C than I would have imagined. However, for this team to actually contend, they need to be able to create matchup headaches lower in the lineup.
2. Kevin Shattenkirk has been just so good. There are certainly valid gripes about his defensive zone capabilities, but the skills he brings to the table are the exact ones that Rangers’ fans have been pissing and moaning about not having for years. He is a legitimate power play quarterback; he can get passes across ice, he can get shots through traffic and he can manage the break out. He has been effective in transition and scoring at a Norris clip. He is going to have his defensive gaffes, but his net positivity cannot be denied.
3. Now that they finally lost a game, can we dispense with the “don’t change the lineup ever because we are winning” nonsense and get Brendan Smith back in over Kampfer? I understand that Smith has not been good and I’m never opposed to sending a message when you need more out of a veteran player, but we’ve been stuck in this time loop where Kampfer must stay in because they are winning. Instead of a 2-3 game benching, it turned into 7 because of the winning streak. There is an investment in Smith and it behooves the team to get him right. You would waive Kampfer tomorrow and not be any worse off.
4. There have been reports that Rick Nash is open to signing an extension mid-season to stay in New York. I understand the arguments about cashing him in at the deadline and then re-signing him in the offseason, but I’m not crazy about this idea for two reasons. First, if the Rangers have any intention on contending this season, they will need Nash. They don’t have the forward depth to jettison one of their most skilled and versatile forwards. Second, you give him a chance to enjoy playing for another organization and maybe he isn’t so sold on coming back. Obviously, Nash will have a take a big pay cut to stay with the Rangers, but to get him for $3-4m per for a couple more years, I am more than on board.
5. Man, has the KZB line been great, or what?
6. Amongst the other items on Gorton’s shopping list, a backup goalie needs to be added. Clearly, AV doesn’t trust Pavelec (I don’t blame him) and he is going to run Hank into the ground.
7. After Columbus tonight, the Rangers have a really soft short-term schedule. Six straight games against Ottawa, Carolina, Detroit, Vancouver, Florida and Carolina again. They need to rack up some points as the Metro standings start to take shape in earnest. It is a cluster at the moment, with only 7 points separating the top from the bottom. Even if Pittsburgh ends up running away with it, the Devils are likely to fade. A team or two needs to really grab onto to the top of the division and not let go.
8. However, the focus tonight will be on old friend Torts and Columbus. The Rangers got the better of them two weeks ago, but they are always a tough matchup. Get two points tonight and start steam rolling some weak competition.
That’s it for me this week. I’m getting out of dodge next week, so I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends or family. LGR!