Since Chris is on his annual pilgrimage to the US of A, you’re all stuck with me for this week’s musings. I know my questions won’t be anywhere near as poignant or provocative as my colleague from across the pond, but I’m gonna give it the old college try…
After not having seen the Maple Leafs since the middle of January, I’ll admit I was expecting more of the same from Toronto. I was incorrect. That team is a pain to play against. They run an aggressive forecheck and are deadly in transition. They are going to make someone’s life very difficult in the first round. As long as their goaltending holds up…
Torts shuffled the lines around big time last night. While I really enjoy seeing the Nash-Stepan-Cally line together, I understand Tort’s thinking. The Phaneuf matchup was killing that line and Tort’s needed to give Toronto a different look. I wasn’t crazy about any of the specific lines he created, and since the Isles don’t have a shut-down number 1 d-man, I’d expect more familiar line combos come Saturday.
I know Hags hasn’t fully cemented himself as a top-6 player just yet, but even when he’s moving up and down the lineup, I think it’s a waste to play him with Boyle or Pyatt.
Speaking of Pyatt, I have to think he’s the first guy on the block in the off-season if the organization feels that any of the Miller/Kreider/Lindberg/Fast forward core is ready for full-time duty.
Getting back to Chris, I agree with him that Hank is quietly working his way back into the Vezina conversation. His lack of shutouts will definitely hurt him, as will his relatively slow start, but if the Rangers make the playoffs, he will have been the biggest reason why. His save on Kadri in overtime was out of this world. While I felt he was a little off on Monday in Toronto (Hank doesn’t seem to enjoy Canada much, eh?) he was in fine form last night. Peaking at the right time.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying this little Kovalchuk-less run of ineptitude in Newark…
The Islanders are starting to irritate me. On paper, they should not be where they are. Their offense is playoff caliber, and John Tavares is proving he was worth the number one overall pick a couple years ago. But their defense is very suspect, and Evgeni Nabokov is not a starting goalie for a playoff team anymore. Although, I feel like if the Rangers were in the upper half of the conference like they were supposed to be, I’d probably find this little run from boys on the Island endearing.
Needless to say, this is the biggest game of the season so far on Saturday. With the mid-conference logjam, we are looking at 6 points separating the 6th seed from the 11thplace team. There’s your parity, Mr. Bettman. Winning and losing this game could be the difference between sole possession of 6th place and looking up at the 8thspot from the outside.
Ok, enough long-windedness from me, question time…
- Out of NYR, NYI, OTT, WPG and NJD, who’s in and who’s out?
- Does Zucc get on the scoresheet in regulation before the end of the regular season?
- Over/under 2 games for Marty Biron the rest of the way?
- With 8 games to play, who is your Rangers MVP?
- Defensive miscues by Girardi, blip on the radar or workload taking its toll?
- Who would you most, and least, like to face in a first round playoff matchup?
Aside from the Isles on Saturday and the two NJ tilts in a couple weeks, the Rangers have Philly, Florida (twice), Buffalo and Carolina remaining on the schedule. Those are points that are imperative against non-playoff teams. Do or die time.