After Monday night’s humiliating loss in Tampa Bay, the Rangers are in Fort Lauderdale to take on the Florida Panthers. The Rangers beat this team on 11/10 by a score of 4-3, taking advantage of three defensive zone coverage fails by the Panthers (and scoring a powerplay goal).
Since then, Peter Horachek (Flordia’s new coach) has been doing a good job trying to get their ship righted. They’ve beaten the Ducks, Canucks, Avs, and Flyers recently. The Rangers shouldn’t take them for granted. They won’t be an easy out.
Horachek employs more of a north/south game than Dineen and has them running an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck. In the DZ, they run a low zone collapse and bring all five guys back to protect the house. On special teams, they run an umbrella/1-3-1 power play and a more passive four man box penalty kill. The Panthers tend to collapse vs. challenging the point shot, so our d-men should get some looks tonight.
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Is Dylan McIlrath ready?
Alain Vigneault commented after the Rangers’ turgid performance in Tampa on Monday that “Nobody touched a soul”, referring to his team’s lack of physicality. This has been an underlying issue for large parts of the season so far. In the mean time, Michael Del Zotto continues to be, at best, inconsistent (and the subject of countless traded rumours in the media) and John Moore also has yet to find his game consistently. As you can see, there is plenty of room for improvement on the blueline.
While the Rangers forward unit appears to be more settled with the demotion of JT Miller (who simply needs playing time at this stage), despite the relatively decent performance of the blueline corps, the Rangers appear in need of an injection of physicality. Is it about time they took a look at Dylan McIlrath?
Mcllrath’s development curve is trending in the right direction. While in Hartford the big, bruising 1st round pick has begun to add an offensive dimension to his game but perhaps more appropriate is that he also leagues the American Hockey League in penalty minutes (with 102 penalty minutes in just 18 games) and if you check the box scores regularly enough, you’ll have noticed a few majors along the way.
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The more the season progresses, the more the Michael Del Zotto trade rumors swirl. Darren Dreger noted yesterday that the Rangers spoke to Ottawa and that no match could be found. The Rangers wanted either Marc Methot or Chris Neil, and Ottawa countered with Colin Greening, Eric Gryba, or Erik Condra. Those players did not fit with the Rangers. We all know what Chris Neil is, but Methot is a hard hitting defenseman that the Rangers could use. Problem is two-fold: He’s not the swiftest of skaters and he’s a left handed shot.
Dreger also noted this morning (on the radio) that the Rangers were talking to the Leafs as well. Jake Gardiner was the name tossed out by Toronto. In a vacuum a deal like that makes sense, since both might benefit from a change of scenery and Gardiner was teammates in Wisconsin with Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. But again, Gardiner is a left handed shot.
Dan Girardi’s struggles may extend Michael Del Zotto’s tenure in blue
Despite all the recent trade rumors swirling around Michael Del Zotto, the young D-man may remain a Ranger beyond this year.
I’ll spare you the argument that Del Zotto is still very young for a defenseman at just 23 years old, because frankly I don’t buy that as an excuse for his erratic play any more either. But though Del Zotto hasn’t lived up to expectations, he is still pencilled in as a top-four defenseman in New York’s short- and long-term plans.
That matters because another key member of the top-four, Dan Girardi, is set to be an unrestricted free agent in July. And the way things are going, Girardi might not be back. Girardi has been better than Del Zotto this season, but not by much. He’s coming off a down year under John Tortorella, so Girardi’s struggles can’t be blamed solely on the coaching change. No, at 29 years old, it’s likely that we’ve already seen the best of Girardi, and quite possible that he’s begun his decline. Read more »
After a run that saw the Rangers score just nine goals in seven games, Alain Vigneault has shaken up his lines (per Pat Leonard). The only line that remains intact is the Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello line:
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Rick Nash
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello
Benoit Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Ryan Callahan
Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore-Derek Dorsett
In reality this illustrates the Rangers dire need for a winger, since Pouliot has been anything but reliable in his first 24 games as a Ranger. The injured Taylor Pyatt is not the answer either.
On the powerplay, Andrew Gross notes some changes as well:
Kreider-Stepan-Brassard-Zuccarello-Del Zotto-John Moore
At this point I’m surprised Marc Staal isn’t getting a look at the point. Or Stralman, who has history with Scott Arniel.
In a move that is probably a week late, the Rangers have sent J.T. Miller to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Miller had been a healthy scratch since the 11/17 game against LA, a 1-0 loss. In his time with New York, Miller was placed on the fourth line, rarely given offensive minutes. The reason the Rangers kept him around was as an extra body in case of injury on the road trip.
With Miller’s demotion it is expected that Taylor Pyatt will be ready to return by Friday’s game in Boston. Pyatt has been out with a concussion, and Friday would be the earliest the club would need him.
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
This was a rough one to watch. Unlike the 9-2 and 6-0 thrashings on the west coast, the Rangers dominated puck possession for most of the game. They just couldn’t get one past a surprisingly good Ben Bishop (who has been good for most of the year). Plus, it looked like the team was gripping their sticks too tight after getting into a 2-0 hole within three minutes.
The Rangers may have dominated puck possession, but the Lightning caused turnovers and, more importantly, capitalized on those turnovers. Puck possession is an important aspect of the game, but when you are turning the puck over so much, your opponents will beat you. There’s no way around it.
On to the goals:
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AP Photo/Mike Strasinger
After winning two games in a row in the central time zone, the Rangers are back in this time zone to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa is falling and falling fast without the injured Steven Stamkos, losing their last four games in a row. This is also a team that had good puck luck (over 100 PDO) early on while not driving puck possession, which is a recipe for losses and regression to the mean. While that doesn’t guarantee a win, it means the Rangers are catching the Lightning at a vulnerable time.
These aren’t your 1-3-1 neutral zone trapping Guy Boucher Lightning anymore. Jon Cooper has the Lightning playing a pretty similar system as the Rangers. They run an aggressive 1-2-2 forecheck with a lot of pinching from their defensemen. Once they get a 2 goal lead, they tend to sit back in the neutral zone with a more passive 1-2-2.
In the defensive zone, the Lightning seem to struggle with balancing when to pursue vs. when to contain since they mix man-on-man and low zone collapse defensive strategies. On special teams, they still run a 1-3-1 power play and a diamond/box hybrid penalty kill.
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The Hartford Wolf Pack made a move today to hopefully address some of their goaltending isues, recalled Jeff Malcolm from the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors and demoting Scott Stajcer to the ECHL. Malcolm has been one of the top goalies in the ECHL, posting a 1.96 GAA and a .940 SV%. Meanwhile, Stajcer has been struggling with Hartford, putting up a 2.27 GAA and a .904 SV%.
We all would like to thank you for entering the ticket giveaway contest for the 11/29 game in Boston. We got a lot of great entries and stories about how the Rangers first came into your lives. We are very grateful for every person that comes here, reads the blog, and discusses the Rangers in the comments.
I’m not going to post full contact information of our winners here (duh), but our winners are Matt and Jared, and I have reached out to you both regarding next steps. You will both be contacted soon (not by me) for how to collect your tickets. Details are in your emails.
Again, thank you all for entering. I apologize for not being able to reach out to each entrant, but rest assured each entry was read and discussed. It was our pleasure to be able to give away four tickets to this game, and I wish we could have given tickets to all of you. We hope that we have many more opportunities to give back like this again.