Photo by Avi Gerver, ©Madison Square Garden, L.P.
The Rangers took three of four points from the apparently almighty Penguins this week. Both games, off the back of roster re-shaping trade deadline deals, showed us a lot about how the Rangers should look for the remainder of the season.
The 2-1 shootout defeat Friday night in Pittsburgh might see some fans be disheartened about a club that scored just one goal (again), but what is a somewhat valid concern is outweighed by several positives. Let’s take a look at why the Rangers still have a chance this season;
The new guys: the new additions – led by Ryane Clowe – have brought depth, skill, but above all have made the Rangers harder to play against. Perhaps most importantly where players such as Marian Gaborik weren’t entirely trusted by Tortorella anymore, you saw the likes of Derick Brassard on the ice toward the end of the game as the Rangers chased hard. Brassard came close from a bad angle that needed a review. The fact Tortorella is rolling lines more evenly – evidence of the additional depth –suggests the Rangers have depth to make a push.
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AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
The Rangers dropped a tough one to the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, 2-1 in a shootout. The play of Marc-Andre Fleury was the only reason this game wasn’t a repeat of Wednesday night. A truly sensational performance. While the loss stings, securing 3 out of a possible 4 points in a home and home with the Pens is more than we could have hoped at the beginning of the week. On to the goals…
Penguins 1, Rangers 0
- The Pens started to get their forecheck/cycling going to begin the third period. Chris Kunitz made a nice play with the puck behind the net, and found an unguarded Jussi Jokinen in the slot. He blasted a laser over Hank’s glove, and Pitt had the first goal of the game. Read more »
Will Sather make deadline deals?
As the Rangers bask in the glow of an impressive win over the Flyers on Tuesday and prepare for tonight’s game against the Senators, it all comes back to Ryan Callahan’s comment a few weeks back; ‘We have to back it up’. The Rangers need two points tonight just as much as they did on Tuesday. On to the musings
Derek Stepan. It is only fitting that this week’s musings begins with Stepan. He was immense on Tuesday, beyond ‘just’ the points. His back checking to break up plays, his stick work and positional sense were all great examples of his sky high hockey IQ and growing confidence. When a player is on top form he always seems to find a way to be on or around the puck. Stepan’s shown great development this year. Especially after his so-so start to the season
As a loyal commenter pointed out yesterday, Rick Nash would be on course for 82 points in a full season. However, where I disagree is that’s his ceiling. If Stepan’s development curve continues and Nash has a training camp under his legs I think he has 100 point potential as a Ranger. His skill set is definitely 100 point calibre.
Statistical quirk: The Rangers sit 4th in the league in goals against per game (all the more impressive given the injuries on D and the overall team record) yet despite that lofty ranking they don’t have a shutout this season, yet.
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If it wasn’t for two fortunate goals by the Flyers this game, on paper, would look like it did on the ice; a comprehensive victory for the Rangers. Led by the dominant top line the Rangers scored a few impressive goals and got solid performances all over the line up. Brad Richards had his best game in weeks, Lundqvist was solid, Kreider was energetic and dangerous all while Rick Nash and Derek Stepan manhandled the Flyers defense. Stepan in particular seems to grow with every additional game. On to the goal breakdown
Rangers 1-0; Rick Nash (14:54)
The Rangers opened the scoring with a Derek Stepan clinic. First of all, the Rangers center created a turnover behind the Flyers net with some great stick work (doing the basics right, stick on the ice) and eventually sent the puck up to the point where Girardi sent a shot glancing off the post. The puck came back to the Rangers and eventually to Stepan who, positioned to the right of Bryzgalov, sent a crisp pass over to Rick Nash who was moving toward goal and Nash put it top right on the Flyers goalie for the lead. A solid goal, forced by the Rangers desire to retrieve pucks.
Rangers 2-0; Brad Richards PP goal (3:14)
The Rangers got a big second goal early in the middle period as they connected on the powerplay. After initially struggling to get into and set up in the Flyers zone the Rangers finally did and moved the puck around at the blue line when it finally comes to Richards to the left of Bryzgalov, up high. Using defenseman Andrej Meszaros as a screen Richards absolutely rifled one up high past the Flyers goalie. A great shot from Richards to double the lead.
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Photo credit: ctpost.com
While the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are still a little under a year away, discussions continue on between the NHL, NHLPA, IIHF and IOC to determine whether NHL players will participate in the games. As it stands right now, all signs point to an agreement being reached to keep the game’s best players representing their respective nations.
In the spirit of these discussions, I thought I’d take a look at which Rangers might be making the trip over to Russia next year…
Henrik Lundqvist – Sweden: After a gold medal performance in 2006 and general NHL dominance over the past eight seasons, Hank is the guy for Sweden. Not even a disappointing 5th place finish in Vancouver could begin to dethrone The King.
Ryan Callahan – United States: Cally assumed a penalty-killing, bottom-6 role in Vancouver in 2010, often paired with former Ranger, Chris Drury. Callahan will play a much more prominent role on a still young US roster this time around. A letter is a distinct possibility for the Ranger captain. Read more »
Rangers and the Islanders played a tight game before Rangers won in OT
The Rangers beat the Islanders 2-1 in overtime, in a game that was a goaltending duel and in a game that was well contested by both teams. Both clubs had chances, both clubs played relatively well in all three zones but in the end it was the Rangers improving powerplay that was the difference. We discussed earlier today how the offense – but specifically Gaborik – had to step up over the next few games and an overtime, powerplay game winner is a great start. Rick Nash had another two point night, quickly becoming his standard. On to the goal breakdown.
1-0 Islanders; Michael Grabner
The first goal came as the Islanders cycled the puck along the wall when the puck eventually comes to Colin McDonald who immediately back hands it, throwing it up the middle of the ice where he finds a streaking Michael Grabner in the high slot. Grabner then wristed it top right corner past a helpless Lundqvist. Just before the goal Grabner had circled through the zone creating time and space for himself and was relatively open as he received the puck. The goal was typical of the Islanders’ start as they were looking to put the puck on the net at every opportunity and were constantly looking for traffic in front.
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The Rangers need Gaborik and the offense to help accommodate for Staal’s injury
It may seem an odd statement to make in light of an important defenseman being lost to injury, but the Rangers offense will need to produce consistently now more than ever. Despite the addition of Roman Hamrlik and the presence of multiple defensemen on the roster, the Rangers cannot reasonably expect to fill the void Marc Staal will leave. This is despite the presence of Henrik Lundqvist and the still impressive, remaining top four blueliners.
Any time a team loses a player of Marc Staal’s ability it’s going to hurt. When Staal went down the Rangers lost their best offensive blueliner (going by points alone), and lost a player that had returned to his All Star defensive best. Take an All Star who plays over twenty three minutes a game out of any line-up (except maybe the Blackhawks…) and you cannot reasonably expect the same performance level.
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The Rangers shoot for a season best fourth victory in a row tonight against the Islanders. Naturally, the Islanders love playing spoiler to their big brother neighbours so it should be a dandy. On to the musings.
Where do you stand on the visor front? I’m all for mandatory visors and always have been. Hockey is a fast and dangerous sport why wouldn’t you want to be as safe as possible? It will be interesting to see if Marc Staal changes his stance when (not if) he returns.
Hate to say I told you so: I said on Twitter that the Rangers should go after Roman Hamrlik before he was claimed, and I thought that before Marc Staal’s injury. He’s not what he was at 38 years old, but a rusty Hamrlik is better at this stage of his career than Stu Bickel, or more consistent than Matt Gilroy. Regarding the concern over his skating: Bickel can’t skate either and Gilroy’s skating ability hasn’t exactly helped him establish himself. So Hamrlik still represents an upgrade on the third pair, even with his limited skating ability.
One final thing on Staal; Assuming he misses the rest of the season, by the time next October comes around Staal will have missed a lot of hockey in the past two years. Does that affect him long term? It could go one of two ways; either he’ll benefit from having plenty left in the tank or he’ll have missed so much competitive hockey he’ll not be the same player he was.
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The Rangers took two points from the rival Flyers tonight, 4-2 at The Garden. With the exception of an incredibly scary puck to the eye suffered by Marc Staal, and some offensive zone penalties, it was a pretty awesome game to watch. Rick Nash flat out dominated and Ryan Callahan continued his high-scoring ways. Oh, and Henrik Lundqvist is back. Let’s get to the goals…
Rangers 1, Flyers 0
The Rangers started this game with a lot of energy and offensive pressure. The Callahan, Gaborik, Miller line was pressing in the offensive zone when Cally drew a holding penalty on Kimmo Timmonen. On the ensuing power play, the Rangers carried the puck into the zone on the near side. Max Talbot misread the puck and committed to the high slot. Stepan then sets up and 2-on-1 with Callahan down low, and The Captain takes it out on the water bottle into the top corner. Read more »
Brandon Mashinter was returned to the AHL this morning after playing four games for the Rangers. Mash finished with a -2 rating, 7 hits, and 1 blocked shot in extremely limited playing time. Returning Mash to the AHL leaves the Rangers with 11 forwards, so it is likely that Rick Nash, the player who was on IR, will be reactivated for tomorrow’s game.
Speaking of Nash, he participated in practice today in a full-contact jersey. Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto also participated in practice, also with full-contact jerseys.