What Will The Rangers Do With Keith Yandle?

Currently, there is a large portion of the fan base and media who believes the Rangers Stanley Cup window is rapidly closing (i.e. it will be closed this summer). I don’t subscribe to that notion but I can understand why people do. Those that do, then, should realize what the Rangers plan was for Keith Yandle from the moment they got him. That yes, the Rangers traded Anthony Duclair for a year and a half of Keith Yandle.

But why would the Rangers do that? Well, if you think the Rangers Stanley Cup window is closing, it should make complete sense. Yandle was brought in for the last two chances at the Cup. If the window is closed after this season, why would they keep him? And yet, that seems to be what everyone wants the Rangers to do. Kind of ironic, if you ask me. (Or hypocritical, something this fan base is way to often.)

So what do I think the Rangers are going to do?

There is only one reason the Rangers will trade Yandle at the end of February. If this team completely collapses in the next few weeks and the organization decides they are not going to be able to make a run this spring, then the team will offer him to contenders and see what they can get. Since there is no way the Rangers will ever admit that, even if February turns into a worse month than December was, I say Yandle is staying. (There is an extremely slight chance that if offered a player they can’t refuse, someone like Steven Stamkos, they would be willing to part with the soon-to-be UFA. But only contenders will take on rentals and therefore won’t be giving up players like that. Plus it would cost a lot more than Yandle to get someone like Stamkos.)

Does this mean the Rangers plan to lose him for nothing this summer? Yes it does. But this has been the agenda all along. The Rangers knew there was no way they were going to be able to re-sign Yandle this summer from the moment they got him. They were in win-now mode and had planned to win either last year or this year (or both) and thought he was the missing piece. Then they would let him cash in somewhere else. Because here’s the thing – no matter what you think of some of the current Rangers defensemen, Yandle will never be a top two or even a top four in this group. So even if the Rangers somehow figured out a way to pay him, he isn’t going to stay.

How can I say that Yandle isn’t one of the top defensemen on this team? Easy. He’s not. If you asked me who the Rangers best offensive player on the blue line was, I would respond “Keith Yandle” in an instant. That does not make him the best defenseman. There’s a reason the Coyotes have been what they’ve been the past few years. (Another thing that makes me laugh – most will say Yandle couldn’t do everything to help that team yet believe he could do it for the Rangers. As I said, the hypocrisy is hilarious.)

The ironic part is Yandle is the perfect player for Vigneault’s system, which is why I understand why fans and media want to keep him. But for years, the Rangers have been built around defense. That’s why guys like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal got the contracts they did. It wasn’t just loyalty (although I’m sure that had something to do with it). They play defense. I won’t argue they’ve been great at it this year but in essence, that is what they do.

Would it be great if the Rangers could keep Yandle? Of course. But the guy wants to get paid. And while I’ve never said Girardi or Staal deserved the contracts they got, even if there wasn’t a cap I’m not paying that money to Yandle either. (It’s the same reason I still have no problem with the Rangers letting Carl Hagelin go.) Honestly, I would be shocked if Yandle hasn’t already decided to either go to the Bruins (money/home) or back to the Coyotes (where his heart is). And the Rangers know it. Unfortunately they need him for the run so they have to lose him for nothing.

But that was the plan all along. And those who think the window is about to close should be able to see and understand that. Is it a great situation? No. It’s why I didn’t like the trade from the start. But that’s what a team does when they are in win-now mode. So the good news is, Yandle will still be a Ranger on March 1st. The bad news for some is that he won’t be one on September 1st.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Don’t Bend With Win Before Break

Can we all agree two points are two points no matter how you get them?

Because the truth is, no one will remember this game a week from now nonetheless come April. They will just see the two points in the standings. Which means it’s okay if the Rangers do the same thing they did with yesterday’s game tape and throw this one away.

Sure there were some positives – the Rangers welcomed back Derick Brassard who snapped out of his slump in a big way with two goals and three assists. And the power play actually scored a goal. But overall, I can’t imagine the team is happy with this one…other than getting the two points.

Our daily IR report hasn’t changed since yesterday – to the surprise of no one, Rick Nash was unable to go. Reportedly it is only a bone bruise and he should be ready when the team returns from break. We’ll see what happens. On defense, Dan Boyle was a healthy scratch, another non-surprise, allowing Dylan McIlrath a chance to get a game in. I think the kid wants to play as he might have been one of the best defenseman on the ice tonight.

You could tell early on the Rangers weren’t happy with their performance last night. Honestly, the first few minutes reminded me of the start against Vancouver last week where the Rangers came out flying…and hit a post on their first shift. This time it was just 21 seconds in as Chris Kreider rang one off the post. A little over a minute later, the Rangers would get their first power kill of the night. (I honestly don’t remember the power play so I’m just going to assume it was a power kill.)

Six minutes into the period, the Rangers finally capitalized with Dylan McIlrath rifling one for his second career goal. As with the first one, he didn’t really know how to celebrate. The goal was originally credited to J.T. Miller, who McIlrath thought had tipped it while standing in the crease, but review later showed Miller never touched it and McIlrath got a nice ovation when the change was announced.

Ten minutes later, the Sabres would tie it on a goal I can guarantee Henrik Lundqvist would want back. It came right after a commercial break where they had shown on the big board the guys skiing through NYC this past weekend after the storm. I joked Lundqvist was still focusing on that. Gionta did have a nice deflection but it was still a shot Lundqvist has to save.

The Rangers would get a split power kill to end the first period and start the second and once again did nothing with it. (Well, they killed it so I guess that was something.) The call was for a blatant knee by Pysyk on Jesper Fast after Evander Kane had “collided” with Mats Zuccarello a few seconds earlier. The first may have been a collision but the two back-to-back had me worrying it was going to be a long night. (Couldn’t say I was totally surprised either when I remembered it was Bylsma behind the Sabres bench.)

Early in the second, Derek Stepan was hit with a clear high stick that left his nose bloody (and possibly broken, although we won’t know for sure until after the break). Of course the referees missed it, forcing Stepan to rush to the bench and then complain to the referees during the next stoppage of play. I’m pretty sure his argument was something along the lines of “my nose didn’t just randomly start bleeding”.

The Rangers were given another power kill shortly afterwards which I remember even less than the first two so that tells you all you need to know.

It looked like that was how the rest of the period (and game) were going to go when a broken play by Kevin Hayes and Viktor Stalberg led to the go-ahead goal. Stalberg left the puck for Hayes, who whiffed on it and then Stalberg got the “rebound” and somehow put it in the net. It went in cleanly so maybe he got more on it than it looked like he did watching the goal live. Basically, the puck never should have been near the net nonetheless in it but the Rangers would take it.

The Sabres would get a power kill of their own late in the period and then a great chance in the waning seconds as Ryan O’Reilly came down on a breakaway. Somehow, and I’m still not sure how, Marc Staal caught him and stopped him without taking a penalty. It may have been the best defensive play we’ve seen from Staal all season.

Then came the third period. Six goals in twenty minutes. While I didn’t think the 2-1 lead was safe, I can’t say I was expecting that.

It started just a minute in when Derick Brassard got his first goal of the night to give the home team a 3-1 lead. Everyone in the building felt good as we all hoped a two goal lead would be safer than a one goal lead. Three and a half minutes later, the Sabres cut the lead to 3-2. A minute after that we had a tie game. I don’t even know who to blame on both goals. I do know it was the same defense pair and neither looked to be Kevin Klein’s brightest moments. (I’m honestly not sure he was to blame on the first one but his partner was trying to take Eichel so it was either him or the forwards who lost Girgensons. On the second goal, I’m not sure where he was but he wasn’t anywhere near where he was supposed to be.)

As the Garden prepared for the possibility of another loss after blowing a lead, J.T. Miller had other plans as he tapped in a Jesper Fast shot that had been deflected right to him to regain the lead. Guess he wasn’t happy with losing the goal earlier in the game. Honestly, I’m not sure if he was tired or annoyed that goal needed to be scored but he barely even celebrated what turned out to be the game winner.

Two minutes later, the Rangers were given another power play. Yes, I called this one a power play. Why? Because the boys did this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020726-604-ingame-h

Even Mats Zuccarello knew how good that pass from Derek Stepan was. I’m not sure what was better – the fact the Rangers bounced back and regained their two goal lead or the fact the power play scored. Actually the best part was the fact the Rangers didn’t blow this two goal lead. They would add an empty netter in the last minute and take the 6-3 victory heading into all star break.

Was it pretty? Absolutely not. But you don’t get points for style. You get points for wins. And it was a win, which is all the boys needed after yesterday’s debacle. Now they can enjoy their break and hopefully come back ready to be the team we know they are for the stretch run.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Fall Flat In Trip To Ottawa

Coming into today, the Senators had lost their last two games to the Devils and Islanders by a combined score of 11-5. Many assumed that would mean the Rangers should continue the trend and stomp all over them. I assumed that meant we would see a pissed off Senators team who wanted to clean up their game. I hate being right.

First, today’s IR report. One day I won’t have an injury update before getting to the game. Today is not that day. The good news was Chris Kreider felt better and was able to play today. The bad news? Rick Nash had more than pain in his leg after the game in Carolina. He was seen limping before the game by the beat writers and obviously missed today’s tilt. Vigneault apparently expects him to play tomorrow. I’m not sure why but guess we’ll find out tomorrow night.

Onto the game.

At around 4pm EST yesterday, the Rangers announced they had arrived in Ottawa. I can confirm Henrik Lundqvist was on that flight. I’m not sure about everyone else as it was all Senators for the first 17 minutes of the first period. I can’t even say the Rangers found their legs in the last three – they got a power play that managed to look competent and kept it going for the final minute. But otherwise, if not for Lundqvist, the game would’ve been over before the first intermission.

One of the worst players that period might have been Kevin Hayes, who looked like he was trying to make it easy for Vigneault to decide who to take out if Nash is ready tomorrow. It continued in the second when Jesper Fast gave Hayes the puck in the crease in front of a wide open net and he somehow whiffed on the shot. Now I’ll admit to never playing hockey so maybe certain plays aren’t as easy as they look but I think even the Senators were asking how he missed that.

But other than that, it looked like the Rangers had found their legs. I’m not sure I can use the word “dominated” in regards to their play that period but they did look like the better team for most of it. I say most of it because with less than a minute to go, Derick Brassard attempted an ill-advised pass towards the blue line in the offensive zone. It never made it to the teammate he was sending it to and the Senators rushed up the ice. Kevin Klein was beat on the side of the net and Ottawa had the lead with less than 20 seconds to go in the period.

My thought as time was winding down was how I wasn’t sure if I wanted the Rangers to score because the last time they got a goal in the last minute of the second period, they lost in regulation for the first time in over 70 games. After that goal went in, I hoped the Senators would have the same result. Of course we didn’t get that lucky.

Less than three minutes into the third, the fourth line would miss on an offensive chance and that combined with an ill-advised pinch by Ryan McDonagh would lead to an odd man rush the other way. (This wasn’t as blatant as Brassard’s mess up in the second period. The line did have a few chances and then the puck turned the other way.) Hoffmann put a perfect shot over Lundqvist and the Sens lead was now 2-0.

I wish I could say the Rangers pushed to get back in the game after that. Some days a team just doesn’t have it. For whatever reason (I’m sure many will blame the travel or fact that they couldn’t practice yesterday as planned), the boys just didn’t have it today. It’s days like today I really wonder which is worse – losing when the team plays a good game and deserved to win or losing when the team comes out flat and loses. The latter might be easier because you can just throw out the tape, which is what I’m guessing they plan to do with today’s game.

And now the boys (hopefully) head home for one more game before the all star break – a match with the Sabres tomorrow night at MSG. Let’s hope the boys are embarrassed by today’s performance and puts on one of their best showings of the year tomorrow.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Family On Display At Rangers Fan Forum

As a Rangers seasons’ subscriber, I get one perk other than the ability to go to every game each year (something that I appreciate, especially come playoff time). Season subscribers get one event with the players. We have an option of the “Kids Day” event where a five or six players hang out and play games with all the kids in attendance or the “Fan Forum” where five players sit on stage and informally talk to the fans about a bunch of topics. As I’m not a kid and don’t have any, I obviously choose the latter.

This years’ event was held at Cipriani’s Wall Street, an interesting location if you ask me. The restaurant is beautiful but not exactly the best set up for a forum like this. At least it wasn’t in the middle of Times Square again.

While I look forward to this event each year, I was even more excited this year due to the players in attendance – Kevin KleinKevin HayesKeith YandleDerek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. I specifically wanted to see the last two together as we know their friendship off the ice. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more banter between them but getting Stepan at this event for the first time in his six seasons was definitely worth the wait.

Let me start off with the one negative (other than setup) for this years’ event – Alyonka Larionov was one of the hosts again. I truly do like Alyonka and I’m sure she knows the sport better than any of us ever will. But some people just aren’t good at running a forum. It’s not a knock on her as I know I could never do it. I just wish the Rangers would realize she’s bad at it. You know it’s bad when she walked on stage and there was a low groan and mumbling throughout the room. This year she had Sam Rosen with her. Unfortunately Sam let her do the bulk of the hosting, even as the players tried not to roll their eyes at times.

But enough with the negative as I truly love this event and this years’ was no different. You are probably wondering why I put “family” in the title. That’s because everything seemed revolve around that.

The night started off with the players being asked what they did on their off day. Derek Stepan bitterly told us he spent two hours on line at the post office. Sam took the bait and asked why. The bitterness turned into a smile when he admitted his son needed his first passport. He was then asked how fatherhood has changed him. With a straight face he replied “I’ve matured…” (to which the other four snickered). He then pointed at his head and said he’s lost some hair which brought a lot of laughs from the audience. I guess he figured he would beat everyone to the punch on that as he eagerly pointed out he had no hair whenever he got the chance. Later in the evening McDonagh took an opportunity to point out his “full head of hair” as he motioned to his friend. Stepan just shook his head.

I could probably write 5,000 words on the night so to avoid that, I’ll point out highlights for each player.

First, we learned a couple of things about some guys not in attendance. According to Klein, Mats Zuccarello likes to sleep a lot. Klein also mentioned that J.T. Miller was easily the best golfer on the team. And, while this wasn’t new news, all five of the players quickly replied Dan Girardi when asked who had the most pregame rituals in the room.

Has anyone noticed that all Rangers players where a helmet during warmups? Yandle informed us that is Glen Sather’s rule while relaying a story of how on his first day he went to go out without one and McDonagh quickly told him to get his helmet. Sather gets a big plus in my book for this.

And we got some nicknames. Jayson Megna is “Liquid Hot” (which we had heard when he first came up), Dominic Moore is the “Professor”, Oscar Lindberg is “Oscar the Grouch”, Rick Nash is the “Slim Reaper” (“a goalies worse nightmare” per either Klein or Yandle, can’t remember which said it) and Marc Staal is now “Staalzingis” for the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis.

Now onto those in attendance.

Kevin Klein

Klein was relatively quiet on the night, other than attempting to tell of Girardi’s superstitions. He was asked about coming to New York after being in Nashville and reiterated a number of times how great the Rangers treat their players. At one point he motioned to his two captains sitting next to him and said “you don’t want to start here and go somewhere else…”. We know the Rangers do a lot for their players but seeing the reaction from Klein and Yandle when discussing the difference between New York and Nashville/Phoenix definitely confirms it.

He did point out that New York has “great plastic surgeons” when discussing his ear injury from last year and replied “I enjoyed my childhood” when the question of what you would tell your younger self was posed. But otherwise the quiet stay at home defenseman was just that.

Kevin Hayes and Keith Yandle

I have to put these two together because almost everything involving one also involved the other. They called each other “family” and it was clear early on that Yandle takes care of Hayes. At one point, Yandle was asked about “his son”, referring to Hayes as I believe Yandle has two daughters. Speaking of which, Hayes apparently lost a game of Candyland to the two of them. Yandle was quick to point out that they are two and four to which Hayes replied that the two year old was the biggest cheater he’s met. The other three just shook their heads.

I was expecting Hayes to be one of those players I questioned why was at an event like this but he was surprisingly open. He admitted to not having silverware or plates in his apartment all last year, to which Yandle shook his head, and apparently has to have Starbucks before games. When asked who his favorite player was he replied “It’s funny cause I play with his brother but it’s actually Eric Staal. I’m not sure if Marc knows that though cause I’ve never met him.” I really hope a meeting took place last night with the team in Carolina.

Obviously the two were asked about the Patriots and Hayes joked he might have an injury on Sunday since their game was the same time as the Rangers game. (Stepan then asked Sam if he was working that game and Sam replied “No! We have a game in Ottawa!”. All five players just shook their heads at him.)

As for Yandle, the one fact that seemed to get a lot of attention was him admitting his favorite shows were “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant”. Listening to Hayes explain watching TV with him reminded me of a few years ago when Girardi told the story of being forced to watch “Toddlers and Tiaras” with Ryan Callahan.

We also know he has a lot of nicknames for the team. The latest one? “New York Pants on the Ground”. Apparently one of the first things the Rangers do when they come into the locker room is take all of their equipment out of their lockers and place it on the floor. Yandle was not used to this and was quite surprised to see 19 pairs of hockey pants sitting on the floor when he arrived for his first game.

Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh

These two didn’t have as much together but there was still a few things so I’m going to link them.

My favorite moment was when the players were asked about their favorite memory from playing at MSG. McDonagh mentioned his first goal and the reaction from the Rangers fans when it happened. Stepan added that it was a pretty important goal against the Devils as it was the last game of the season and the team needed to win to get into the playoffs. He was right but I loved that Stepan knew the details of McDonagh’s first NHL goal.

The two also lit up at any mention of Wisconsin. So Sam asked how two Minnesota boys end up with a rival college. McDonagh said he fell in love with the campus when visiting there and knew that’s where he wanted to go. As for Stepan, he admitted that it was the only offer he got so when they asked if he wanted to play on a full scholarship, “that offer didn’t sit on the table long”. (He apparently really wanted to be a Gopher but they had too many recruits so couldn’t take him.) And when Yandle and Hayes admitted they never had cheese curds, the two looked appalled. (Klein played in Milwaukee so he knew about them.)

On separate notes, McDonagh was quiet as I expected. I know he will say the captaincy hasn’t changed him but since he got the C, he has been very reserved. It’s a shame cause in the beginning it looked like he had a great personality. We did learn that his official nickname is “Truck” or “Trucker” as I don’t think the other four referred to him as anything else the entire night.

Stepan, had a few moments. He did talk about his son a little more than I expected (especially considering it took forever for him to mention his name or even that it was a boy). Apparently the passport was needed because he might be spending the all star break in the Caribbean with the Girardi’s.

We learned his new favorite show is “New Girl” and that he would tell his younger self to wear less hats. Alyonka asked if that would’ve helped and Stepan said no, then told the crowd how every male in his family was bald so he was screwed from the start. He was asked about his OT winner last year and repeated that he kind of blacked out in the moment. He did say that about 20 minutes later his first thought was how did Derick Brassard get to him so quickly as he almost beat the guys on the ice to him. If you look at the pictures, he’s right.

**********

While I’m sure there were other moments, those were the ones that stuck out in a night full of laughs. It’s great that some of the fans get to witness this each year. I just wish there was a way for everyone to as it’s the one time the players really come off as just like the rest of us. They say they are paid to be kids for an extra ten to twenty years. Nights like this we get to see how true that is. While I readily admit I wished the Rangers did more for their season subscribers and fans in general, I am forever grateful to get to take part in an event like this each year.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus. You can see more photos, specifically closeups of each of the players, from the event here.)

Rangers Continue Dominance Over Canes

Coming into tonight, the Rangers had two streaks on the line. They had won their last 18 out of 19 games against the Hurricanes. They also hadn’t won consecutive games in two months and were coming off a win. Something had to give. Fortunately it was the second streak that came to an end.

When I saw Chris Kreider collide with Vrbata on Tuesday night, my first thought was he better be okay as he had finally been playing well. He didn’t get another shift in overtime but was part of the post game celebration on the ice. I then realized he was one of the last ones off the bench to go to that scrum. He usually is one of the first so I knew he was shaken up. And he was as he missed practice yesterday and tonight’s game with neck spasms. The good news is Vigneault expects him to be okay for Sunday’s game.

In his place, with Jayson Megna being sent back to Hartford, Daniel Paille made his Rangers debut. I thought he played a solid game, getting a little over 15 minutes with one shot on net (that came on his first shift). While Paille was playing his first game for the Rangers, his best friend Dan Girardi was playing his 800th game (regular season + playoffs) as a blueshirt. (Yes, I know. I needed a segue.) To give you an idea how many that is, he is only the 10th player in franchise history to hit that mark.

As for the game, the first period was a little strange. It started well for the Rangers but the Hurricanes quickly found their legs and seemed to push some of the play. Then the Rangers got a power kill. It looked like the Canes would really gain momentum after that when a minute later Ryan McDonagh perfectly intercepted a Liles pass in the neutral zone. The captain then used his speed to rush into the zone and blast one past Lack to give the visitors the lead.

Roughly three and a half minutes later, Kevin Hayes took the puck from rookie Noah Hanifin at the Canes blue line. He passed to Oscar Lindberg who found a streaking Keith Yandle for the 2-0 lead. The entire sequence was a great play by the Rangers but I’ll admit it was strange seeing Hayes on the right side of a turnover at the blue line. Maybe he finally is learning.

That was all for the first period and MSG readily pointed out that the Canes were 0-13-0 when trailing after the first period this season. (I’m surprised they’ve only trailed 13 times.)

The second period started with Derek Stepan getting a breakaway and hitting the post. He just has no luck on breakaways.

Two minutes later, Dan Boyle would be high sticked behind the Rangers net. The referees missed it. Rather than keep playing, Boyle complained to the referee and left his man, Joakim Nordstrom, alone in front of the net. Nordstrom made him pay by cutting the Rangers lead in half. I would expect a move like that from a rookie, not a 39-year old veteran.

But unlike the December Rangers, tonight the boys didn’t bend after the goal. They kept playing their game. It is one of the reasons why I didn’t give up on them in December. The fragile team we were seeing wasn’t the team I know. It seems they may have finally put that behind them.

Six minutes later, J.T. Miller continued his recent play with a rifle top shelf to regain the two goal lead. The shift started with a great forecheck by his linemates, Stepan and Jesper Fast.

Then exactly 2:10 later, he did this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020705-402-ingame-h

As I’ve said, someone likes the top six role they currently have and doesn’t want to lose it. If he keeps this up, he’s also going to be paid nicely this summer.

Even though there was a little less than half a period to go, nothing else happened during that time and the Rangers took a 4-1 lead to the locker room.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to see it but the Rangers went into defensive lock down in the third period. It was obvious early on that they had no intention of trying to extend their lead (unless they could get the puck to Miller for the hat trick) and it ended with them being outshot 12-1 in the period. But Henrik Lundvist was up to the task and the Rangers had their first consecutive wins in exactly two months (November 21 and 23).

The only news from the third period surrounded Rick Nash. On his first shift, it looked like he hit a rut and went awkwardly into the boards. He had a lot of trouble getting up and eventually was helped off by Zuccarello and Jim Ramsay. On first look, it looked like he hit his head as he fell into the boards. But he clearly wasn’t putting pressure on his left leg as he went off and Rangers fans feared the worse. Eight minutes later, he was back on the bench. He would play two shifts, the second coming on the penalty kill where he blocked a shot off his knee and again limped off. He stayed on the bench but guessing he will be quite sore tomorrow. Due to the weather, the Rangers won’t be practicing so we will have to wait until Sunday to get to know for sure he is okay.

But for now, the Rangers can breath easier knowing they finally got consecutive wins. That the trend has finally been broken. That they finally look like the team we expect them to be. Lundqvist said they looked like they did in October. Let them think that. Let them have that confidence. I haven’t been worried because I knew this would come. There’s still plenty of time left in the season but it looks like the boys are finally headed in the right direction.

Next up, an Ottawa team that has gotten killed by the Devils and Islanders the past two games. Let’s make it a hat trick of local teams beating them.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Sign Daniel Paille

Throughout the Rangers recent slump, it seems there has been a different thing to blame each game. First, the team went through a slump of not being able to defend. The defense got healthy and they have kind of remembered how to do that. (It’s still not perfect but it’s a lot better then it was.) Then the issue was scoring. They are still trying to figure that part out.

The other problem recently? Penalty killing. The numbers are downright ugly the past few weeks. Well the Rangers are hoping they solved that problem earlier today:

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I can’t say I was expecting that. I did wonder if he was an option during the summer but then he went to the Blackhawks on a tryout. He didn’t make the team but signed with their AHL team and has been playing there since October. This morning he was “released” and now he is a Ranger.

So what do we know about Daniel Paille?

Let’s get the easy part, and the part everyone has made sure to mention, out of the way first – his childhood best friend is Dan Girardi. How do I know this? Well Paille actually appeared in Girardi’s episode of Beginnings. Needless to say, I’m convinced Girardi had something to do with this signing. (In my mind, Vigneault went to his leadership group and said “we need to fix the penalty kill”. Girardi responded “I have an idea!” and suggested bringing in Paille. I’m sure this isn’t what happened but until I hear otherwise, I’m going with it.)

As for Paille the player, he was part of the famous “Merlot Line” in Boston when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Remember a few years ago when the Rangers had a fourth line they trusted against everyone and put on the ice whenever they could? Well the Bruins were one of the first teams to have a fourth line that could do that and Paille was part of it. Is he still the player he was then? I doubt it or he wouldn’t have been looking for a NHL contract halfway through the season. But the hope is he still has something left.

In regards to numbers…well, the Rangers didn’t get him for that. But if you’re curious, you can see them here. Vigneault made it clear he was brought in for one reason:

“We brought him in for depth and also for a specific role,” Vigneault said of Paille, who has 570 games of NHL experience under his belt. “He’d been playing fourth line, penalty killing role in Boston for quite some time, and our penalty killing could use some real good help.  Now we have a guy that’s got an established presence and knowledge of penalty killing. Hopefully he’ll be able to come in and help us.”

Not sure he can really hurt the penalty kill at this point, which has allowed 15 goals in it’s last 47 opportunities. That may not sound like a lot but that means opponents score almost 32% of the time when on the power play against the Rangers. That’s not good.

It sounds like he may jump right in so we’ll get to see if he can help right away. And if not, then the Rangers send him to Hartford. At reportedly $575k, you can’t blame them for giving it a shot.

Welcome to New York, Daniel!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Win-Loss Pattern Continues

From the start of the weekend, the moms were given a lot of grief about how the dads were 4-0 the past two years on their trips so they would have to bring the same luck. Not sure that was fair to them considering the opponents (Flyers and Capitals versus Avalanche, Coyotes, Predators and I think Lightning, although they lost that game so I’m not sure) and the way the team has been playing recently, but the team did it anyway. Unfortunately the moms don’t get the same bragging rights as they are 1-1.

Last week, Vigneault made a comment about how no NHL player is 100% healthy at this point in the season. Apparently the Rangers want to prove that by continuing to get minor injuries that change their lineup each night. Today’s casualty? While he was able to take warmups, apparently Kevin Klein wasn’t okay from yesterdays’ blocked shot giving Dylan McIlrath a chance to redeem himself from Thursday’s game. (Oddly enough, Klein has the exact same injury Girardi had – a sore right thumb.)

Interesting enough, that led Vigneault to form these defense pairs:

Marc Staal – Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle – Dylan McIlrath

Okay then. Probably not what I would’ve done but I’ve stopped questioning the lines Vigneault and his staff comes up with.

It worked in the first period as the Rangers defended really well through the first twenty. They just needed to stay out of the penalty box.

First, the good news. Halfway through the period, Derek Stepan won an offensive zone face-off right to Mats Zuccarello. He passed it to Ryan McDonagh at the point who blasted one towards the net that Chris Kreider perfectly deflected to give the visitors the lead.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020673-36-h

If anyone has ever watched Kreider at the end of warmups, they recognized that deflection as it was the exact shot he practices before each game.

Exactly 14 seconds later, Dan Boyle crosschecked Williams and the Caps power play had a chance to get the goal back. Maybe it’s me, but that’s not exactly the way I would respond to my team scoring a goal. Somehow the Rangers bailed Boyle out and killed the penalty. They weren’t so lucky four minutes later when Derick Brassard took an even dumber holding penalty and we had a tie game. Before the game, Vigneault mentioned that Brassard and Zuccarello have been a little bit off with their decision making. My guess is that penalty was one of the (many) things he was referring to.

Fortunately for the Rangers, that was all the damage done in the first period so they went to intermission tied at one. Unfortunately for them, we had the return of the typical Rangers second period. And what is that? Well, it’s not good. And honestly, after how well they played the first period (other than the penalties), it was a little bit of a surprise.

It started early as after a failed clear, the third line and third defense pair got caught in their zone forcing McIlrath to take a penalty. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and the Caps had the lead.

The Rangers spent the next minute scrambling around the ice. It ended with the Caps taking a 3-1 lead. I wish I understood why the Rangers all of a sudden appear scared of the Capitals. Are they good? Yes. Are they better than previous years? Probably. Have you played them a million times the past five years and beaten them in a lot of those games? Yes, so someone needs to explain the issue here.

While the team would get a power kill shortly after the Caps third goal, they wouldn’t be able to put a dent in the deficit. The good news is the Caps wouldn’t be able to extend their lead when they got another power play a few minutes after that. Yes the defensive issues have been a big problem recently but I think the biggest issue might be the penalties. This team has to learn to stay out of the box.

With two and a half minutes to go, Chris Kreider got his second goal of the game by burying a rebound of a Rick Nash shot. I said he has been more noticeable recently. We just have to hope this continues.

Not sure what happened but Holtby pulled himself from the game twenty seconds later. When he didn’t come out for the third period, the Capitals said he would not return due to dehydration. This isn’t the first time he’s had this issue but he’s the only player I know of who does have it. Might be something the Caps want to look in to.

Did the Rangers take advantage of a cold goalie coming into the game? Of course not. And rather than coming out for the third period like they did in the first, they let the Caps regain their two goal lead less than five minutes into the period. Maybe the Caps really did become that much better of a team over the summer and the Rangers forgot how to play hockey during that same span. I still don’t actually believe that but I don’t know what else to say right now.

And so the Rangers pattern of “win a game, lose a game” continues. They still have not won two consecutive games since before American Thanksgiving. I guess the positive is that at least now they aren’t losing consecutive games. But they can’t stay at .500 and expect to go far this year. I know a lot of people are starting to believe they will be an early exit if they even make the playoffs. If this continues, I can’t blame them for that thinking. I still refuse to believe this is going to continue. January has been better than December. February will be better than January and so on. I just really want them to get out of this slump sooner rather than later. And yes I realize I have been saying that for a while now. Hey Rangers, I’d like to stop saying it already. Can you help with that?

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)