Musings

New York Rangers: 20 Thoughts on March’s Play

Breaking down all things New York Rangers in March

Happy March! A new month means a new 20 New York Rangers Thoughts column from yours truly covering all things from the previous month. The Rangers went 8-6-1 (NOTE: all stats in this blog post do NOT include 3/30 vs. Washington) and put up 9 and 8 goals in separate games against the Philadelphia Flyers. Weird month! Let’s get into it.

1. The Rangers are not going to make the playoffs. I’m sorry and I hope I am wrong, but it’s not going to happen. New York is currently 6th in the division. They are closer to the New Jersey Devils in the standings than the Boston Bruins. For the Rangers to make the playoffs, they would need to go something like 18-4 and have the Bruins and Flyers perform below their capabilities. It’s not realistic, but there’s no reason to not go for it anyway.

2. The deadline is coming up, so I’m going to piggyback on my last thought. Yes, I fully believe the Rangers will miss the playoffs. No, I do not believe the Rangers should sell at the deadline. This team needs confidence going into next season, and the longer they stay in the playoff hunt, the better for their confidence. The kids need to play in important games for as long as possible. Trade a fringe player like Brett Howden or Brendan Smith for sure. Don’t trade any key roster players.

3. Why are the Rangers going to miss the playoffs? Easy answer. The Rangers are 3-8-4 in one goal games. If you change that to 7-7-1, the Rangers would be ahead of the Bruins by three points for the last playoff spot. This team cannot win close games, and it will be the reason they miss the playoffs.

4. I want to speak on what made me most livid this month. The way the Rangers handled Keith Kinkaid and Alex Georgiev is unacceptable. I’d go as far as to say if Kinkaid plays in another game this season, the Rangers have lost my trust in their decision making on goalies.

Georgiev is a 25 year old who as recently as last season played a full, above average season in the NHL. Kinkaid is a 31 year old career AHL at best goalie who has a below .890 save percentage in his last 45 games.

Yet the Rangers opted to start Kinkaid in not only one, but two vital games against the Flyers and the Capitals. Kinkaid was horrific (matching his talent level as a goalie) in both games, and the Rangers came away with one point in two very winnable games.

Kinkaid is not a good goalie. Full stop. Yet the Rangers continued to shoot down any semblance of hope for Georgiev to gain some confidence, all because Kinkaid shut out the Bruins in the Rangers’ best game of the season, and had one good game against the Capitals.

Terrible decision making for winning now, terrible decision making for asset management. Just unacceptable.

5. OK, onto something more fun. The 9-0 victory over the Flyers was the most fun regular season game I’ve seen in a long time. Definitely the most fun blowout I’ve ever seen.

6. That brings me to a fun question: what’s your favorite regular season, non-OT game since let’s say 2010? Comment below.

7. Mika Zibanejad has been inhuman, so I’d like for him to stay with Chris Kreider. Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome have been fantastic together. But I’d like to see Pavel Buchnevich moved to help the kids. Here are some potential lines:

Kreider-Zibanejad-Kakko
Panarin-Strome-Kravtsov
Lafreniere-Chytil-Buchnevich
Fourth line

This helps develop the youngsters, while keeping the vets together. Thoughts?

8. Adam Fox. That’s it. That’s the whole thought.

9. The Rangers may not be the best organization at developing young players, but the team deserves credit for Ryan Lindgren. Lindgren was never touted as a top prospect or someone who would crush it at the NHL level, even despite where he was drafted. Lindgren deserves a ton of credit as well, but that he’s a legitimate top pair defenseman in the NHL right now is indicative of the team handling him the right way from start to finish. Success story.

10. Do not trade Nils Lundkvist for anyone or anything. Please.

11. Eventually the Rangers are going to have some difficult decisions to make, but here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. With Mika Zibanejad back to being his 1C self, Ryan Strome putting up 2C (or 1C, honestly) numbers, and the forwards all healthy, shouldn’t the Rangers be playing like a no doubt about it playoff team from here on out?

Where’s the weakness on this roster? I understand the argument that the kids aren’t ready to perform at that level, but this team is deep. As I said earlier, they won’t make the playoffs. But if the Rangers don’t finish the season with their April record being that of a playoff team, I’ll be disappointed. This team has the talent.

12. The Rangers have the opportunity to give the Sabres their 20th and 21st losses in a row. Only one game in their way. Honestly? I hope it doesn’t get to that point. I’m feeling bad for the Sabres, but I’m also feeling worse about the thought of the Rangers being the team to end their losing streak (and how Twitter would react).

13.

I mean it.

14. Not to harp on the ghosts of Rangers past, but seeing the Alain Vigneault slander following the Rangers absolutely destroying the Flyers twice made me SO happy. Vigneault is not a good NHL coach. His teams are atrocious defensively, he can’t adapt, and he rides elite goaltending to good records.

Recently he called out Carter Hart for lack of work ethic, which reminds me of the various times he called out Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, etc. Vigneault will never accept the blame for his shortcomings, and will always throw his players under the bus.

I hope he stays in Philadelphia forever.

15. I’m not worried about Filip Chytil at the moment. He looks weak and he’s barely able to use one of his hands. I think he is playing both hurt and recovering from his COVID situation. We need to remember what happened to Mika Zibanejad before we jump to judge other players going through similar struggles. This applies to Kaapo Kakko as well.

16. This season the Rangers are 8-5-1 against backup goalies. In those games, the goalies have an .899 save percentage. The Rangers are 20-15-1 in the last two seasons against backup goalies. In those games, backup goalies have a .906 save percentage. The narrative that the Rangers are bad against backups is simply inaccurate.

17. The Brendan Lemieux trade made a lot of sense for a team with far too many forwards. I do worry that the Rangers will overcompensate and add someone with no talent to the roster to protect other players, however. Keep an eye out for the name “Mason Geertsen.” If he gets promoted, the Rangers are going with an enforcer over a talent.

18. I am feeling very optimistic about next season. Tons of cap space. Another year of development for Kakko and Lafreniere. A potential trade for Eichel or another top center. Igor in net for a full season. Lundkvist in the NHL. Legit depth throughout the lineup. I think next season will be the first of a lengthy group of playoff runs. This season is all about development in the meantime.

19. With that in mind, the Rangers are in a tricky situation. They want to develop the Kakkos and Lafrenieres of the team while still recognizing the Kreiders and Buchnevichs are the most talented at this specific moment. David Quinn’s job is to win games as much as it is to develop players.

I’m fascinated to see how he juggles these responsibilities moving forward. The kids need playing time. Lafreniere should never play fewer than 15 minutes a night. But there’s only so much playing time to go around when everyone’s healthy. This may lead to a Buchnevich trade or struggles to develop the youngsters. It’s a very complicated, nuanced situation that is at the forefront of my mind for the rest of the season.

20. Trivia! Name the only player to play for both the Rangers and the Kings in the 2013-14 season.

Three Stars of the Month:

  1. Mika Zibanejad
  2. Adam Fox
  3. Ryan Strome

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    • I agree with the choice, but it is close with Panarin. If he hadn’t taken that leave they would be co-MVPs in my opinion.

    • …and Buchnevich for most-improved (and right up there for MVP of this team -def. a top-3 choice).

  • My take-a-way is that while the NYR show good spurts, they are not consistent enough to make the playoffs.

    I do feel/believe/hope that it all changes next year. I DO expect the NYR to be a playoff team next year. If not, then the DQ watch needs to begin in earnest.

    Our patience with the kids, and the drafting staff, needs to bare fruit. All the kids need to take a full step up. If not, then I feel a tear down has to happen, but to the coaching and management staff.

  • My favorite game: I still vividly remember watching Mark Pavelich score 5 goals against Hartford way back in 1983 (sorry about sticking to your time requirement) in an 11-3 victory. The call by Jim Gordon was out of this world. I was also a young teenager at the time, so there is a lot of nostalgia in this choice.

    • RIP Pavelich. He was a great Ranger, and its been tough to see the damage that CTE did to his brain and life.

    • It also happened to be the night MSG gave out red Winston cigarette hats to all attendees. That had to set the NHL record for most hats thrown on the ice.

      • Winston.
        When I think of Winston, I immediately think of the scoreboard at the one of the loudest and great arenas in hockey history: Chicago Stadium. Remember the Winston advertisement right there on the center ice scoreboard? Classic memories.

      • I’ll never forget his playoff game vs. his old team the Flyers. Made one of the nicest defensive plays ever, which if I remember was whistled for a penalty on a lousy call, and then scored later on.

        I hated him until he was a Ranger…

        • He was terrific in that playoff, until he got suspended on a really cheap call for abuse of officials.

          I didn’t like him before the Rangers either. What he’s been doing for concussion/CTE awareness over the last few years has been excellent. He’s become an eloquent defender of players’ rights, and a tough critic of the NHL’s treatment of head injuries and their aftereffects.

      • Carcillo was excellent for us –really exceeded expectations –especially in the playoffs…and had some great games against his former Flyers!

  • March has been a solid month for the Rangers but even if it all keeps coming together the rest of the way, the playoffs are a long shot. The team without Howden plays better but there are instances where they miss Lemieux. Had the referees not stepped in the last Capitals game and stopped Tom Wilson someone may have gotten hurt.
    All in all the team is playing well and going into this season I never expected a playoff run. If they can finish with a winning record we should all be happy. Now lets see Kratsov get some ice time.

  • “7. Mika Zibanejad has been inhuman, so I’d like for him to stay with Chris Kreider. Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome have been fantastic together. But I’d like to see Pavel Buchnevich moved to help the kids. Here are some potential lines:

    Kreider-Zibanejad-Kakko
    Panarin-Strome-Kravtsov
    Lafreniere-Chytil-Buchnevich
    Fourth line

    This helps develop the youngsters, while keeping the vets together. Thoughts?”

    Not sure why we’re breaking up Panarin-Strome-Kakko NOW …. I didn’t see the whole game last night, but what I did see made me salivate on Kakko with those two. He’s going to bust out next year IMO, hopefully he continues to gain confidence in April.

    I agree though with the principle of pairing a young gun with a vet rather than going with a full kid line — even though Chytil (0.5 ppg) has done a pretty good job with 3rd line minutes, very limited PP time, DQ’s machinations and young wingers.

  • First — it can’t be stressed enough — they are the youngest team by a statistically HUGE margin. Inconsistency is a hallmark of youth.

    Patience.

    They will need to trade away some of their young D assets. I’m close to thinking that they are close to settling on their top 9 and therefore those assets should be traded for high future picks.

  • Excellent comments. I do feel though that playing the worst player on the team 15+ minutes a night goes against trying to build a winning mentality.

  • Watched Mason Geertsen in 6 fights, and don’t believe he is the enforcer the Rangers’ need. He will fight, but doesn’t win.

    Your lines look good at first, but believe moving Buch down to third line likely hurts his point production, just when he has shown point productivity. Move him back to first line, Kakko to second, and Kravs to third. IMO.

    • We are not looking for fighters, but grinders and beef that can play hockey. Schneider looks to be the extremely physical presence that we have been missing on D since the days of Jeff Beukeboom……Lindgren has major loins, but does not have the size to continually absorb punishment from the Caps of hockey. Schneider will change that and is a rock, and difficult to move….We also need an efficient 4th line that can chew up minutes, and cause disruptions to our opponents….At times we have the look of being a major player, and at times we look years away…..I have mentioned this numerous times that this off-season will be very important….Leadership has to nail the coffin with the right moves.

      • If the focus is on Geertsen, as it was, which I have no problem with, your looking for a fighter. There are some very skilled, young non-fighters on the Rangers, and they will be targeted. By the way, look forward to Schneider in a Ranger’s jersey, throwing heavy legal checks.

    • I was just about to say that, Blue Seat. Everyone was talking about how he’s the enforcer and toughness to replace Lemieux…but when I went to watch a few of his fights on YouTube, he basically was beaten in each one! However, he is tough and often drops the gloves (that toughness is needed to protect our younger, softer players)…but you GOTTA WIN the majority of those fights….to gain respect, man!

  • While I think you’re being a bit harsh on Kinkaid’s abilities, I too was scratching my head when he got the start Sunday vs the Caps. The Rangers need to get Georgiev back on his game, he’s being paid as an excellent back up/fringe starter and while his contract wont kill the team for this year and next, this flat cap league makes it a bit more important that he perform, even with oodles of cap space next season. Whether that’s as a valuable backup who can hold his own when pressed into duty due to injury, or as a valuable trade token, this team needs to help Georgie recoup his game.

    Igor is hopefully going to carry the majority of the load from here on out so, more like than not, there wont be many opportunities for Georgiev to build his confidence back up. Given the lack of opportunity he’ll likely get and his seeming flagging confidence, I don’t think its too crazy to try and move him sooner rather than later. We know Igor’s the guy, and one day Georgie is going to be the odd man out anyways.

    If he’s not gona perform then you might as well roll with Kinkaid who, despite what Brandon’s arguing, is performing like an average backup, which is what he’s essentially been for a good portion of his career. We’re not always going to have Antti Raanta or Cam Talbot as the 2nd option. Saving over 1.5 mil in cap space isn’t nothing, and it’s always nice to have more even if we’re already going to have alot coming up.

  • Hi all,

    I keep hearing Vince Dunn is on St Louis trade list, he is a defensemen won a cup and is 25 yrs old. Perhaps bringing in a cup winner can help the defense out. Also give the Rangers help on the PP unit. Figure Smith gone, JJ gone, and after the buyouts come off the books Rangers can improve their defense and then focus on 3rd and 4th line players to give them depth.

    What do you guys think about Dunn as a possible trade target? Is is worth it ? Just a thought, thank you.

    • Haven’t heard anything in terms of trade since February, even if the Blues still want to trade him I’d pass. We have so many talented young blueliners coming up and they’ll be here in the next season or two. Plus, the problem Dunn is having in St. Louis is that he doesn’t have enough of a role as a third pair Dman, which is probably what he’d be here with Lindgren and Miller solidifying themselves in the top 4. So in short, I’ll take the younger cheaper options we have coming shortly

  • 4.) your point would have more validity if Goergiev had been playing well in March. He hasn’t been. In fact he has been awful. I suspect the coaches also see this in practices. Igor injury hurt the Rangers, not Kinkaid.
    7.) no way Kravs deserves time on 2nd line over Lafreniere. Just no way!!!
    12.) couldn’t care less about the Sabres or how many losses that they pile up. In fact, the more the merrier for me.
    … I personally never give up on the Rangers chances at the playoffs, or the Cup, until the math says it’s impossible. That’s why I am a fan, I believe! Stranger things have happened. I’m sad for you and your point of view but it doesn’t effect me.
    LGR!!!

  • I’m surprised you didn’t talk about the power play. Bottom of the league. You have to think that with even an average PP, they would be in a playoff spot.

    • Funny, I was thinking that about the coach. Bottom of the league. With an average NHL coach, the team would on a much better path with its young talent.

    • JFTR, they are not last. They are 25th – and closer to 15th than to 26th. An average PP would get them three more goals, not really significant.

      And the PP problem is that the second unit is so bad.

      Odd fact: 20 players in the entire league have minus ratings on the PP (more shorties than PP goals). Ten of them are Rangers (well, counting Lemieux). Only nine Rangers have plus ratings with the man advantage.

  • Buch’s passing has been horrible lately. Forgot the pretty play. Just shoot the puck!
    Not in love with Rooney’s play ,either. Not great in the corners and falls to the ice too much.
    Rangers still don’t storm the crease enough. That’s how the Caps and other teams score most of their goals!

  • Although Kinkaid has had his moments, he clearly is the inferior goalie IF Georgiev is playing to his capabilities. He hasn’t and that is why Kinkaid was in there. I am hoping that Bennie can get Georgiev straightened out. He is a kid who has faced 50+ shots and shut down teams in the past and he should be able to do it again. That is the backup I’ve been expecting.

  • Can’t agree more about Georgiev…

    This is where I have issues with Quinn. They’re ruining him, and destroying any potential trade value for him as well. I always like guys like Kinkaid, who grab an opportunity and run with it like he is. But at the same time, it’s so short-sighted. The playoffs are a stretch. I get it to a certain degree when we were still trying to stay in the race. But he should not be playing any more really.

    The rest of the season should be about weaving these youngsters more and more into important situations. Let Kakko play on the 1st PP unit. Give more reps to Laf with higher-end players. Bring up Barron to see what you have. Ride Igor as much as you can. Etc, etc

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