Rangers Re-Sign Miller to Perfect Contract

At this time one year ago, the Rangers had three young player that they (and their fans) hoped would take the next step during the 2015-16 season. They were Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes. All three were due new contracts the following summer and needed to earn them. If you had asked anyone during the summer of 2015 who they thought might not be getting one, most wouldn’t have hesitated to say Miller. No one saw him being in the situation he is now.

Which brings me to today’s news. Late this afternoon, the Rangers randomly tweeted the following:

To say it was a surprise would be an understatement. I didn’t expect Miller to end up in arbitration but also didn’t expect him to be the first of the four re-signed. Then came the terms – two years, $2.75 million per year. To me, this is the perfect contract.

Why?

Well first of all, let’s all remember where we were last year with Miller. Many didn’t even expect him to still be on the team. The fact that he is now one of the ones everyone considered a “must sign” means he had a good season. One good season. He deserved a raise (and got a very nice one) but I wasn’t about to give him a long term one.

Second, with the deal being only two years, that means the Rangers get one more chance to re-sign him as a RFA. If they had added a third year, that would’ve brought him right to unrestricted free agency, something most teams do not like to do.

Third, simply put this is a bridge deal. I understand a lot of fans don’t like them anymore but they’re necessary. Because if you think the cap is bad now with 30 year olds overpaid, imagine what it would be like if every 20 year old got $6+ million per year for 6-7 years. I’d say we would be lucky if half of them actually earned that contract over the course of it.

Is there a chance in two years the Rangers will regret not signing Miller long term? Of course. There’s also a chance he’s gone by then or we’re thankful this deal was only two years. No one knows what the future holds. (For example, there was a chance Mats Zuccarello never stepped on the ice for the current deal he signed.) We all want Miller to be a permanent fixture in the top six but that’s still no guarantee yet. Do you want him making $3-4+ million as a third line winger? I don’t. But that’s why bridge contracts exist and need to exist. Not every young player deserves a long term deal just because their entry level contract is up. Plus, if we’re being honest, the Rangers could use the extra money right now to re-sign their other three RFAs.

And with that, I’ll say I’m thrilled with this deal. Yes the Rangers still need to do more this summer but this is a good start. Welcome back Millsy!

 

(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 II

Last week I tackled the Rangers goaltending and defense. If you missed it, you can read it here. Now it’s time for the fun part. Since this is going to get long, we’re going to get straight to it!

Derick Brassard (C, 80 games played, 27-31-58, +12) – As I mentioned in the first part of these reviews, plus/minus is a useless stat. That said, I have no idea how Brassard was a plus-12. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. There been a lot of talk of moving one of the Rangers top centers. If the team were to find and be able to get a true #1 center, Brassard might be the one to go. But those players don’t grow on trees so my guess is the Rangers will stick with the 1A/1B they currently have. Which means another year of cringing every time Brassard is forced to play outside the offensive zone … 75% to return

Jesper Fast (RW, 79 games played, 10-20-30, +9) – There are not a lot of players that are basically guaranteed to return. The moment the Rangers confirmed Vigneault was staying, I felt comfortable saying Fast would be back too. Fans joke about coaches having pets they refuse to take out of the lineup. Fast isn’t one of those but Vigneault absolutely loves him and why not? He is a perfect bottom six forward who doesn’t look out of place when put in the top six. All season, all we heard was how everyone wanted to play with Fast as he made his linemates better. It was obvious too. And I will take 30 points from him every year if I could … 95% to return

Tanner Glass (LW, 57 games played, 4-3-7, -3) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t hate Tanner Glass. He also was the least of the problems on the fourth line as he was extremely solid from the moment he returned from an early season stint in Hartford. Was he a player driving the offense every time he was on the ice? No, but he’s never been that in his career. Was he a liability on the ice? Honestly most of the top six were more of a liability on any given night. He has one year remaining so things could get interesting. Would someone trade for him? Maybe. Would the Rangers think about buying him out? It’s possible. But Vigneault likes him and since the rest of the fourth line might be gone, he could remain as the extra forward. Basically Glass is one of the reasons I’m not doing a straight “keep or dump” this year … 50% to return

HayesKevin Hayes (C, 79 games played, 14-22-36, +4) – Every year there is one player that I just don’t know what to write. This year, that is Hayes. He drives me absolutely crazy and I probably wouldn’t be upset if the Rangers decided to move on from this experiment. But I see the talent. It’s there. There’s a reason he was a first round draft pick. And I keep reminding myself that Kreider and Miller needed a few kicks before they figured it out so maybe Hayes is taking the same route. But he is so damn frustrating to watch. … 75% to return

Chris Kreider (LW, 79 games played, 21-22-43, +10) – Oh Christopher. I feel like I start his this way every year but it’s fitting. Funny part is I’ve seen everyone saying what a bad year he had and then look at his numbers (which are almost identical to Miller’s). Do the Rangers need more from the power forward? Absolutely. But his year wasn’t as horrible as everyone thinks it was. Personally, I wouldn’t give up on him. Yes his new contract will look bad to start. But if he finally puts it together, it should look like a steal in no time. And I still think he will put it together … 85% to return

Oscar Lindberg (C, 68 games played, 13-15-28, +12) – Lindberg had an interesting rookie season. He came flying out of the gates with 4 goals in his first 3 games. Everyone knew he couldn’t keep up that pace and he didn’t, although he was solid until the end of the year. There was a lot of questions over the last month when Lindberg appeared to be a healthy scratch for an extended period of time. Then the hip injury came out. There still hasn’t been any word of when he sustained the injury but I’m going to guess his play later in the year had something to do with it. Either way, it complicates his status for next year. While he is a young player who the Rangers probably want to keep, he may be a good chip to add into a big deal or help get draft picks back. I wouldn’t rush to trade him as he definitely showed a lot of promise in a bottom six role but changes are being made and this might be an easy one to do … 65% to return

J.T. Miller (C, 82 games played, 22-21-43, +10) – Raise your hand if you thought J.T. Miller would be a must sign at the start of year? Heck, raise your hand if you thought he would make it past the trade deadline? Give the 23 year old credit – he took a “show me” contract last summer and earned the raise he will absolutely get this year. His 16.30% shooting percentage (22 goals on 135 shots) was best on the team and he tied for first with 5 game winning goals. Is he perfect? Not even close, especially in the defensive zone. But he got rid of those blind passes through the center of the ice so you can see he’s learning. And he will continue to learn in NY … 90% to return

Dominic Moore (C, 80 games played, 6-9-15, -2) – All year I heard how his linemates were bringing Moore down. There’s only one problem with that – he played with plenty of guys and they all did fine when moved off his line. So maybe they weren’t the problem. Look I have nothing against Moore. It was a great story for him to come back and he really is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. The last two seasons he was more than serviceable in his role. But if we’re being honest, he had a really bad season this year. And because of it I think it’s safe to say his time in New York is up … 5% to return

Nash-BrassardRick Nash (LW, 60 games played, 15-21-36, +8) – Where to begin. Let’s start with the obvious – this was an injury plagued year for Nash. He missed a lot of games and had trouble coming back when he did return. Truth of the matter is, the Rangers need more from him. They know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. To sit and say the year was a failure, though, wouldn’t be accurate. Think of how bad the penalty kill was in January and February. Who was missing at that time? I get it. The Rangers aren’t paying him for his defense. But to ignore how good he is on that side of the puck would be ignorant. He’s very good defensively. But the Rangers need offense which is why, for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make it to opening night next year. Although I do laugh at the fact I predicted this exact situation before the trade was even made … 55% to return

Eric Staal (C, as a Ranger: 20 games played, 3-3-6, +1) – Two years ago, everyone said give Marty St. Louis some time to adjust to a trade from the only home he’s really known. He was horrible that season after the trade (1-7-8 in 19 games) but had another year so everyone forgot. Same thing happened with Keith Yandle last year (2-9-11 in 21 games). But because Staal was only here for this season, everyone can’t believe how bad he was. These players need time to adjust. Staal never got the chance. Do I regret the trade? I wasn’t really for it the day it happened but I accepted it. Is it the worst trade the Rangers have made? Not even close. They tried, it didn’t work, move on. At least they didn’t give up another 1st round pick … 5% to return (I highly doubt he’s returning but it’s not impossible.)

StalbergViktor Stalberg (LW, 75 games played, 9-11-20, +6) – Sometimes you have to admit when you are wrong. Stalberg surprised me this year. While he definitely had some bad streaks, he had more good games than bad ones. I guess whatever Vigneault said to him in regards to this being his last shot finally sunk in. But while he was good, he wasn’t irreplaceable. Would I be upset if the Rangers kept him? No, assuming it’s a short term, cheap contract. His speed does help in both the bottom six and on the penalty kill. Will Stalberg be able to take this year and cash in elsewhere (similiar to Benoit Pouliot a few years ago)? Absolutely. And if that’s what he wants to do, I will wish that team as much luck as I wished Edmonton … 65% to return

Derek Stepan (C, 72 games played, 22-31-53, +5) – The best news regarding Stepan right now is that this isn’t a contract summer. There has been talk of possibly moving the young center but personally, I think that is one of the dumbest moves the Rangers could make. Yes he could get them a ton in a trade. But he wouldn’t get his replacement. I understand the Rangers need a true #1 center and Stepan isn’t that. (Although to be fair, at almost 47% he ended the year with his highest faceoff percentage in his career so there’s hope on that front.) But he does everything. And don’t forget how much he was missed during that month he was out. His defensive game did seem to take a step back but so did everyone this year. I’m not ignoring five years of fantastic play because of one below average season. I’m going with my gut and saying Rangers will do same thing … 90% to return

Mats Zuccarello (LW, 81 games played, 26-35-61, +2) – Going into the season, everyone was worried we might not see our favorite Norwegian on the ice again. Zuccarello had other plans, having a career year after a life threatening injury. But he’s very similar to his best friend when on the ice. In the offensive zone, he’s great. In every other zone? Not so much. But the Rangers knew what they had when they re-signed him and he’s delivered. (Yes I literally copied and pasted those same four sentences.) Honestly, no one can complain about what Zuccarello did this year so while there are only a few definites this summer, Zuccarello staying is probably one of them … 95% to return

 

If these percentages are accurate then yes, I realize there won’t be enough changes if the team really is in a new era. But there are reasons to keep almost every player on this roster and I’m sure the Rangers management realizes this which is why I’m really intrigued to see what they do. It’s going to be an interesting three months, that’s for sure.

 

(All photos: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Use Late Second Period Push To Tie Series

There aren’t really must win games at any point unless your team would be going home with a loss so I’m not sure I could say today’s game was a “must win” for the Rangers. But it was probably as close to one as there could be without saying it was one.

The injury situation for both teams was well-known (Ryan McDonaghDan Girardi and Marc-Andre Fleury out, Henrik Lundqvist and Evgeni Malkin back in) so let’s just get straight to the game.

With the Rangers shorthanded on defense and the Penguins adding firepower, the visitors came into this game with one idea in mind – if you can’t beat them, then beat them. Through the first twenty minutes, every Ranger made sure to finish their checks (and shockingly didn’t take themselves out of position to do it) which led to this:

I’ve always held the belief that you don’t want to be the team that hits more as it means you have the puck less. For some reason, it felt pretty even through twenty even though the hits were 22-4. Maybe that’s because Henrik Lundqvist looked like himself and therefore the score was still 0-0.

Of course that didn’t last long as the teams started the middle frame at 4-on-4 with Hornqvist and Mats Zuccarello in the box. I guess Zuccarello liked it there as he went right back in ten seconds after he came out, only this time he went alone. There’s only so much teams can do against the Penguins power play and the home team had the lead. And then the home team took over and it started to look like it was going to be a long remainder of the afternoon.

Then with seven and a half minutes remaining in the period, the Rangers tied it as J.T. Miller found a pinching Keith Yandle for the put home. Exactly 18 seconds later, this happened:

https://www.nhl.com/video/embed/brassards-go-ahead-goal/t-280291404/c-43547003?autostart=false

The Penguins challenged saying Derick Brassard was offsides. Only one problem? He had control of the puck so that wasn’t possible. The officials agreed after watching on their little TV screens and the Rangers had their first lead of the series.

Thirty seconds later, the Rangers were given a power kill. The worst part of it? None of the guys on the ice after two minutes realized the penalty was ending and Bryan Rust had a breakaway out of the box. Fortunately it was Rust and not one of their superstars. Even more fortunate was Lundqvist made the save.

With a little over four minutes remaining it was Miller again, this time finding Zuccarello to make it 3-1 Rangers. In less than five minutes, the Penguins went from looking like an unstoppable team to looking like…the 2015-16 Rangers.

Miller couldn’t keep up the good period, taking a bad penalty shortly after the third goal. Somehow the Rangers killed it to take the two goal lead into the third.

I expected a push from the Penguins while the Rangers attempted to sit on their heals for the final twenty minutes. Instead, I got a Chris Kreider goal 39 seconds into the period to make it 4-1. It happened because of a horrible turnover by Daley in front of Zatkoff but it wouldn’t have if the Rangers hadn’t pushed to get the puck in the zone in the first place.

Then came the third period I expected. Was it as bad as other times this season? Not even close. But did I feel for even a moment that the game was under control? I still don’t feel that way and the final buzzer already sounded.

To put the third period in perspective, the Rangers got into some penalty trouble, leading eventually to a 4-on-3 and a Penguins goal to make it 4-2 with over 14 minutes remaining. I wish I could explain what happened over those 14 minutes other than all of New York holding their collective breath.

I do know the Penguins realized that the officials had swallowed their whistles and took full advantage. First it was Kunitz with a dirty slash to the back of the leg of Marc Staal. The officials apparently missed it but Kevin Klein didn’t and came to the aid of his defense partner leading to Kunitz and Klein both receiving seven minutes in penalties. (I’d say that was a win for the Penguins.)

A couple minutes later, Derek Stepan went back for the puck to negate an icing and was shoved into the board by Ben Lovejoy. The officials missed that one too as Stepan laid on the ice and the puck went up the other way. Stepan eventually made it back to the bench, stayed there for a few minutes and then headed to the locker room for the concussion protocol he has to know all to well by now. I’m guessing he passed as a few minutes later he was back on the bench.

But through all that, the Rangers rock was a rock as Henrik Lundqvist refused to let another puck past him and the series heads to New York tied.

And I should feel confident with that as the Rangers really did play 120 decent minutes of hockey in Pittsburgh. I’m just not sure how much longer this will last. I also expect Fleury back on Tuesday and while Zatkoff was admirable on Wednesday, he wasn’t great today. (Basically, he was today what Antti Raanta was on Wednesday – he didn’t cost his team the game but he most definitely didn’t win it for them.)

While the Penguins hope to get Fleury back, I’m sure the Rangers hope to get some defensemen back. Both Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath filled in admirably but the Rangers won’t win if they are permanently in the line up. (I did enjoy the NBC crew continually mentioning the Rangers “two best defensemen” were missing.) We’ll see if we get any updates on either over the next couple of days. Until then, at least we know we won’t be seeing handshakes in Madison Square Garden this week.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Déjà Vu For Rangers In LA

For many, the Rangers being in Los Angeles brings back bad memories from two years ago. Personally, I’m over that series loss. The Kings were the better team and I’ve accepted that. I just wish the Rangers would stop playing the exact same game we had to watch over and over again during that faithful June.

For the first time in weeks, there was no pregame news (other than Ryan McDonagh being okay after the puck to the head he took right at the final buzzer last night) so we can get right to this predictable game.

It was pretty obvious which team played last night and which had been sitting at home waiting over the first few minutes. That got compounded by a high sticking penalty to Chris Kreider at the five and a half minute mark. Somehow the Rangers killed that as well as withstood the early Kings dominance due to the fantastic play of Henrik Lundqvist.

Right before the halfway mark, the teams went to 4-on-4 after Tanner Glass and Vincent Lecavalier were sent off. With time winding down in that, Lundqvist made a fantastic save that allowed J.T. Miller to pick up the puck, race up the ice and snap it behind Quick to give the visitors the lead. Of course as we know, the Rangers don’t hold leads in LA so that lasted all of 19 seconds. I’m not sure how many penalties Dan Boyle attempted to take to try and stop the goal but none of them worked and the game was tied at one.

The remainder of the period was the two teams trading chances as the Rangers finally found their legs.

That continued in the second period until the Rangers got hemmed in their zone halfway through the middle frame. Most mentions of that shift will blame one player. I’m blaming all five – Dan GirardiKeith YandleDerick BrassardMats Zuccarello and Rick Nash all played a part in the puck not being able to get out of the zone. I understand it’s the defenses’ job to help move the puck out but the forwards have to help. Instead, I watched as Brassard and Zuccarello either starred at the puck as the Kings regained possession or handed it directly to them. There’s only so much the defense can do in those cases.

Brassard finally got the puck and iced it, leading to the Rangers trying to kill time to avoid calling their timeout. They chose not to and Yandle took a penalty seconds later. Again, no one was innocent on that shift. Somehow the Rangers killed the penalty.

A minute later, a Kings turnover in their zone led to a Dan Boyle takeaway, snipe and Rangers 2-1 lead. Somehow the Rangers would take that lead into the third.

Less than three minutes into the final frame, the Rangers extended their lead to 3-1 as J.T. Miller made a fantastic play to get the puck out front. It would end up on the stick of Kevin Klein who rifled one on net. Quick would make the save but the puck would deflect to Kevin Hayes for the rebound goal. The Kings would challenge the goal for some reason but after a quick review, the call on the ice stood and the score was 3-1.

So the Rangers had a two goal lead in the third period in Los Angeles. I think we all know what happened next. You honestly can’t even make this stuff up.

Exactly two minutes later, the Kings got within one. Remember the five I mentioned being on for a long shift in the second period? It was the same five on the ice there. Yandle turnover plus Brassard covering no one equals Kings goal. I really have no idea why those five see the ice together at the same time.

Then with a little over four minutes remaining, the Kings finally tied the game. The goal was inevitable so I’m surprised it took that long. The Rangers challenged this one and while they probably had a better argument, the call again stood and the Rangers had once again blown a two goal lead in the third period in LA.

Honestly, the shocking part was that it got to overtime so the Rangers managed a point. Although come to think of it, I guess that is the way it works. And as happened in the past, it only took 94 seconds for the Kings to get the victory.

I’m not even going to get mad about it. For some reason the Rangers can’t play in that building. Every team has it’s kryptonite so it just is what it is. The good news is the Rangers got a point. Sure they needed two but every point is huge right now.

Next up, they finish the west coast swing with a trip to San Jose on Saturday afternoon. Take two points from the Sharks and I’ll consider this road trip a success.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Zuccarello Leads Rangers Past Sabres

A great coach once said “you never critique a win”. He was right, so this will be a quick recap.

Let’s start with our daily injury update. The “good” news? Both Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash skated together this morning in Westchester and Vigneault said news was positive on both. On defense, the news wasn’t as good. Marc Staal didn’t skate as he continues to try to return from back spasms caused from dehydration from the flu. That said, all three could be ready by the weekend or at latest, early next week. The only one who won’t be ready? Dylan McIlrath who is out “a couple of weeks” with a knee injury. The good news is it’s not believed to be his bad knee. With both Staal and McIlrath out, Brady Skjei was again summoned from Hartford for his fourth NHL game.

Now onto the game.

As seems to be the case most nights, the Rangers had one player to thank for their lead after twenty minutes – their goaltender.

The visitors were handed a gift six and a half minutes into the period when Bogosian put the puck over the glass. Actually the gift was Evander Kane ignoring Derick Brassard during the power play which allowed Mats Zuccarello to make this play and get the Rangers on the board:

https://www.nhl.com/video/embed/brassards-power-play-goal/t-279128502/c-42326103?autostart=false

This team seems to only have two ways to score on the power play – off the rush or off the initial face-off if they manage to win the draw. Otherwise, it’s a power kill. Although in this case, Zuccarello admitted after the game he hesitated because he couldn’t believe Brassard was as wide open as he was.

After that? I would use the word disaster but Sunday was a disaster. Tonight was just a potential one as the Sabres completely controlled play the remainder of the period. And that would include a Rangers power kill where the visitors would have more giveaways than shots on net. I wish I could say it got better from there but the only reason the score remained 1-0 after twenty was because Antti Raanta was sensational.

I’m going to assume Vigneault threatened to bench the entire team during the intermission as the Rangers were a much better team to start the second period. It started four and a half minutes in when Robin Lehner decided he wanted the Rangers to have a 2-0 lead. I’m not sure there is any other explanation on why he left a space wide open for Mats Zuccarello to shoot the puck through. To say it’s a goal the Sabres goalie would like back would probably be an understatement. Of course after the game Zuccarello called it a “panic shot” (after pretending he absolutely saw the opening the entire time) and said he was lucky it went in. I think it’s pretty obvious why everyone on the team loves him so much.

Just 87 seconds later, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider would come down the ice with Kreider stretching as far as he could to stay on side as Brassard crossed into the zone with the puck. Brassard would turn and find Jesper Fast who blasted one for his tenth of the season. While that goal wasn’t nearly as bad as the one before it, that would be all for Lehner’s night.

Of course this is the second period we are talking about so it can’t be all good. Four minutes later, a bad pinch by Kevin Klein led to an odd-man rush the other way and the Sabres getting on the board. (To be fair to Klein, a forward should have covered for him and Yandle didn’t do much to defend the odd-man rush.) Six minutes later, those same five players again missed their coverage and we had a 3-2 game.

Less than a minute later, the Rangers thought they had restored their two goal lead but the puck wasn’t put in until Oscar Lindberg pushed Johnson into the net. That’s not allowed so the score remained 3-2. (Side note: It was the right call, even though Eric Staal was pissed about it.)

As for the remainder of the period, I have no idea how the Rangers got out unscathed but they did. I can say the same for the third period as the visitors were outshot 19-4 over the final twenty minutes. Sometimes that stat doesn’t really show how the period went. This time it does.

There were two positives in the final frame. One, the Rangers managed to kill two power plays, including one late in the period. Two, J.T. Miller was out of the dog house from the last game and on the ice in the last minute muscling his way into the Sabres zone for the empty net goal. Otherwise, I’m throwing out the tape of that period.

And actually most of this game. As I said to start, you never critique a win. (And that great coach was Alain Vigneault.) At this point in the season, every point is important so the Rangers will gladly take these two. They just better grab them and run out of Buffalo as fast as they can.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)