Rangers Updates: Kreider, McIlrath, Jooris + More

The one contract everyone has been worried about since the season began is the one Chris Kreider will receive this summer. Him filing for arbitration, while expected, didn’t help in calming people down. You have probably seen people saying everything from “give him a long term deal” to “one year might be the best option” (thanks for that laugh Daily News!), from “he deserves to get paid” to “trade him, he’s not worth whatever he’s going to get”. The reality is somewhere in the middle of all of this.

So, with his arbitration hearing still scheduled for Friday, both sides were required to give their numbers to the arbitrator. As usual, they were on slightly opposite sides of the spectrum:

Okay, that’s not what I was expecting but we’ll still throw this out there: No, apparently Kreider does not expect $4.75 million per year. And no, the Rangers do not plan on paying Kreider only $3.2 million per year. This is how arbitration works. The player gives a really high number (or at least usually does), the team gives a really low number and the arbitrator picks a number somewhere in the middle. So assume, if this gets to arbitration, that Kreider will get a deal for around $4.25 million.

That said, I still do not think this will get to that point and instead he will get that amount on a long term deal. Honestly, have no idea why this isn’t done if that is all he is asking for. Could it go all the way to Friday morning? Absolutely. Ask Derek Stepan about that. But I will be absolutely shocked if they actually step foot in that court room. We’ll see if I’m right in the next 48 hours.

**********

Now some news we need to catch up on from last week.

On Friday, the Rangers re-signed another of their RFAs as Dylan McIlrath agreed to a one year, $800k contract. I look at it as a similar show me contract to what Miller signed last summer. Let’s just hope he gets a chance to show what he can do. Vigneault might not have a choice as if he plays less than 42 games, he becomes a UFA next summer instead of a RFA. My guess? The next move the Rangers make will ensure there is a permanent spot for him in the lineup.

The Rangers also re-signed Hartford RFA Tommy Hughes to a one year deal as well as added ex-Flames forward Josh Jooris to the organization for one year at $600k. What do we know about Jooris? The 26-year old center scored two shorthanded goals last season so he is yet another penalty killer. (The Rangers saw a weakness and seem determined to fix it.) His other stats are nothing to talk about so I think it’s safe to assume this is Dominic Moore’s replacement, or at least his replacement until Oscar Lindberg is healthy.

And finally, not news but a note – I again attended the now annual Comm Ave Classic in Boston last week which pits alums from BC and BU against each other to raise money for ALS. While the game and evening itself were slightly disappointing, a good sign for the Rangers was the best player on the ice was probably Kevin Hayes. The BC alum led his team with five points (two goals, three assists) as the visitors took a 13-8 victory. But besides the points, it was honestly the best I have seen Hayes play. Yes this was a charity game where defense was basically non-existent but the Rangers center was moving his feet all night and genuinely looked ready for the season to begin. Now he just needs a contract…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Deadlines Set For Rangers

Last week we found out that four Rangers RFAs elected arbitration. Now we know when those players will be signed by have their case heard by an arbitrator:

As Andrew Gross mentioned, it doesn’t mean it will come to that. But it does mean those players will be signed no later than 48 hours after those dates.

The first thing I noticed? Chris Kreider has an early arbitration date. (Hearing are from July 20th to August 4th.) This is good for everyone involved as once Kreider’s money is sorted out, the team will know what they have for everyone else. And yes, I believe Kreider is staying. So does Larry Brooks and love him or hate him, he has connections so the Boston speedster isn’t going anywhere.

The fact that Dylan McIlrath is the day before tells me the young defenseman will be signed sooner rather than later. (I would be surprised if that isn’t completed this week.) I’m a little concerned the contract for J.T. Miller has a chance to linger but I still think it will get done. And recent rumors have said the Rangers aren’t shopping Kevin Hayes so that one might be completed right after McIlrath is.

I still stand by my belief that none of these players will step into a court room in Toronto and I would honestly be shocked if any even make the trip up north. These are the easy ones as it’s no secret the team wants to keep all four players. Now the Rangers no longer have an excuse. They have a deadline so they can’t say they need to wait for other shoes to fall; which is why these players elected arbitration in the first place. The players want their contracts done as much as the fans do. And now they know they will all be done no later than August 5th.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Start to Re-Sign RFAs as Arbitration Looms

Four days after the frenzy of July 1st signals another deadline, of sorts – filing for arbitration.

Players had until 5 pm today to file for arbitration while teams have until 5 pm tomorrow to do the same. Of the Rangers restricted free agents, the following players are arbitration eligible:

  • Chris Kreider
  • J.T. Miller
  • Kevin Hayes
  • Dylan McIlrath
  • Marek Hrivik
  • Mat Bodie
  • Tommy Hughes

Of the names on that list, Mat Bodie didn’t need to worry about filing as he re-signed earlier in the day. Shortly after the Rangers announced that, they also announced RFA Nicklas Jensen was also re-signed. Jensen didn’t have arbitration rights but is expected to fight for a roster spot in training camp so this was an important one to get done. Per Larry Brooks, both contracts are one year, two-way at $600k.

That left six others who could possibly elect arbitration. To the surprise of no one, four of them did as Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Dylan McIlrath filed before the 5 pm deadline. Does this mean they are headed to arbitration? No it doesn’t, and I stand by my belief that none of them will get there. It just means we have a deadline of when they will sign by and won’t have to worry about them not being around in training camp. The other positive? No offer sheets for any of these players. Not that anyone really expected one anyway.

As for Marek Hrivik and Tommy Hughes, the fact they didn’t file leads me to expect their contracts to be done shortly.  (I don’t expect there to be any issues with either re-signing.)

**********

And now we wait for more news. Something is going to happen. Everyone knows it. Just no one knows what, which is exactly how the Rangers like to do business.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part I

This year really is different. The past four years I have done this, it has been mid to late June and I have been in denial that I am doing it after another lost season. This year? Early May and I’ve been sitting watching hockey every night since the Rangers were eliminated. I really can’t explain it.

Anyway, for those who aren’t familiar with how I do my year end reviews, I write a small paragraph on each player and then say if I would “keep or dump” them. Last year I got every player correct except one…and I still defend my decision to “keep” Talbot even though I knew it wasn’t realistic. This year I’m going to do things slightly differently as I have no idea who should stay or go nor who I would keep or move if I were running the team. So instead I am going to give the odds that each player is back. Yes it is completely a cop out on picking what changes should be made to the team this year. At least I admit it.

First up, as usual, goaltenders and defense!

Lundqvist-benchHenrik Lundqvist (G, 35-21-7-4, 2.48 GAA, .920 SV%) – There’s no way to sugar coat it – that goals against average is ugly. But it’s fitting considering the mess the Rangers were this year. I’m not going to sit here and discuss Lundqvists’ season. We all know it wasn’t his best. Am I giving up on him? Absolutely not. But here’s the thing, what are the Rangers plans this summer? If they are blowing up the team like some expect does Lundqvist want out? I’ve always said the only reason he will ever leave is if he asks to be moved. Is this the year that happens? I’m skeptical but it’s a lot more of a possibility than it ever has been in the past … 95% to return

Antti Raanta (G, 11-6-2-1, 2.24 GAA, .919 SV%) – I admit this one might have been different if written two weeks ago but not by much. I have been a fan of Raanta since he broke into the NHL with the Blackhawks and he was exactly what I expected to get when the Rangers traded for him last June. While he will need to play more next season, he is still the perfect veteran backup. Yes he had a little hitch in February that made many worry the Rangers would need to find a goaltender at the trade deadline, but he bounced back and will only get better the more he works with Benoit Allaire. And now that he’s signed a new contract, it’s pretty safe to say he’s staying … 99% to return (This should probably be 100% but crazier things have happened)

Last year I ended this post by saying “There will come a time the back end will be the difficult part to figure out on this team but it won’t be any time soon.” Apparently it was sooner than I expected…

Ryan McDonagh (D, 73 games played, 9-25-34, +26) – Remember when everyone thought McDonagh would be a perennial Norris trophy candidate? I’m not saying he had a bad year but his name and the word “Norris” were never in the same sentence this season. (And saying he was the Rangers best defenseman this year wasn’t exactly a compliment.) I happened to watch McDonagh closely this year since many believed his defense partners had been dragging him down in the past. What did I notice? A player who once again was trying to do too much and who in many cases was the one out of position because of it. McDonagh is a phenomenal defenseman but I’m still not convinced he can carry the weight of the C. The guy before him who he’s been compared to couldn’t. That said, he isn’t losing it anytime soon. As for his spot on the team, I don’t expect him gone until March 2019 so we’ll put him at … 95% to return

Dan Girardi (D, 74 games played, 2-15-17, +18) – Oh Dan. This one hurts. Sigh, here it goes. I look at that number of games played and think it’s a mistake. I think about all the missed coverage and hot potato passes and wonder where my favorite defenseman went. While I try to keep personal feelings out of my writing, it’s no secret I’m a fan of Girardi’s. I just don’t know who was wearing his jersey this year. I refuse to believe he went from a guy who many believed deserved the extension he got to the one who looked like he fell off a cliff this year. That change doesn’t happen overnight. But he clearly took a step back and mix that with injury issues from the start (I will fight to the death that he was behind from day one) and you have the season we witnessed. No one is more angry about it than Girardi himself. Maybe I’m delusional (or extremely hopeful) but I think he can bounce back from it. Will he be the player who earned a write in vote for the All Star game a few years ago? No way. But he isn’t this bad and I think the Rangers know that which is why I think they give him another chance. Again, maybe it’s my heart over my head speaking but I expect him in Rangers blue in October … 85% to return

Staal-Klein-Ramsey-toastMarc Staal (D, 77 games played, 2-13-15, +2) – Sigh again. I don’t know where to start with this one. The good news was Staal had a relatively healthy year in comparison to earlier in his career. The bad news? Basically everything else. After the season ended, I saw someone mention that Staal was brought down by Boyle most of the year. I never really thought about it that way but it is true that pairing never really worked. But while I would love to blame it on that, that’s not really being honest about the year Staal had. I don’t know what it was but all year something just seemed off. So what do the Rangers do? I do think his contract is slightly more movable but not because he is the better of the two longest tenured defensemen. More because if the Rangers could get Carolina or wherever Eric signs to want two Staals instead of one, I think Marc would be willing to go. But it won’t be easy which is why I still think it’s unlikely … 75% to return

Kevin Klein (D, 69 games played, 9-17-26, +16) – Last year I predicted that Klein would be traded at this past trade deadline. It’s not that I wanted him gone, I just didn’t expect him to stay. With how much the rest of the defense struggled, Klein quietly stayed behind the scenes. I really don’t know what to say about him. He isn’t the top pairing defenseman many fans want him to be but he’s a solid 4/5 on any team. Will he be here in September? His low cap hit would be a reason to keep him. It would also make him easy trade bait. This one really could go either way … 50% to return

Keith Yandle (D, 82 games played, 5-42-47, -4) – Let me start by saying plus/minus is a useless stat they should probably get rid of. That said, we can all agree Girardi and Staal were horrible this year and yet both ended up with a plus next to their name at the end of the season while Yandle was somehow a minus-4. I honestly have no idea how that is even possible. I continually say Yandle is lost in the defensive zone but that takes talent. Anyway, so Yandle. It’s no secret I’m not he’s biggest fan but he played much better this year than I expected him to. Do I expect him back? This one is complicated. Personally, I don’t and haven’t since the day he signed. (I’m on record saying I expect him to go to Arizona or Boston.) But a recent premonition is tilting me the other way. I can’t explain it but let’s just say I have started to accept the fact I may not have seen Yandle play his last game as a Ranger. How will it be done? Not sure. But I think the Rangers are trying to do it … 65% to return (it’s a lot higher than I would’ve put it at the start of the month)

Dan Boyle (D, 74 games played, 10-14-24, even) – Every signing is a gamble. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, you hope the contract is only a year or two. In this case it was. I have nothing against Boyle. He tried. It just didn’t work. It’s a shame he was a healthy scratch in what was probably his last NHL game but it was fitting considering how his time with the Rangers went. I wish him well in the future and really do wish this had worked better … 0% to return

McIlrath-YandleDylan McIlrath (D, 34 games played, 2-2-4, +7) – I said it all year but will say it again – when the six other defensemen on this list played to their capabilities, McIlrath was clearly number seven. Yes, most of them didn’t this year. But Vigneault kept hoping they would. I had no problem with the year McIlrath had. Would it have been nice to get him a few more games? Absolutely. Did I expect it at the start of the season? Not at all. This year was a stepping stone for him, a chance to learn before getting thrown into the fire. Next season he will be a regular. Will that be with the Rangers? I’m hoping so and honestly would be surprised if he wasn’t but nothing is guaranteed right now. I’m still thinking he’s back … 85% to return

 

I know everyone is saying the changes need to start on defense but you need replacements for these guys and it’s not as easy as if we were playing a video game. The six definitely will look different. (For one, Brady Skjei will be included.) We’ll just have to wait and see how different. Next up, I attempt to guess which forwards will be returning.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

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)

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 Streak Ends With Another Third Period Collapse

No matter what the team is doing, there is one stat that I will forever be proud of. Their record when leading after two periods. While the numbers are still ridiculous, tonight they took a hit.

First some injury updates. As everyone knows, Dan Girardi hurt his hand (thumb, to be exact) early in the second period against the Bruins. To the surprise of no one, he was on the ice at practice yesterday. Vigneault said he was surprised how well Girardi was stick handling but wouldn’t say he would play today. I have no idea what voodoo Vigneault and the rest of the coaching staff has been using but somehow they got the ironman to sit out another game. I really have no idea how they are doing it.

Was I glad Dylan McIlrath was getting another chance to play? Absolutely. Was I worried about a right side of Kevin KleinDan Boyle and McIlrath against an Islanders team that always looks their best when they see the Rangers across the ice? Absolutely. My concern wasn’t so much McIlrath as it was who would get the extra minutes Girardi plays. Fortunately, I’m not sure that was the issue in the end but maybe I should have been worried about McIlrath.

The first period was a pretty well played period by the visitors as they controlled a majority of the play, outshooting the Islanders 14-10. Unfortunately they couldn’t get one of those shots past Halak (and the Islanders couldn’t get one past Lundqvist) so the game remained scoreless through one.

Two things I noticed in the first twenty minutes:

When the Islanders got into the Rangers zone, the Rangers forwards made sure to get back and defend. It’s something we haven’t seen them do a lot of recently so was a nice change. I just wonder what made the forwards finally remember they needed to do that.

Second, the Rangers took two dumb penalties. The first turned out to be coincidental minors as after Clutterbuck took a penalty, Dylan McIlrath went after Matt Martin. I don’t know which one of them started it but when your team is getting a power play, you don’t drop your gloves. McIlrath did and he went to the box. Fortunately they also called Martin so the Rangers still ended up with the power play. The second was with thirty seconds to go in the period as Dominic Moore clearly held de Haan in the offensive zone. The Rangers killed the first thirty seconds. Fortunately the Islanders needed as much time as the Rangers do to set up their power play so the visitors were able to kill the remainder as well.

Shortly after that ended, the Rangers were given another power play as the Islanders were called for too many men. That call was so borderline (and honestly I think they made the wrong call) that I almost assumed the Rangers would score on the power play just because they shouldn’t have had it. While they got chances, Halak remained up to the task.

And that looked like it would be the story for the rest of the period as fans were treated to a full on goaltending duel. Then, just as it felt like a goal would never be scored, this happened:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020646-434-ingame-h

I fully admit I was in too much shock to cheer. Not sure what he was doing in front of the net but guess Marc Staal wanted to give himself a belated birthday present. (His 29th birthday was yesterday. I still want to think of him as a kid and then I hear things like that. Not that 29 is old…)

My next thought? This isn’t good. And I was right. The Rangers held on for the last 45 seconds to head to intermission with an unexpected 1-0 lead but it wouldn’t last, and the streak would end.

Right as the second period was ending, Dylan McIlrath and Matt Martin came together again. This time both dropped their gloves but the linesmen decided to step in before any punches were thrown and both were given another two minutes each, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t just let them fight.

Before the start of the third period, MSG always goes to John Giannone for his report from the coaches. It’s one of my favorite parts of the broadcast because the coaches are always honest in their assessment. Tonight, the words from Giannone’s mouth scared the crap out of me. First he said the coaches were worried about the teams’ neutral zone play and that they needed to be careful about letting the Islanders get behind them. That was fine. Next he said the team would not be pushing for the next goal but instead would keep defending, “keep to their structure”, and if the Islanders gave them an opportunity, then they would go.

I’m not saying you take chances as if you were down a goal early in the period but against this Islanders team, there is no reason at all they should be sitting back. Four minutes into the period, the game plan had to change as the Rangers found themselves in a 2-1 hole. Only one problem? The Islanders weren’t going to let them change it.

While the Rangers had been getting chances throughout the game, the Islanders had been defending. They were blocking shots and not allowing the Rangers to get too close to Halak. The moment they took the lead? Forgetting getting close to Halak, the Rangers couldn’t even get into the Islanders zone.

They tried but the Islanders just wouldn’t allow them. So a team with two NHL level defenseman and four guys most hockey fans have never heard of ended one of the longest streaks in Rangers history as the Rangers lost for the first time since November 29, 2013 (or 73 games) after leading after two periods. Granted they are still 165-2-9 in their last 176 games (since February 6, 2010) when leading after two but it still hurts to see that middle number change.

While some will blame it on Kevin Hayes with an awful turnover leading to the first goal or Dylan McIlrath taking another dumb penalty to lead to the second, for now I’m blaming the coaches. You could tell from puck drop that the Rangers planned to sit back. To me, that was a dumb game plan and it burned them.

And so the trend continues – win one, lose one. At least they are winning games and the losing “streaks” have only been one game. But they need to stop this trend. The back to back in Philadelphia and Washington this weekend would be a good time to do it. Especially since almost all of their moms will be in the building watching. (This weekend is the annual parents trip and this year the Rangers will be taking their moms. MSG reported that 19 mothers would be taking part of it. I feel bad for the three players who mothers won’t be there.)

Actually, I have an idea. Let’s let the moms be “hockey moms” on the trip down. (Anyone who has met one knows what I mean by this.) I’m willing to try anything to get these guys on a winning streak. And if that doesn’t work, well nothing will.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)