Musings

Rangers weekend thoughts after a rollercoaster week

The Rangers finally had an offensive outburst last night. They put up a pair of field goals against the supposedly vaunted Bruins defense and made them look silly all night. The outburst came one game after one of the sloppiest games the Rangers have played all season. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a week for the Rangers, which is on par for the entire season. As per usual, I have some thoughts.

1. It’s easy to explain away the Rangers struggles with inconsistency this season. Injuries. Drama. Snakes. COVID. Yet the Rangers still manage to have, for the most part, solid process on the ice. Offense notwithstanding, the overall team defense has been stellar. It’s the team defense that has kept them in games while the offense struggles. Given the number of injuries and outside factors impacting the roster, this is a big positive in what could have been a lost season.

2. The offense wasn’t going to be dormant all season long, but yet yesterday’s big win was still lacking one important thing. Mika Zibanejad was held off the score sheet again, despite getting a bunch of chances. He was one of three forwards with no points (Brendan Lemieux, Brett Howden). Zibanejad is struggling, but at some point he will break through. It’s a bit concerning for sure, especially with the center depth as thin as it is.

3. Speaking of center depth, Filip Chytil’s injury really did have a ripple effect on the lineup. Zibanejad isn’t producing, which leaves Ryan Strome as the best center on the roster at the moment. Strome has certainly stepped up and has had a surprisingly solid all around year. His defensive game has been much improved, and he’s driving offense even without Artemi Panarin. It’s still early, but I’ll happily eat my words if Strome continues to produce with and without the puck away from Panarin.

4. But speaking of Strome, it’s time he is removed from PP1. This is less a slight against Strome and more a slight against David Quinn. His powerplay units have been the subject of much ire, and it’s something that has bugged me since last season. PP1 has four righties and one lefty, with that one lefty being Chris Kreider in front of the net. PP2 has four lefties and one righty. Is it that hard to switch things up a bit? It’s as simple as swapping Strome and Alexis Lafreniere. Neither unit suffers. In fact, you can argue both units gain a lot with the switch. This is a valley of the Rangers rollercoaster ride throughout the season, and is extremely frustrating.

5. Sorry to disappoint, but the Tarmo Reunanen recall to the taxi squad yesterday was just a paperwork move. The Rangers need to have a minimum number of players on the taxi squad, and the recall was to hit those numbers. It was fun watching everyone get excited though. That was certainly one of the peaks of the Rangers rollercoaster yesterday.

6. It’s going to be interesting to see what the Rangers do at the trade deadline this year. The only expiring UFA contracts are Phil Di Giuseppe, Jack Johnson and Brendan Smith. The RFAs are Pavel Buchnevich, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, and Igor Shesterkin. There’s not much to work in terms of selling, aside from Buchnevich. The Rangers are going to keep Lindgren and Shesterkin, so no worries there. They might just stand pat. Maybe they look to trade Ryan Strome, since they tried to this summer.

7. I wonder if the Rangers shift Howden back to wing once Chytil comes back. Kevin Rooney deserves to stay in the lineup and at center.

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  • Thanks, Dave. I would definitely add “youth” to the list of factors…though it’s not quite the contributor I thought it would be. Fox, Lindgren and Miller continue to impress with their consistency and effectiveness, and it covers up for a lot.

  • 1. They have struggled to remain relevant despite a whole lot of controversy (starting with ADA), injuries, covid, being the youngest team in the league, etc. For the most part they’ve done an admirable job. I see a lot of positives in terms of their response to adversity — no, they’re not perfect, but their flaws have been seriously overblown by some “fans”;

    2. Mika will be fine, clearly he’s still in the process of “recovery” from COVID and the lack of any training camp — his time away indicates he was probably symptomatic which hampered his ability to stay sharp, conditioned and fully in game shape. Everything he does is slightly “off”, decision-making, shooting, passing, etc. It’s a game of milliseconds and he’s overthinking;

    3. I’m still not ready to say Strome is the type of 2C you want to win a Cup, but he’s at least shown us that it isn’t JUST Panarin — this might raise his stock a bit, it also might convince management that he should be kept around through the end of this season … and into the next. As to Chytil, his injury shows his value in terms of our center depth. I still think the kid is ready to pop — with each passing month his play is more aggressive and assertive … he’s a big boy just scratching the surface of playing like a big boy, I’m very high on him to breakout in the next year;

    4. I agree, they should switch up at least one player on the PP … but I also want to see a little more parity in terms of PP time for each unit. The 1st unit spends too much time on the ice, sometimes seemingly approaching the full 2 minutes. I think it diminishes their efficacy at times;

    5. I’m not disappointed. He isn’t needed right now despite ADA’s banishment and Trouba’s injury Hajek and Bitetto have been adequate, same for Smith … just don’t give them more than they can handle. Watching us sometimes play at home and seeing them go up against the top 2 lines should NEVER happen, that’s on the coaching staff;

    6. Phil Di Giuseppe, Jack Johnson, Brendan Smith, Brett Howden, and Libor Hajek are all expendable. I would not trade Buch, he’s gotten better each year — and Marchand must hate him, that’s almost reason enough to keep him. lol I’m also fine with keeping Gauthier around … and I wouldn’t be against resigning Smith for $1-1.5M, he provides some veteran leadership and versatility;

    7. Howden should sit a couple of games. I’m at a loss to understand why he never does — defensively he’s better this year, but he’s still irrelevant and will surely be surpassed in a year by other players (some will argue he’s already been surpassed — tell that to DQ).

    • agree with coments, but I would add nothing major will be done until draft/summer comes. This is the year for show me, with UFA’s leaving when year complete, new young guys coming in, and maybe an addition, next year is the year. As far ar Zimb, I heard Dave Maloney’s take on him a week ago, eithor hurt and surgery after season or way out of shape. Eithor way, he will not benefit being this is his contract year.

    • I agree with all these points, Tanto. This is why I would not make a splash on Eichel. He’d be nice, but what I’d be willing to part with Buffalo would pass on. What they would take–would not be worth it. Rangers have a great core.

      Zib is interesting but with how this season has gone and his injury history–especially if there’s something to Maloney’s wonder about an injury that will require surgery is correct–a big contract is ill-advised. I think that a trade along the lines of Krav, Jones and Robertson for Turcotte and Thomas from LA? Throw in ADA. LA has a lot of center prospects and want more D. Long term that leaves the Rangers without a true 1C but they should have lights out D and goal tending, some stud wingers and, potentially, 3 good centers in Chytil, Turcotte and one of Thomas, Madden or Vilardi. None them will be true #1 centers but that’s still good depth with Barron, Tärnström, Vierling and Henriksson to add additional depth. That is probably better than having Eichel and a depleted team.

      • I agree with you, Rangers West! These 2 teams have the best prospect pools in the NHL. More importantly, each could fill an area of need for the other team so they make great trade partners. Rangers need a center who can win face-offs!! No one on the current roster is close to a 50% winning %. How’s Lias doing anchoring the Kings 4th line?

        • His ice time is down to about 10 minutes a night … looks like the grass isn’t greener for him on the other side of the country.

      • I would lean towards Covid, it can wreak havoc with your body for months even after the symptoms have dissipated. Hockey is a game of inches, milliseconds, and he just seems ever so slightly off. Plus the timing was horrible, before camp and it lingered. He’ll come back … and I would consider taking advantage of his lack of production with a potentially more reasonable contract (term and money) if feasible ….. BUT …. as a backup, I would definitely go out and look for a top notch center prospect as you’re suggesting. Zegras is another one I would look at, even if he would probably cost more than Turcotte.

  • My thoughts are. It looks like Gauthier may be finding his stride and using his size. Kreider is on a roll and playing angry. Lafreniere is developing nicely. Blackwell has proven that he’s for real in a third line assignment. Hajek, Deguiseppe, and especially Howden are expendable. Howden has added nothing to the team. Why hasn’t Quinn noticed??? If Zib doesn’t find his game in the next 6 or 7 games then it may not happen. The Rangers will not be re-signing him to a risky high dollar contract. Seattle may take a chance with him but 2 goals in 18 games this season so far doesn’t look like a path to a big contract.

    • PDG is a nice depth player … he’s worked well on a line with Chytil and Kakko. I mean I wouldn’t bend over backwards to resign him, but I’m certainly open to it.

  • Howden needs to be in Hartford but the Rangers will never do that because they don’t wanna admit to defeat in the McDonough and Miller trade.

    • I think someone would grab him off of waivers and that’s the reason they won’t send him down. I don’t think they’re afraid to admit “defeat” in that trade, they know they lost that one … and they know the fans know it as well. Even if Lundkvist turns out to be a 2RD, that’s a lost trade — it happens, they’ve won plenty of other trades.

        • I didn’t really look at the how the waiver rules apply specifically to him. It may be 160 games and 4 years, in which case they would have a few games left. Think he’s played a few over 150 games. So if it’s happening, it has to happen pretty quickly. Still I doubt they’re afraid of admitting that the trade overall wasn’t a good one.

  • Watching the Rangers lose, what seems to have been a ton of one goal games this season has been frustrating. A few big saves here and a few shots that make it into the net there, and they’d be right in the thick of the playoff race…despite all the drama, injuries and turmoil. Sure, there have been 3 or 4 absolute stinkers, but for the most part the team has bought into their new defensive system and are branching out from there offensively. They been in most games against tough defensive teams. Let’s hope they build off this complete team victory over the Bruins, and beat them again tomorrow.

    Strome, despite allllll the criticism on this threads over the past 2 years is a leader for this team on and off the ice. Fancy stats be damned. All he’s done since he’s arrived here is put up points. He’s 2nd in scoring on the team, and his presence is noticeable every game in a positive way. Lately he’s doing it with various line mates who aren’t named Panarin. Even when someone pays him a positive comment, they usually follow it up with a “he’ll be traded at the deadline” remark. I have news for you Strome detractors, he ain’t going nowhere until his contract is up in 2 years. Now sit back and enjoy his play and production.

  • IMO Our best line up if all healthy:

    LAF – Mika – Buch
    Paranin – Chytil – Kakko
    Krieder – Strome – Blackwell
    PGD – Rooney – Gauthier

    Best 3rd line in Hockey and ever dangerous 4th line. Speed and skill up and down the lineup. Lemeuix just has too low of a hockey IQ for me to be a mainstay right now.

    PP1 Paranin, Mika, Kakko, Fox on top and Miller at 6’7″ on skates in front of the net
    PP2 Krieder, Laf, Strome, Balckwell, Trouba,

    use the side of the ice for lefty/righty quick pass to slot one time shot

    • I like and agree with your lineup. However remove someone from the bottom six to make room for Howden. The day Howden becomes a non-factor for this team is the day DQ is no longer the coach. And the way this team is responding and playing, Howden and DQ just might be here for a while.

  • seen on twitter DQ is starting Georgie tomorrow. why does this not feel right? Some of the decisions i dont know. anyhow

    LGR

    • All I know is Boston will be HIGHLY motivated tomorrow. It will be a war … and a great test for this team to see if they can withstand the ire the Bruins must be feeling right now.

      • Agreed tanto. They have poked the Bears and they are going to be motivated to dish out punishments. However, it is beginning to look like our boys can dish it out too.

        • Boston’s gonna come out more angry and probably dirtier than usual tomorrow. But their defense is still banged up. If the Rangers come out like they did last night and take the body, actually stand up in the neutral zone and blue line, and score first they should be in position to win. Keep driving to the net. If Bruins start their cheap shot stuff make sure you score on the PP to put an end to it. That’s how you beat the Bruins. Sounds so simple. LOL

        • Oh they can dish it out, the question is whether they can do that with any consistency. I’m not worried about toughness, that’s a team concept and I think they have that — they just have to learn to play like that night after night. Torts would have made sure of that.

  • A couple of weeks ago I asked whether Strome can finally get some love here. He has been playing well even without the Breadman. He may be better suited to be a third line center, but he has been a valuable player for the team.

    • Strome takes too many dumb penalties and sometimes thinks too much instead of letting his instincts take over.

      • Yes he does. But he has also been productive. Like I said, he is probably ideally a 3rd line center. But he has not done badly as 2C.

  • DG started out fine, but the magic is gone. He serves no purpose. Neither does Howden or Johnson. And I don’t know what the love affair is with Brodz-whatever.

    Gaut continues to do good things, but barely cracks 10 minutes, if that. I want to see more of him and get his wrist shot on the PP. We really do not need to see Blackwell (even though he scored last night) and Lemiuex on the PP.

    Expansion fodder? I think that we have enough of that, lol.

    • I really think the Rangers played their best twelve available forwards. Brodzinski and Howden may not be great, but the ten guys in Hartford don’t belong in the NHL at this time. The question is who sits when Panarin, Chityl, Kakko return.

      I too am puzzled by Gauthier’s low ice time.

      • This is probably true. I may not like Howden (as a player) but at least he’s played enough games in the NHL to know what to expect.

        But Bread, Kakko, and Chytil will be coming back, and it will be interesting to see who the coach sits. Not Howden, which is a shame. Gaut will be one of them, which is another shame.

        • “Not Howden, which is a shame.”

          Not sure about that. Howden has suffered dwindling ice time and I don’t think he is the favorite he once was. His only big advantage at this point is that DQ likes him on the PK.

          For the record, Brodzinski is almost certainly the first guy to the bench. Sadly Gaut is the favorite for #2. I suspect PDG is the most likely #3, but it might be Howden.

  • Rangers are close to having balanced lines.

    And their D is going to be a nightmare for other teams in another year or two.

  • Agree with keeping Rooney in the lineup when Chytil comes back as he has been very effective in his role. Strome has impressed me this season with the hard work he is putting in his own zone. He is becoming a reliable quality center.

    I think there will be an interest in Smitty should the Rangers become sellers. He plays a gritty game, skates well and would be a good addition to a team looking to go deep in the playoffs

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