Rangers Squeak By Blue Jackets

Anyone who followed the trade deadline earlier today was disappointed at how few moves were made and how quiet the day turned out to be. (I’m actually surprised the Rangers did nothing else, other than a minor league move that sent Ryan Bourque to the Caps for Chris Brown.) That said, I can promise that there was more action leading up to 3 pm EST this afternoon then there was as MSG tonight.

I get it. The Blue Jackets are having another lost season so they just try to shut teams down. John Tortorella preaches forechecking and defense. But I watched a Tortorella team for six years and I can’t blame his style on what I witnessed tonight. It was just a really bad hockey game.

So bad, that I’m pretty sure no one wants to re-live it (and I couldn’t even if I tried). So I’m just going to throw out some things I noticed in the game.

Let’s get the easy one out of the way – Eric Staal made his Rangers debut. It was really strange to not only see Eric in blue but to see “M. Staal” and “E. Staal” on the ice this evening. That will take some time to get used to. It will also take time for Eric to adjust. Did he have a bad first game? No. He had some moments where he made some good plays. But it was clear this is a work in progress. He spent the first two periods centering Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg and the third period on the wing with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. I did like how cleanly he won some face-offs so can see why Vigneault wants him at center. Guess we’ll see what happens.

Antti Raanta was fantastic. Honestly, I don’t think I need to say anything else. There isn’t anyone who will blame him on the goal he let up and he was easily the best player in blue tonight. (There wasn’t a high bar on that but he was the clear frontrunner.)

So let’s talk about the goal against. I usually don’t come home from games and re-watch goals against but I did on this one because I wanted to understand why. Replay didn’t help. I have no idea why it happened. I know Dan Girardi made a pass that to the rest of us looked like he shouldn’t have. But did he think his defense partner was still on the point? (He wasn’t and in fact replay showed me Derek Stepan was closer than Ryan McDonagh was.) Did he miss Atkinson in the middle? There was another Blue Jackets player closer to him so maybe he just tried to get it over that players’ stick. I have no idea. But as soon as it was intercepted, Raanta could’ve left the net because there wasn’t much he could do. Sad part is he made the initial save.

After the game, Tortorella told Blue Jacket’s media “There’s no sense in me commenting on their winning goal. Nothing good is coming out of my mouth on that one.” I’m assuming that was against his players as Derek Stepan scored his (and the teams’) second shorthanded goal of the year:

https://www.nhl.com/video/embed/stepans-shorthanded-tally/t-278781198/c-41989303?autostart=false

Stepan said after the game he was going to shoot and elected to make the move instead. Since it worked, we’ll accept it. I’m not sure what reaction would’ve been if he missed.

As for the first goal, it happened because Mats Zuccarello was out with the fourth line instead of Dylan McIlrath. So what did we learn by watching McIlrath play forward tonight? That it should be a one game thing for the rookie and not tried again. That’s nothing against McIlrath. I wouldn’t expect a defenseman to play forward any more than I would expect a forward to be able to play defense. They play the positions they do for a reason. But McIlrath looked so lost out there. One shift that stood out was in the second period. He got the puck at the Rangers blue line and simply had no idea what to do. So he sent it down the ice to no one turning it into an icing. Again, I’m not blaming him. I just hope the Rangers have space to call another player up if this happens again.

And with that, I think I wrote more about this game than it deserved. So I, like the Rangers, will take the two points and move on. I just hope the boys play a lot better in their next three games. They won’t get away with the play they had tonight against the Penguins, Capitals or Islanders.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Staals Are Brothers…On The Rangers

We knew it wouldn’t be quiet around the Rangers for much longer. I also should’ve known as soon as I said in last nights’ recap that the Rangers wouldn’t be getting a certain player, that it would guarantee that player was headed to New York.

So what did the Rangers do on their off Sunday before the trade deadline? For the second year in a row, it was another big name headed to Broadway:

I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know if I’m finally growing accustomed to these trades or if this one really isn’t that bad, but I’m not mad at the Rangers for this move. Maybe because I was expecting it to be a lot worse.

So let’s break this down. What did the Rangers get?

That’s easy, another Staal. I’m not even going to mention the relationship or who Eric Staal is because if you don’t already know that then you’ve been living under a rock. The question is what type of player is he? A couple of years ago, he easily would have been the Rangers best center and possibly even best forward. But he’s declined over the past few seasons and is having his worst career year this year. Will a change of scenery help? Only time will tell. Obviously the Rangers are hoping for that.

The assumption is he will be playing in the top six tomorrow night. My guess is he will be on the wing with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider but Vigneault has plenty of options. We’ll find out at practice tomorrow morning, assuming Eric will be there. (That would be the ultimate troll move if he didn’t get in until closer to game time but sounds like he is on his way to New York this evening. Well, probably Connecticut since I’m assuming he’s crashing at Marc’s place.)

In regards to players and picks, that’s all the Rangers got. But they did get one other thing:

Now that is huge. Honestly, it’s the only way this deal works. It doesn’t leave the Rangers much space to make any other moves but allowed them to make this trade without giving up any current roster players.

So what did the Rangers give up?

Like last year, let’s discuss what they didn’t give up. Someone somewhere thought it would be funny to start a rumor that the Canes might get Chris Kreider in a deal for Staal. That would’ve have pissed me off more than any of the deals they’ve made the past few seasons and it wouldn’t have been close. Honestly, that would have been an absurd overpayment. Personally, I can’t imagine Kreider is even available. If he is…I’m not even going there because there is no way he is. (Yes he’s having a bad season. That helps the Rangers as it makes it easier to re-sign him this summer.)

But what they did give up might be why I’m okay with the trade. There was rumor earlier today that the Canes wanted a 1st round pick and the Rangers refused. Yes, you read that correctly. The Rangers actually refused to trade a 1st round pick. I was shocked. Of course they gave up their 2nd round picks both this year and next year. I guess they figure if they can find Henrik Lundqvist in the 7th round, they can get that lucky again in later rounds. Or they’ll just hope other teams’ give up on who they’ve picked in the 1st round and trade them to the Rangers. (It’s worked in the past. See McDonagh, Hayes, Brian Boyle, amongst others.)

They also gave up their 3rd round draft pick from 2015, Finnish forward Alexsi Saarela. I won’t pretend to say I follow the teams’ European draft picks but last June, I had written he “reportedly is a good puck handler but an average skater.” This year he had 31 points in 43 games as a 19-year old. As with the day players are drafted, come back to me in a few years and I’ll let you know if this was a good or bad move to make.

**********

So the Rangers finally made their first move. Will it be their last? Being that Jeff Gorton pointed out they have space for one more small player in his conference call about the trade, I’m going to assume no. But I do expect this to be the big move for the year. We’ll see what happens in the next 24 hours. All we do know is the Rangers are officially “all in” for this year, again. As they have been for the past three years. No they haven’t succeeded. But you can’t say it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The question is how many more tries will they get? Hopefully this year finally is the year.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Bend, Don’t Break In Win In Dallas

There are a lot of people who are against inter-conference games. I don’t mind them that much. What I don’t like? Random afternoon games. For those wondering why, watch the first period of today’s 3 pm local start.

In regards to lineup, the only question before the game was if Jesper Fast would be able to play. Fast took a puck to the face during practice yesterday and suffered a broken nose. Apparently he had trouble stopping the bleeding all night but there he was, with a full face shield, on the ice for warmups. After playing 18 and a half minutes, I can only say “only a hockey player”.

Now onto that first period. The first ten minutes of the period happened. The second ten minutes of the period…happened. At least the teams attempted to do stuff during the second half but nothing really to talk about during that period. (I’m going to avoid discussing Dominic Moore deciding not to shoot when starring at a wide open net since that seemed to be a theme all night.)

The second period looked like it would be the exact opposite. It started with the teams skating 4-on-4 due to coincidental minors to Tanner Glass and Patrick Sharp as the first period ended. (I think all fans can agree the Rangers will take that trade off any day.) The Rangers dominated the 4-on-4 play but weren’t able to get one past Lehtonen.

Four and a half minutes into the period, the Stars put the puck over the glass leading to the games’ first power play. I was expecting two minutes to be killed off the clock. Instead it took the Rangers four seconds, yes four seconds, to get the games’ first goal. A face-off win by Derick Brassard back to the point for a shot by Keith Yandle to a screening Chris Kreider for the deflection and goal. Not sure what woke Kreider up but he was flying all afternoon.

The Rangers had momentum for the next couple of shifts but then the Stars took over. A misplay on a change shortly before the halfway mark led to the Stars tying the game. Both teams would have chances over the next nine minutes but either elected not to shoot (usually the Rangers) or the necessary saves were made.

With just under two minutes remaining, Glass drew another penalty. I knew we weren’t going to see what we did on the first one so was just hoping for competency. Instead, Derek Stepan lost the initial draw and it was basically a power kill. At least it allowed the Rangers to enter the third period tied.

I guess players are used to 5 pm starts because the third period had a little bit of everything. The Stars came out firing and it looked like it might be a long period. Then a little past the eight minute mark, the Rangers trapped the Stars in their zone getting numerous chances. Finally, Oscar Lindberg rifled one that Lehtonen saved but left a juicy rebound that bounced to the side of the net. Ryan McDonagh (not sure why he was down that low since it was late in the shift) threw it from a sharp angle towards the net. It hit Lehtonen in the back and bounced in to give the visitors the lead again.

At that point, there was 11:34 remaining in the game. Watching the Stars at the start of the following shift, I didn’t think the Rangers would make it to the 10-minute mark without the game being tied. And they almost didn’t when with 10:33 remaining, Henrik Lundqvist made a save and then lost the puck with it bouncing behind him and back out. On the ice, it was called no goal. The play was reviewed and Toronto concluded that there was inconclusive evidence to show the puck over the goal line. I have absolutely no idea what they were looking at as I saw the puck over the goal line but wasn’t going to complain about the call. The Stars, on the other hand, weren’t pleased.

With five and a half minutes remaining, this happened:

Girardi-puck

Yes, that is an actual picture from the game. I don’t even know how that could happen but Dan Girardi was laughing as much as the rest of us about it. From replay of the play, it looked like the puck deflected up at him and managed to get stuck flat between his face and visor. Thank goodness or that would have been really bad. And because it’s Girardi, he joked about it afterwards telling the media he had a great view of the logo on the puck.

Of course the Rangers weren’t laughing a minute and a half later when the Stars push finally paid off. A questionable line change (something I have noticed a lot of recently with this team), led to the Stars heading up the ice and Nichushkin rifling one off Girardi’s stick and past Lundqvist for the tying goal. I understand there was a deflection (which should not have happened) but Lundqvist has to hold his post better on the play.

But as we’ve seen many times before, once the opposition scores, the Rangers actually wake up and try to push some offense. Tonight it took them a little over a minute to regain the lead. The Stars gained control on the face-off after their goal and almost took the lead. Fortunately for the visitors, it hit the pipe allowing the Rangers to grab the puck and headed up the ice. A couple of chances missed but with tied Stars players not being able to gain control, the visitors finally took advantage as Derek Stepan found Kevin Klein in the slot for a perfect shot and the 3-2 lead.

That left the team exactly 2:53 to kill. As is the case most nights, I have no idea how they managed to do it but they did and the Rangers took their second consecutive victory. Honestly, I have no idea how this team swept both the Blues and Stars this year. It’s why no one can figure out what type of team they are. There is no logical explanation for them winning four games against those two teams.

Which brings us to Monday and the trade deadline. I wasn’t expecting anything while the guys were on the road because they wouldn’t have had a complete roster if they made a move. But now they don’t play until Monday night meaning today’s roster might look different when it steps on the ice at MSG Monday night. Will it be drastically different? Probably not. But I expect the Rangers to do something. It will be interesting to see what. (And I’m putting this on record, I don’t expect it to be Eric Staal…but stranger things have happened.)

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Lundqvist Leads Rangers In Win Over Blues

There are plenty of nights the Rangers need their goaltender. After tonight, Henrik Lundqvist has led the team to 30 of their 35 wins this season. Yes this stat is a little skewed due to there no longer being ties, but he is the first goaltender in NHL history to win at least 30 games in 10 of his first 11 seasons. If not for the lockout shortened season, it would have been 11 of 11. And that is why we call him “the King”.

With Brady Skjei being sent back to Hartford right after the game Tuesday night, it was expected that either Ryan McDonagh or Marc Staal would be ready to play today. Fans got good news when the Rangers announced that both would be in the lineup tonight leaving rookie Dylan McIlrath as the odd man out. Probably for the best as one of McIlrath’s first games came against the Blues and it didn’t end well.

The game started pretty even, both teams seemingly in a feeling out phase and therefore each getting a couple of chances. The the Blues found their legs and my first thought was how this would have to be a game Henrik Lundqvist would need to stand on his head in for the Rangers to have a chance. I was right.

Then with a little over seven minutes remaining in the period, what many would call a miracle happened – Dan Girardi shot the puck from the point and it was deflected into the net by Tanner Glass. The two most maligned Rangers combined to give the Rangers the lead. And what was Glass’ reaction during intermission (where it was clear he wasn’t used to explaining what happened on a goal)? “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again.” Classic. I knew there was no chance of a shutout but I really wanted that to be the winning goal.

Somehow, the Rangers got out of the period holding on to that 1-0 lead.

And then came the second period. The dreaded second period. In retrospect to Tuesday night, the Rangers played much better in the middle frame. Overall, those middle twenty minutes need work.

Things started out well. The Rangers and Blues were again pretty even through the first three minutes, again each team getting chances. Then David Backes was called for goaltender interference. I’m just going to say it – it was a horrible call. Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti agreed, although they didn’t say it. They just got really quiet when watching the replay. The good news for the Blues was the Rangers didn’t even get a shot on goal during the next two minutes so no harm done.

But the power kill didn’t kill the Rangers momentum and the period was still pretty even till around the halfway mark. Then the Blues started taking over. And then Dan Girardi took a double minor for high sticking with six and half minutes to go. I can’t tell you exactly what happened because MSG was too busy fawning over a play by Ryan McDonagh to notice there was even a penalty on the play but I believe during a scramble in front of the net, Girardi tried to lift Tarasenko’s stick and missed. Well he missed the stick. He caught Tarasenko in the face instead and the Russian dropped to the ice. To be fair, it looked like he was hit near the eye so thankfully it wasn’t as serious as it could have been.

The problem is the Rangers can’t penalty kill. It took roughly a minute for the Blues to tie the game, meaning the Rangers still had the second penalty to kill. Somehow, they managed that so the only damage was one goal. But at this point, the Blues had all the momentum. How much so? The Rangers took a shot with exactly 8:55 remaining in the period. Their next shot? 3:57 into the third. Almost 13 minutes between shots. And over that time they only had three attempted shots (two were blocked and one missed the net). The fact it was still a 1-1 game at that point was due to one player – Henrik Lundqvist.

Twenty seconds after that shot came their second shot of the period, a bullet by Chris Kreider that found the back of the net to give the visitors the lead again:

https://www.nhl.com/video/embed/kreider-hammers-home-a-goal/t-278700136/c-41837003?autostart=false

I still have no idea how he can jump that high in skates.

It isn’t shown in the video but you hear mention of Lundqvist stopping a breakaway. Here’s what happened in-between the Rangers first two shots of the period. The Rangers won the ensuing face-off and got the puck to the point where Ryan McDonagh simply misplayed it, leading to a breakaway for Scottie Upshall. Not going to lie, I was glad it was Upshall and not one of their stars. Lundqvist came up huge and made the save allowing the Rangers to go back the other way. Kevin Hayes got the puck to Oscar Lindberg who somehow found a streaking Kreider for the goal. They always say a save at one end ends up in the back of the net at the other.

The problem with the goal? The Rangers had a little under 16 minutes to try and kill. It wasn’t easy to watch, and included another power kill (with as many shots as the first one) as well as an actual penalty kill plus a whiff on the empty net, but the boys got the job done to get back in the win column. Although if I’m being honest, Lundqvist got the job done. The guys in front of him weren’t really helping the situation. But we’ve grown accustomed to that over the years.

But it was a huge win on the road against a team who is one of the top teams in the league. Next up? Oh just a Saturday afternoon match up with the Western conference leading Dallas Stars. No big deal. Hope Lundqvist gets a lot of rest over the next 36 hours.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Skip Train To Newark

The great thing about the NHL is you learn a new rule every night. People say that broadcasts need to explain the game to new fans. In actuality, all fans learn something just by watching the game. For instance, Rangers fans (and players and media and probably the Devils bench as well) learned Rule 46.15 exists tonight. You never know what you will learn tuning into a hockey game!

In all seriousness, Rule 46.15 does exist and while I didn’t know it, I want to know how the Rangers weren’t aware of it. But we’ll get to that in a little bit.

Earlier in the day, after Vigneault said there would be no other roster moves as the Rangers try to save every penny before the deadline, the Rangers recalled Brady Skjei. My first reaction was who has the flu now? Turns out it wasn’t the flu but a “lower body tweak” (those were the Rangers words, not mine) to Marc Staal. I don’t know what that is but it reportedly isn’t serious.

But what it meant was the Ranger defense tonight looked like this:

Keith Yandle – Dan Girardi
Brady Skjei – Kevin Klein
Dan Boyle – Dylan McIlrath

I know the Devils aren’t the flashiest team but I can’t say that line-up didn’t worry me.

The first period started off great with the Rangers controlling play and getting a number of chances on Schneider. Of course all that meant was the Devils managing to get the first goal less than five minutes into the game. I remember watching Dan Boyle continually turn over the puck behind the Rangers net and know the goal was coming. Unfortunately I was right.

Three and a half minutes later, Viktor Stalberg came down the boards and rifled one that left a juicy rebound in front of Schneider. Kevin Hayes pounced and we had a tie game.

Just 45 seconds later, Keith Yandle sent a shot towards the net that was deflected by Dominic Moore into the net to give the visitors the lead. I was sitting behind that goal at the Rock and immediately thought the goal wasn’t going to count because he kicked it in. After watching the replay, I still think it went off his skate but they apparently ruled it a good goal without any actual review and the Rangers had the lead. The secondary assist on the play went to Marek Hrivik, giving him his first NHL point.

That would be all for the first period. Then came the second period. Oh the second period. One day, the Rangers will play second periods on a regular basis. I’m still holding out hope it will happen. It didn’t tonight. After the game, Vigneault said it might have been their worst second period of the year. I guess that’s possible since I don’t remember writing about too many “typical Rangers second periods” this season. But no matter the personnel, this is one thing that doesn’t change.

The Devils controlled the first half of the period. (Well they controlled the entire period but I’m going to skip over the first half because nothing of note happened.) A little before the halfway mark, the Devils got the first power play of the game. It took less than a minute for the Devils to tie the game.

Somehow the Rangers got to within two minutes of the period ending before the Devils took the lead. I’m really not sure how it took that long other than Henrik Lundqvist was incredible (and the Devils can’t score). But when Chris Kreider couldn’t figure out what to do with the puck while in the defensive zone and ended up handing it over, I knew the goal was coming.

Then with time winding down, things got weird. For some reason that I’m still not sure of J.T. Miller and Sergey Kalinin decided to drop the gloves at center ice with one second remaining. The two had their fight and then headed to their locker rooms. Easy, each get five for fighting and we move on to intermission. But the referees were discussing something. When I realized it would be an extra penalty on the Rangers I thought it was Miller was being thrown for not having his jersey tied down. (It came off in the fight so I assumed that’s what happened.) I was wrong. It was Rule 46.15.

So what is Rule 46.15?

46.15 Match Penalty – Any player wearing tape or any other material on his hands (below the wrist) who cuts or injures an opponent during an altercation will receive a match penalty in addition to any other penalties imposed including for fighting under this rule.

I had noticed recently that Miller had his wrist taped. I didn’t know when it started or why but the wrist has been clearly taped for at least a few games now. (I honestly don’t remember when I first saw it.) Apparently it was taped too high and because Kalinin got cut, Miller was assessed a match penalty and his night was over.

I was pissed when I saw Miller fighting in the first place because the team needs him on the ice. Honestly, I wanted Kreider benched so figured Miller would get the extra shifts. But my level of anger was doubled once he got the game misconduct.

Here’s my issue – fine, I don’t know the rule. I’m sure almost everyone watching didn’t know the rule either. The beat writers sure didn’t seem to. But how do the Rangers not know the rule? How do they not know Miller’s hand is wrapped too high and therefore he can’t fight? If the fight happened due to a hit, then fine. Spur of the moment, he didn’t think about it. That’s not what happened. There was time to think. I don’t get it.

The worst part was the match penalty meant a five minute major, which meant the Rangers started the third period on the penalty kill. To say I wasn’t confident was an understand. But if the Rangers want to take one positive out of the game (not that they should), it was the first five minutes of the third period. The Rangers put on a clinic, allowing the Devils only one shot while they had numerous opportunities the other way. No one scored and I thought maybe the visitors had a chance.

Enter Derick Brassard, who decided to take another penalty just 41 seconds after the major had ended. Somehow the Rangers killed that as well but now time was running down as they were approaching the halfway mark.

As is usually the case, the Rangers did wake up as the clock really started to wind down but it was too little too late. A dumb play with less than three minutes to go made it 4-2 and the outcome was basically decided. For some random reason, Vigneault decided to pull Lundqvist after that. All that meant was the final score was 5-2 instead of 4-2 so I’m not really sure why he bothered.

The good news in all of this is that the Rangers are done with the Devils for the season, unless they meet in the playoffs. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen as the Rangers have chosen to show up to one out of the four matchups between the teams this year. And they almost lost that game too.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

The Day After: Additional Thoughts On Rangers-Red Wings

Two years ago, the Rangers and Red Wings played a January game at MSG that turned into a goaltending duel between Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard. It was said to be one of the best games of that year. I was supposed to be at the game. Instead I was lying in bed with the flu. (Side note: If hockey players feel even half as bad as I did over those five days when they are “out with the flu”, I have no idea how they even think of trying to play through it.) I guess the goaltenders wanted to give me another chance to live through that game by playing the one they did last night.

Anyway, Tom Albano did a great recap of the game (that you can see here, if you haven’t seen already) but I had a couple of things to add from being at the game.

– In case you missed it, Marek Hrivik was recalled to replace Dan Paille on the fourth line and made his NHL debut last night. He didn’t get much ice time (7:32, to be exact) but I’m going to assume he was solid in that time. Why? Because other than specifically looking for him over the first few minutes, I never noticed him on the ice. I’m going to take that as a sign he didn’t make any mistakes. It will be interesting to see if his minutes go up once he goes through a few practices or if he is even still here a week from now.

– Everybody, including myself, kept asking why Jimmy Howard remembers how to be a goaltender any time he steps on the ice at MSG. One possible reason? He grew up in Syracuse, NY and his favorite player as a kid was Mike Richter.

– The disallowed goal. From the replay I saw, it looked like the right call even though there was plenty of time between the contact with Howard and the shot by Kevin Hayes. I’ve also heard mention that Howard tripped Oscar Lindberg which is what caused the contact. (I’ll admit I missed that part.) The Rangers said after the game they asked why no tripping call on Howard. If Lindberg was indeed tripped, it’s a good question. Here’s my issue with the entire thing, which is the same issue most people have with the NHL – consistency. Remember the “wheel of justice” people used to jokingly spin for suspensions? These reviews are worse. What one officiating crew thinks should be disallowed another feels is a good goal. They need to figure it out before April because I can see it now – a playoff series will be decided on one of these calls. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it’s in the Final again, as it was in 2014.

I also couldn’t help but think of this Marian Hossa quote from a few weeks ago when the announcement was made:

“The league wants to get more goals, but it seems like the rule is doing a good job of taking good goals away,” Hossa said. “Last year, definitely, that would be a goal. No questions asked.”

He’s right. Only in the NHL.

– To be honest, what irritated me more than the no goal was the penalties called in the second and third periods. J.T. Miller get rocked at center ice leading to Derick Brassard going after Helm. I completely agree Brassard should have had the extra penalty and have no problem with him taking it. But holding on him and nothing else? So basically the penalty was for the two of them hugging it out. Since when is that a penalty? (It should have been roughing or nothing.)

Then you have the invisible penalties to Keith Yandle (his second one) and Dan Girardi. I have no idea how you call interference on a guy being high sticked other than wanting to keep the penalties even. And to be fair, I didn’t see Quincey’s tripping penalty on Derek Stepan and have seen some mention that the penalty shot was the wrong call. (It looked like the right call to me but I guess that could go either way. Didn’t really matter as I’m pretty sure everyone in the building knew Fast wasn’t scoring on it.)

– As for the only goal of the game, who ever thought we would be saying the words “that was a incredible game saving defensive play by Chris Kreider in overtime”? I know I never thought I would say that but wow. I just remember thinking Henrik Lundqvist made a great save and then wondering why the puck was all of a sudden back in play. If a Red Wing had found that puck instead of Kreider, game over. I guess that’s one positive to 3-on-3 as there was no way there would be a Red Wing that close to the net at that point.

But between the play Kreider makes, the speed and pass by Kevin Hayes and the smarts of Kevin Klein to be ready to shoot, that goal was beautiful. And it basically came from three players you wouldn’t expect it from. (It also shows what type of team the Rangers currently have that those guys are on the ice together in overtime. Kreider, if playing to his believed potential, should be out there. The others? I’m not so sure.)

– And finally, before the game Vigneault was asked about any other call ups from Hartford (namely on defense). His response was along the lines of probably not as they are trying to keep cap space available for one or two moves in the next week. The belief around the league is the Rangers are all in on making a run this year, which is what I’ve expected all along. I’ve also said the Rangers are going to do something. The question is what. We’ll know a week from today.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Practice Brings Lots Of Updates

With nine days to go before the trade deadline, it’s safe to assume that you can never assume what updates will come out of an off day practice. For instance, I’m sure no one expected the Rangers to place Dan Paille on waivers today. But they did, meaning that the wingers run with the Rangers is over after 12 games.

Is that really news? I guess. The Rangers signing of Paille was basically a no-risk tryout. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, they would send him back to the AHL which is where he was before they signed him. No harm, no foul and I don’t blame them one bit for giving it a try. It didn’t work and so we move on.

The question becomes who will be playing on the fourth line tomorrow night if it isn’t Paille. After practice, Vigneault said that Jeff Gorton and Scott Arniel will be at Hartford’s game tonight to make a decision on who the call up will be. The belief among the beat writers seems to be that it won’t be Jayson Megna but instead either Marek Hrivik or Ryan Bourque. The fact that all of them are saying that tells me they know more then they are letting on but we’ll see tomorrow who it is.

Two other players who won’t be on the ice tomorrow night against the Red Wings are Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh. Neither is really a surprise.

In regards to Nash, they said there is no update and then admitted he has been working out in the gym on his own. That’s a start since the last we heard he had been shut down. I’m still not expecting to see him until some time in March. Although if it’s early March, that could be one great (and cheap, since they are already paying him) “deadline acquisition”.

As for McDonagh, there was good news and bad news:

The Rangers are insisting that is all and that he did not suffer a second concussion. To me, neck spasms are whiplash which usually coincides with concussions. But the captain went through protocol both on Thursday in Toronto and again today, passing the tests both times. If he did manage to escape a second concussion, that is huge. But it would be foolish to rush him back after two hits to the jaw in less than a two week span. At the moment, the Rangers are saying he’s day-to-day.

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In other news, when speaking about Paille being waived, Vigneault discussed the entire fourth line. Per Andrew Gross:

“I think it’s safe to say our expectations of that line is a little bit higher than what we’re getting at this time,” Vigneault said. “The only player really that I want to (say we’re) satisfied with what he’s bringing is Tanner. I know what he’s going to bring, that physicality to the game. Dan, I thought, was all right in that he brings us depth. I think we’re looking for a little upgrade there and Dom’s play needs to be better, there’s no doubt – faceoffs and penalty killing aspect, the defensive aspect, all areas that he’s done better in the past, he’s not doing as well right now. We’ve talked to him about it and we’re hoping he’s going to get his game together. There’s more to it than just the faceoffs. In Dom’s case there’s puck decisions and reads when we don’t have the puck. We’ve tried different players on that line. We’re still looking for a combination that will make us a more effective four-line team. We’ve still got a little bit of time to figure it out and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”

Look, I never like to see players called out but sometimes it has to happen and I’m glad Vigneault is mentioning the recent play of Dominic Moore. I know a lot of people will blame his linemates but his decisions recently with and without the puck have nothing to do with who is on the ice with him. To prove that point, he’s made bad ones at even strength, during the penalty kill and during the last minutes of play in the past couple of games. He has different linemates in each of those situations.

(On a separate note, I know a lot of people say the Rangers have missed a few past players on the penalty kill. My response is they are right – we are missing Moore and Jesper Fast. Watch the two of them attempt to kill penalties and you’ll see what I mean.)

The other part of that quote that I found interesting was him mentioning the play of Tanner Glass. Honestly, Glass has been fine. He is what he is and he hasn’t been a liability since, well since his call up from Hartford. He hasn’t. But if he’s the best player on the fourth line, that means we have a serious problem with the fourth line. Removing Paille is fine but that isn’t solving the problem.

Which brings us back to the date – February 20th. Nine days until the trade deadline. In the past it’s been clear by now what area the Rangers are expected to address. This year, I couldn’t even begin to guess. It’s one reason a lot of people believe the team isn’t a contender. I still don’t buy that but I expect it to be an extremely interesting nine days. The team will do something because they always do. Only time will tell if it’s something of significance.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)