Rookie Goals Not Enough To Push Rangers Streak To Nine

Here’s the thing with winning streaks – you know at some point they are going to come to an end. You hope when it happens, it’s not too ugly. Tonight was far from ugly. In fact, the Rangers easily could’ve won this game. I don’t know if it was too much confidence or the Stars had the better game plan or what but the Rangers looked sloppy from the start of the game and in the end, got what they deserved. The good news is what I saw can be fixed. It just better be fixed soon.

While most coaches don’t make lineup changes during a winning streak unless they have to, Vigneault likes to tinker with his lineup no matter what is going on. And if you thought Saturday’s changes made no sense, I have nothing for you in regards to tonight when J.T. Miller drew back in for…Jesper Fast. I’m not even going to try to explain or understand it. I’m just going to go with it as Vigneault seems to know what he’s doing as a coach so I just have to trust him. But I have no idea what Fast did to be taken out or what Miller is expected to do on a line with Dominic Moore (who may be next in line for a scratch) and Tanner Glass. I’m just going to go with it.

When it comes to analysts talking about the Rangers or any team in the East, it always comes down to how would they do if they were in the West. We can sit here and pretend the conferences are equal but they’re not. It’s two different styles of hockey and the one played in the West tends to work better against the East rather than the other way around. That was on display to me tonight as the Rangers looked to be hanging on for most of the game. (They also looked to be trying to play like the Stars which is never a good formula. Don’t let the opposition dictate pace. It usually doesn’t end well.) That didn’t stop the action though.

A little before the five minute mark, Dallas took the first penalty of the game. Live I thought it was the correct call as did the Rangers broadcast crew. MSG then showed the replay and we all changed our opinions. Rangers have gotten a few of those so I’m not going to complain. A minute into the power play, the second unit came out and J.T. Miller did what he did in Carolina last week – took a pass from Mats Zuccarello, broke in and put it in the net to give the visitors the lead. Joe Micheletti felt the need to point out he didn’t agree with the Miller scratch last game for the next five minutes. Can’t say I disagree.

Two and a half minutes later, Tanner Glass took a bad penalty that allowed the Stars to tie the game. I have no problem with fans going after Glass for the careless penalty. But they better go after Dominic Moore for looking lost after losing the face-off. He lost his stick and looked around as if to say “now what do I do?” as the puck went past him and into the net. Honestly this is the same situation as with the sixth defenseman. Players will keep rotating until 12 prove they deserve to play every night.

Over the next seven or so minutes, the Rangers looked to be chasing the game and I thought they better get it together or the Stars will take the lead. They didn’t get together and Dallas took the lead with a little over four minutes to go in the period. Granted Marc Staal put it in his own net (and admitted so after watching the replay during intermission) but it still counted as a goal against. He made up for it exactly a minute later as he blasted one from the point that Kevin Hayes deflected to tie the game at two.

Somehow we got through the last three minutes of the period with nothing else happening. At that point I figured this game was going to be a circus or it was going to end 3-2 in a shootout. I was close with the latter – I had the right score but it happened in regulation.

The second period didn’t start well for the Rangers as less than a minute in, the captain was MIA again and the Stars had a 3-2 lead. To start the broadcast, Sam Rosen said Ryan McDonagh was at the top of his game. While he might have been getting closer before tonight, I don’t know what he’s been watching. As for tonight, paging Ryan McDonagh. If you see this, please meet the New York Rangers in Miami on New Years Eve.

I wish I could say the Rangers got it together after that. They didn’t. The good news was they didn’t get burned the rest of the second period. Unfortunately, while they had some great chances, they couldn’t beat Lehtonen either so went into the third period down by one.

As for the third period…look we all knew the streak was coming to an end soon. What worries me is the way they played tonight. They never had control of the game from the opening puck drop. The best part of the third period was the team managing to keep the puck out of the empty net for over a minute. It wasn’t because they had the puck in the Stars zone or played competent defense when it came back in their end. It was because the Stars looked worse than the Rangers do when they are trying to hit an empty net.

Anyway, I’m not dissecting this one any further because it will just aggravate me. Too many sloppy plays that they are honestly lucky it was only a one goal game as time wound down. Oh well, time to start a new streak. The good news is they head back East to a system they are more familiar with. But the Panthers will be no joke. Hopefully this was just one game and they get back to playing the style of hockey they have been. (Takes quick peak at upcoming schedule…) Yeah, they better start a new streak Wednesday night.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Advertisements

Stepan Hat Trick Leads Rangers To 8th Win

Going into tonight’s game after the Christmas break, there were a ton of storylines. You had the Devils coaching change which has everyone scratching their heads (the new coaches, not the firing). Henrik Lundqvist playing his 600th regular season game (which got a lot more attention than when Dan Girardi did it last week and no I wasn’t happy about it). Scott Gomez playing his 1000th regular season, which basically got ignored due to the coaching change. You can even put the mumps situation in there. After the game the only thing everyone was talking about was #21 in blue.

The Rangers decided to make two lineup changes before the game. One I wasn’t surprised about, one I didn’t understand. I’ll start with the one that didn’t surprise me – John Moore for Matt Hunwick. No, Hunwick did nothing to deserve to be taken out but neither did Moore when they first made the switch. Fans should just get used to this one. Until one of them do something to grab that sixth spot, they are going to switch every few games whether fans like it or not.

As for the other change, Lee Stempniak was over the mumps so he got to immediately go back in. Personally I don’t think he’s done anything to earn that but he’s a veteran so he gets it. The lucky party to be taken out? J.T. Miller. I get it. He’s a kid who has to earn a permanent spot in the lineup. Here’s the thing – he has. The past few weeks he has done absolutely nothing to deserve to be taken out of the lineup. (I don’t care what Vigneault said after the game. To me, it sounds like he was looking for an excuse to scratch him. The comments from the beat writers sound like they are thinking the same thing.) In fact, he’s done more than Stempniak has this season. Word from practice this morning was Miller wasn’t pleased with the move and I can’t blame him. He has to be thinking what does he have to do to stay in the lineup. And they aren’t going to keep him around to leave him in the press box so curious how Vigneault plans to handle this. It better not be to send him back to Hartford.

Moving onto the game.

Everyone said the Rangers needed to be careful of the first ten minutes as most felt the Devils would come out flying due to their recent coaching change (which I don’t even know how to comment on just yet). As usual, everyone was right as the Devils did control the first ten minutes of the game. It was almost as if the Rangers were told it would be ten minutes as they had their first sustained pressure in the Devils zone halfway through the period. Just because the Devils were expected to come out with a push didn’t mean you had to let them do it, Rangers.

Honestly it looked like the only thing worth talking about would be the three horrible penalties called in the period – two on the Rangers, one on the Devils. I saw plenty of penalties committed that period. The three that were called weren’t penalties.

The last of those penalties came with roughly two minutes to go as Dominic Moore was sent to the box. Twenty seconds into the penalty kill, the puck came to the blue line where the Devils defender bobbled it and Derek Stepan pounced to come in all alone on a breakaway. He deked, Schneider bit, and Stepan slid it through his five hole for the 1-0 lead. You should just watch it:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=709474

Sorry Devils. You’ll probably see that one a few times.

The second period looked like it was going to start similar to the first as the Devils again seemed to come out flying. This time the Rangers didn’t make it last long. Six minutes into the period, Tanner Glass threw a big hit on Tootoo in the neutral zone. Tootoo didn’t like the hit and went after Glass. When Glass didn’t respond, Tootoo grabbed him and to the box he went for holding. On the ensuing power play, Dan Boyle got the puck to Marty St. Louis who finally took a shot on net (he had been passing all night until that point). The puck hit Stepan in front and deflected into the net to give the home team a 2-0 lead.

Of course the Rangers can’t have all good things as less than three minutes later, John Moore made a bad play in the neutral zone that led to a Devils odd-man rush and a 2-1 game. I want to say it was an unfortunate bounce for the young defenseman but it didn’t look that way to me. Moore did get a regular shift in the third period so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Not to be outdone, the Rangers other player to re-enter the lineup tonight, Lee Stempniak, took a bad penalty with less than two minutes to go in the period. Fortunately for him, the Devils hit the post instead of the back of the net so the Rangers held onto their 2-1 lead going into the third period. Also fortunate for him was the Rangers being able to kill off the remainder of the penalty in the third period.

Even better news was the Rangers got the memo that how they tried to hold a lead against the Capitals a few days ago wasn’t going to cut it on a regular basis. But the Devils refused to go quietly allowing Lundqvist to shine in his milestone game. Then with less than a minute to go, after a Nash empty net goal had been waived off due to being offsides, the puck once again landed on Stepan’s stick. He gained the red line and blasted it into the empty net for his third career hat trick.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Other stats on the night? First time Rangers have had hat tricks in back-to-back games since 1994. Also first time they’ve had a win streak of eight games since 1974-75. And people were worried about this team two months ago. I know there’s still a long way to go but I would be surprised if the team from October and November appeared again this season.

For now, make it eight!

 

(Photo: NYR Official Twitter)

Make It Seven! Rangers Head Into Break With Another Win

I’ve finally figured out what this team is. No, I haven’t figured out anything that will help them become more consistent or help fans and analysts figure out what to expect from them. I figured out why we all continue to follow them. They are that addiction you know is bad for you and you know you should walk away from but you just can’t. It just keeps pulling you back in. And while it gives you joy at times, it will kill you one day. That is the New York Rangers in a nutshell. And if you don’t believe me, re-watch this game.

The game started with the Rangers looking like the fresher team, using their speed against a Capitals who team played and traveled last night. A little over three minutes into the period, Mats Zuccarello took his time to make a play in the defensive zone and almost paid for it. My initial thought was he needed to be better than that as he was lucky the Caps didn’t get an opportunity from the turnover. So what happened next? Shortly afterwards the puck bounced into the slot where Rick Nash grabbed it and raced up the ice. He found Derick Brassard who got the puck to Zuccarello who threw it towards the net. It hit off the leg of Nash, who was crashing the net, and right into the net to give the Rangers the early lead. Yes I plan to yell at the players more often if it leads to them helping score goals before they get off the ice.

While there weren’t many offensive chances after the goal, there was a lot of hitting (something that should always be expected with Ovechkin on the ice) and great defensive plays by both teams. With a little over two minutes remaining, Brooks Orpik reminded everyone why they hate him (okay, maybe that’s just me) by cross-checking J.T. Miller into the net. Honestly, it was a stupid penalty to take as he thought he was preventing a goal but Miller had already gotten the shot and Holtby the save before the cross-check happened.

The only thing worse than the penalty? The power kill that followed it. The stats say the Rangers got one shot on it. I don’t remember them having enough zone time to get one. Good thing was it helped them kill the period and head into intermission with a 1-0 lead.

Early in the second the Rangers were given a gift, if you consider power plays a gift. Just 27 seconds in, Ovechkin was called for boarding. There’s no other way to say this, it was a horrible call. To make matters worse, it took the Rangers less than 40 seconds to capitalize on it. Why was that bad? Because I assumed it meant they wouldn’t be getting another call all game and with the way Ovechkin was running around, that was going to be a problem. I was wrong but first the goal.

The Rangers had a competent power play with beautiful passing as the puck went from Derek Stepan to Brassard to Dan Boyle to Marty St. Louis to the back of the net. It is plays like that one that give Rangers fans hope that the power play could one day be a constant threat. Seriously, look how pretty this is?

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014020506-97-ingame-h

Ovechkin came out of the box and screamed at the referees. I honestly couldn’t blame him. The surprising part was less than three minutes later, the Rangers got another power play. (This one was actually a penalty.) The non-surprising part was it looked more like the first power play than the second, i.e. a power kill. Consistency boys. That’s all I’m asking for.

The Rangers continued to push the pace until with eight minutes to go, they took their first penalty of the game. At the start of the penalty kill, Stepan and Nash were able to come up the ice on a 2-on-1. Stepan passed the puck to Nash who had a wide open net…and missed. It looked like he had trouble controlling the puck causing it to hit the post instead of the back of the net. I still have no idea how he missed though and was worried the Rangers would regret it. But they managed to kill the penalty.

Just as it ended, the Caps took another penalty. That power play looked like it might have had a chance to do something but a minute into it, the Rangers thought power play meant six players plus a goaltender on the ice. I have no idea who wasn’t able to count but it was a clear too many men and to 4-on-4 we went. (I tried to figure it out by looking at time on ice for everyone. I’ve narrowed it down to Miller, Kreider or McDonagh. I’m going with one of the guys not wearing a letter, not that McDonagh couldn’t have been guilty of it.)

Both teams killed that as well as the ensuing Caps power play and it looked like we would get some even strength play until the end of the period. Zuccarello decided that was no fun so took a penalty with roughly 90 seconds remaining in the period. It was a good thing the Rangers penalty kill was up to the task tonight.

Any guesses on how the Rangers started the third period? Did you guess by sitting on the lead and allowing the Caps to dominate? If so, that would be correct. We shouldn’t expect anything less at this point. Seriously, this team will be the death of me one of these days.

So the Caps completely dominated the first five minutes of the period getting more shots in that span than they had the previous forty. Then just as Rangers fans really started worrying, the puck squirted out of the zone and Brassard decided to ignore it as Orpik went out of position to check him. Fortunately he missed and Brassard was okay. (And I would’ve given Brassard third star of the night for that play alone.) Even more important was by ignoring the puck Nash was able to pick it up, rush into the zone and put a ridiculous wrist shot past Holtby to make it 3-0. How big was that goal? It ended up the game winner.

Just 41 seconds later, the Caps finally figured out Henrik Lundqvist and we had a 3-1 game. You would think that would wake the Rangers up but no, the Caps continued to dominate. I will give credit to the Caps as they finally found their legs in the third period. But everything the Rangers were doing during the first forty minutes was gone during the final twenty.

Three and a half minutes later, Matt Hunwick took a penalty and the Caps made the Rangers pay pulling within one a minute into it. At that point, I figured this game wasn’t ending well. The Rangers were getting outplayed all over the ice and it didn’t look to be changing any time soon.

Then with 5:25 remaining, Nicklas Backstrom thought it was a good idea to high-stick Derick Brassard. Okay, it wasn’t an intentional high stick but he reached around him and got him in the visor. Somehow in doing that he drew blood and was sent to the penalty box for four minutes. On the ensuing face-off, Jason Chimera tried to swipe the puck away with his hand. The whistle immediately blew and everyone looked confused. As soon as I saw the replay, I knew why the whistle blew.

WE HAD A FACEOFF VIOLATION!

Yes, our main site is named after that ridiculous penalty. I say this every time I see one but for those who are new around here, I was watching a game between the Blackhawks and Wild a few years ago and stuck on a name for the site. Then that penalty happened and the site was born. True story.

Anyway, the penalty gave the Rangers a full two-minute 5-on-3. How many people watching were concerned they would somehow give up a shorthanded goal? Be honest.

It took almost the entire two man advantage but the Rangers eventually did capitalize to regain the two goal lead. The goal, as of this writing, was given to Marty St. Louis. I expect it will be changed to Rick Nash, giving him the hat trick, as St. Louis never touched it. It bounced off Holtby’s glove and while St. Louis swat at it, I don’t think he made contact. Either way, the Rangers had a two goal lead with less than four minutes remaining and still two minutes of power play time. Of course they killed that but that didn’t leave the Caps a lot of time to tie the game.

And while the Caps did get a power play with 30 seconds to go, Lundqvist wasn’t allowing another puck past him. Then again, neither was the empty net on the other side of the ice. It’s almost comical how often these guys miss an empty net. I’m sure other teams are the same way but I don’t see those as often.

So the Rangers head into the holiday break on a seven game win streak. Seven. Whether they deserved this last win depends on how you look at things. They played an almost perfect forty minutes. But that last twenty was brutal. That said, points are points. Tonight the Rangers got them and the team that was in front of them to start the night did not. Now the boys can go enjoy the break because it doesn’t get easier when they get back. My only request? Please no one come back with the mumps. I get worried when there is no news for three days.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Shutout Canes, Sweep Weekend

Last night was so much fun that the Rangers and Canes decided to do it again tonight, this time in New York. I guess the travel affected things as while I’m sure many thought last night’s game was bad, tonight made that game look like one for the highlight reels. But as I feel like I’ve said a lot recently, teams don’t get extra points for style so a win is a win. And the Rangers won again.

I mentioned this briefly at the end of last night’s recap but tonight Dan Girardi played in his 600th regular season game. Let’s forget the fact he was undrafted and only played his first game a little less than eight years ago (January 27, 2007) or that he would’ve done this sooner if not for a half year lockout two years ago. Look at these stats:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

That’s crazy considering the team has been in existence for 88 years. Congrats on a great milestone Dan!

Now to the game.

The Rangers started tonight’s game the same way as they did last night – by completely dominating the Canes. The difference was instead of making a horrible play to lead to the first goal, Ryan McDonagh pinched in and scored the first goal a little over four minutes in. I again was surprised to see a defenseman basically standing next to Khodubin, but Derek Stepan wasn’t as he got the puck behind the net and put a perfect pass on his tape for the goal.

And after the goal, the Rangers didn’t stop. It was the same as last night as it was clear which team was the better team, although the Canes looked like a team on the second half of a back to back after traveling. Somehow the Rangers didn’t. Also somehow the Rangers couldn’t beat Khodubin again during the first period to extend their lead. (The one thing I learned this weekend is Carolina has goaltending. If they could just get the rest of the team to show up, they might get some wins.) But it wasn’t for a lack of trying as they outshot the Canes 11-4 through the first 20 minutes. Basically was a replay of the first period last night minus which team had the goal.

Less than two minutes into the second period, Matt Hunwick again almost had his first goal of the season but after review it was again deemed no goal. The problem this time was it was somewhere in the crease but there was no way of knowing where so the right call was made. (MSG did eventually find an angle they were able to blow up that showed the puck may have crossed the line but I don’t blame the league for waiving it off. I understand Toronto has to look at every angle but the picture the broadcast showed was ridiculous.)

As for the rest of the period, I will paraphrase from last night:

I would love to write a lot about the second period. I really would. But nothing happened. The Rangers again allowed the Canes to hang around, and took had two bad penalties power plays, but there’s a reason the Canes are at the bottom of the standings. After 40, it was one Rangers mistake goal that was still the difference.

At least tonight the two teams had an excuse for playing such a boring second period – they both traveled after playing last night.

Unlike last night though, we had a change in the third period. It was just as boring as the second.

Seriously, nothing happened in the third period. Okay, the Rangers had a power kill with less than four minutes to go and then missed the empty net on two or three tries in the last minute, but other than that nothing happened. The shots were 7-4 and I think most of those came in the last few minutes. I don’t know if the Rangers were sitting on the lead or playing to their competition but either way it led to me having nothing to write about.

The good news for the Rangers is they had a lead going into the period so they were fine with that. And since the Canes couldn’t get one past Talbot, they walked away from the weekend series with one point while the Rangers walked away with four. Oh and a six game winning streak, their first since November – December 2011. Yes it’s been four years since they’ve had a six game winning streak. And they’ve had some good seasons during that time. Shows how difficult these are to come by. Or just how inconsistent this team is. Probably the latter.

Anyway, the Rangers have a chance to make it seven in their last game before the holiday break on Tuesday night against the Capitals. How big is that game? The two teams are tied in points (as of this writing) with the Capitals holding a game in hand two games in hand (as they play Ottawa on Monday before heading to New York). The Rangers might want to win that one. But for now I won’t complain with a six game winning streak. Six.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Take First Half Of Back-to-Back

Let’s get this out of the way from the start – the Rangers were the better team on the ice tonight. They probably didn’t look it through good portions of the game but they were the better team. So in that respect, the right team won. I just have a hard time saying they deserved to win tonight.

Thing is I can’t say they didn’t deserve to either. It was a weird game.

Honestly, things started out well. The Rangers dominated play through the first seven minutes of the game. The only reason it was scoreless is it was clear from the start Cam Ward was on his game. Then a misplay in the offensive zone lead to a Canes 2-on-1 the other way with Ryan McDonagh the only guy back. (Yes, I yelled at Dan Girardi for being closer to Ward than the blue line. I understand that’s what Vigneault wants. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.) The result was the Canes taking the early lead and me once again asking when our captain will return. Seriously, I miss him. This guy wouldn’t have made the Olympics if this was last year.

After that, the Canes kind of woke up. The Rangers were still in it because as I said at the start, they were the better team. I’m not trying to knock the Canes. It was just clear they were giving all they had and if the Rangers had done the same, this game wouldn’t have been close.

But it was close as the Rangers weren’t able to solve Ward through the first 20 minutes even though they outshot the Canes 11-6. And that was with killing a penalty late in the period.

I would love to write a lot about the second period. I really would. But nothing happened. The Rangers again allowed the Canes to hang around, and took two bad penalties, but there’s a reason the Canes are at the bottom of the standings. After 40, it was one Rangers mistake that was still the difference.

The Rangers got their first full power play early in the third period. (They had half of one midway through the second.) While the first unit tried, it was the second unit who got it done as Derek Stepan got the puck to Ryan McDonagh who passed it up to Mats Zuccarello who found J.T. Miller cutting in alone. And Miller did this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014020486-480-h

Think the kid wants to stick around? In the last four games, he’s played 2LW, 1C and 3RW and he’s looked good in every position. Going to get interesting if this team is ever healthy up front. (I also think this guarantees we don’t see Anthony Duclair until September.)

But as we all know, the Rangers never make anything easy and just 26 seconds later, McDonagh and Lundqvist combined again for a horrible play to allow the Canes to regain the lead. The MSG broadcast blamed Lundqvist saying it was a soft goal. I can’t argue that. But McDonagh was not innocent in the play. If one of them had been competent, the goal might not have happened. But it did and any momentum the visitors might have had was gone as quickly as they got it.

Roughly eight minutes later, it appeared the Rangers had tied it as Matt Hunwick took a shot from the point that beat Ward cleanly. (I said right before the non-goal that Hunwick was having a good game and was trying to score all night.) But the goal was waived off due to Ward losing his mask. Here’s my thinking on it – if the referee had been planning to blow the whistle, as the Rangers broadcast said, they took too long to do it. I understand intent to blow but there was never any intent until Ward threw his mask off as the shot went past him. Was the right call made? Probably. But I still think there was an opportunity to blow that whistle long before the referee actually did.

At that point, I figured the game was over. Teams don’t get a goal taken away like that and still come back to win the game. It just doesn’t happen. But that’s because teams don’t have the goal scorer that is Kevin Klein.

Seriously, I know Klein played his whole career in Nashville before coming here so no one really knew who he was, but I’m almost positive those that did know his name didn’t consider him a goal scorer. The Rangers got him for his defensive play, not offensive. We were told there was no offensive. And yet there he was, blasting another one from the point for his seventh of the season and the game was officially tied. I don’t even know what to think anymore. (And no, I don’t understand why Vigneault won’t put him on the power play. I never wanted him there but the guy obviously can score from the point. At this point, I would taken any of the current ten players off and replace them with him. Something has to give.)

The goal came with a little less than two and a half minutes remaining. I honestly wasn’t confident this was going to overtime. But it did, even with Vigneault placing questionable personal out during the last minute. (I was pleasantly surprised to see Jesper Fast as the clock was winding down. I almost had a heart attack when I saw Chris Kreider with 20 seconds to go.)

Overtime solved nothing and to a shootout we went. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Lundqvist that focused in a shootout but he was determined to get the second point after the two goals he allowed. Which is why he saved every shot he saw. Mix that with Mats Zuccarello scoring in the first round and the Rangers left Carolina with two points, sweeping their four game road trip. At this point I don’t care how they got it done, that was a huge eight points over the last week. Eight points all gotten with Lundqvist in net, which apparently is the first time he’s won four consecutive road games in one road trip in his career.

Next up, the Rangers start a three game home stand tomorrow night against the Canes as Dan Girardi plays his 600th NHL game. (Amazing to me that he’s already played 600 games. I remember when he was a rookie.) Will the Canes want revenge? Sure. Should the Rangers allow them to get it? No. All they need to do is show up and play a competent hockey game and this should be a sweep of the weekend. That’s all they need to do. Now let’s hope they can do it.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Cam Is Staying! Rangers Netminder Signs Extension

I am going to learn to start expecting news from the Rangers every day. Whenever I expect nothing, something always happens. That said, I definitely wouldn’t have been expecting this:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

According to Larry Brooks of the Post, the extension is one year at $1.45 million. Nice little bump from the $575,000 he’s making this year. But he’s earned it.

Talbot was always one of the wild cards in regards to next years’ roster. Would the Rangers keep him or use him at trade bait at the deadline to fill a different need and bring a cheaper replacement in? I honestly had no idea which way they planned to go. Once they decided to keep him, signing him early was a no-brainer for two reasons.

First, there’s a guy in the locker room who doesn’t wear the C but everyone considers the captain. You want to keep him happy. The assumption here is Talbot as his backup keeps him happy. So the Rangers made it be known early they were keeping him around.

Secondly, of all the guys that need to be re-signed this summer, he was the easiest to take care of. Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and John Moore are all restricted free agents. Which means they really don’t have to worry about them until the summer. Marc Staal isn’t coming cheap and is going to happen when it happens. As we saw last year, that one will probably happen closer to March. (And by happen, I mean a decision will be made. He’ll either be re-signed or traded.) That leaves Matt Hunwick (who may or may not be re-signed), Mats Zuccarello (who is in the same boat as Talbot was except his raise will be bigger) and Marty St. Louis (who I would be surprised if done before the summer). Of the three, St. Louis isn’t going anywhere if the Rangers say they want him so he’ll wait to see what’s available. I haven’t a clue what to expect with the other two.

But those are issues for another day. For now, the Rangers have roughly $47.448 million tied up in seven forwards, four defensemen and two goalies. Not pretty but could be a lot worse. The bigger issue is a few of those missing pieces listed above are going to get huge paydays. But it’s only December. I’m not worrying about that yet.

For now, welcome back Cam!

Mumps Wreaking Havoc On Rangers Organization

I said as soon as word came out that Tanner Glass had the mumps that the Rangers were in trouble. I hate being right.

First the good news. The isolation period will be over for Derick Brassard tomorrow and he will re-join the team at practice. There is no word if he will play this weekend but my guess is he will if he can since the team needs him. And why do they need him?

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Lee Stempniak is the next victim. I’m really worried it’s going to hit the entire team, and the worst of it will come at the least opportune time (not that there is an opportune time). The good news for Stempniak is I assume the five days starts today meaning he would only miss this weekend’s games and then it would be a conditioning question. Considering the Rangers only have one game before the Christmas break after that, my guess is he misses no more than three games.

But who’s next? The schedule has been light but it picks up after the holidays. And the Rangers head to California the second week of January. For those who don’t know why that’s relevant, it is believed the outbreak started in California (Anaheim, to be specific). This isn’t good.

The worst part is if the team needs another player, they would normally call up someone from Hartford. Except the mumps have made their way there as well with forward Joey Crabb and head coach Ken Gernander being secluded and tested. I guess we know one team won’t be sharing it with the other if they both have it.

I just want to know how this is happening? If you had told me at the start of the season that the 2014-15 NHL season would be known as the season of the mumps, I would’ve laughed at you. Or asked you what it referred to assuming it was an acronym for something rather than the disease. I had no idea people still got the mumps. But they do. And it’s a serious issue now for the Rangers. One that probably isn’t going away soon as we have no way of knowing who else is carrying the disease until the symptoms appear. I’m afraid to think of who might be next…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)