Last Friday it was announced that JT Miller was recalled by the Rangers, as he would make his return to the team for the second time this season.
We could say JT Miller is this year’s Chris Kreider, flip flopped between both the NHL and AHL, getting little to no minutes on the ice, and not making an impact for the team. Though under Coach Alain Vigneault, Miller has yet to earn his trust.
Does any of this at all ring a bell? Of course it does, but with Miller, much like Kreider last season, demotions to the AHL have been deserving, but how he reacts and performs when he comes to the NHL warrants his return when the team is fully healthy.
Miller has yet to show he’s ready at the NHL level, his defensive inconsistency, his lack of playing in the hard areas, playing a full complete game, has made it hard for him to stay in the NHL. But in his most recent AHL stint, he went back and played in his natural position of center. That position he was able to skate around the ice more, get more touches of the puck, and play more defensively. He played well enough to warrant another call up.
This time, it was for the under-performing Benoit Pouliot, who after 29 games, Alain Vigneault finally decided to end his try out with the team, and give him some time to collect his game, and find himself much like he’s done with Mats Zuccarello, and so far has failed to do with Michael Del Zotto.
Let’s compare Miller in 5 on 5 situations to the 2 Ranger forwards most fans want to see removed from the lineup: Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot. Pyatt and Miller are the most comparable, as Pyatt has played 28 more minutes than Miller, but Pyatt’s points per game total is .29 compared to Millers .43.
If we look at Pouliot, who has played 157 minutes more than Miller, we notice Pouliot is .2 points higher than Miller at .63. However, that can be attributed to the fact that Pouliot has played with better players more so than either of the other two.
Miller will need to prove himself worthy to stay in the line-up or back he’ll go to Hartford. If he does end up back with the Whale, KEEP HIM THERE! Please! Let him develop and let’s try it all again next year. Obviously, if it’s going to be a failed experiment in New York, how about he develop and try to improve at the AHL level.
FTR decided to hold off on this article to allow him to play both weekend games. We felt that 2 games was a fair sample to assess his play and expectations. So how did he do?
Game One: versus New Jersey
In his first game back, Miller played 11:29 minutes in 5 on 5 situations, coming up short on the score sheet, but had 2 shots on Martin Brodeur. What I did see is someone creating, and trying to find openings for positive production. Miller’s two shots clearly wanted to go into the net, and it was a shame that he couldn’t finish his chances because he did bring two quality chances.
What we also saw was someone who wasn’t so hesitant in the defensive zone playing in his position, and helping the team try to get it out of their zone.
What could he have done better? Score of course, but he, like many Rangers yet again, just simply could not finish their chances against the New Jersey Devils.
Game Two: versus Washington
Nightmare! That’s the word I would use for how this one went for the promising prospect. He played 9:01 (14 shifts), was a minus 2 with no shots. To make matters worse he was credited with two giveaways, but it felt like 10.
Miller looked lost without the puck and is having a hard time adjusting to what Vigneault wants to do. This is not an indictment of AV’s system. AV had great success with it in Vancouver, but you have to ask yourself why did JT look so much better in Tortorella’s straight up and down approach? It’s not a physical issue so that leaves mental.
The young man needs to mature mentally in order to use the God given gifts he has. Those talents include, size, speed and excellent vision of the ice. Right now he’s over thinking things. Just like Chris Kreider was until it finally clicked for him in Hartford. When it does, we will have more consistency, which will lead to trust from the head coach.
The Rangers will not benefit themselves or JT Miller with less than 10 minutes a night. Send him down to Hartford and forget he is there. Let him develop and mature. Allow the offseason and the inevitable roster changes to dictate where he fits next season. That is the best course of action I can think of this early in his career.
By: Shawn Taggart & Anthony Scultore
On Saturday evening, Satan’s little demons invaded New York City to take on the New York Rangers in a cross town rivalry that’s lasted for quite some time. The Devils came into the game, 11-13-6 for 28 points. 2 behind
the Rangers who are tied for third in the Metropolitan Division with 30 points. You can make the argument that it’s still relatively early in the season to throw playoff implications into the conversation but anytime the Rangers and Devils get together it feels like a playoff game. After all, that’s what true rivalries are all about.
The first period started out almost as if the ice was tilted slightly in the Devils favor. Early on they seemed to get good pressure in the Rangers zone but it didn’t take too long for the Rangers to get into the rhythm and start moving better. Early on, JT Miller, who’s fighting to stay back up at the NHL level looked good. He had a few strong shifts throwing his body around and cycling the puck. The Devils got a good chance off the stick of former Ranger, Jaromir Jagr after a turnover in the neutral zone by Rick Nash. They got the puck in deep and after a few passes the puck was on Jagr’s stick which he fired as it appeared to catch some iron. With the Devils still pressing, they got a little over excited on a puck that swung around the boards & the Rangers took advantage. A 2 on 1 with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan winded up in the back of the net as Richards put that rubber disk up where Momma keeps the peanut butter. The period ended with the Rangers up 1-0 and the shots were 9-8 in favor of the Devils.
The second period started the opposite of the first, The Rangers grabbed the early momentum and it showed when Marty Brodeur pushed a rebound out around the top of the circle and the Norwegian Hobbit, Mats Zuccarello buried the puck to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Then things took a turn for the worst. Firstly, someone needs to explain to me what “Distinct kicking motion” & “Non distinct kicking motion” means. So far this season, I can’t tell the difference. With the Rangers buzzing they went for a change and Marty Brodeur, arguably one of the best puckhandling goaltenders in the NHL, unleashed a pass from his own net to Tim Sestito. Sestito broke in and fired a shot from the top of the circle which Lundqvist saved, but a juicy rebound was left there for Cam Janssen to “direct” the puck into the net with his skate. “After further review there was no distinct kicking motion therefore we have a good goal.” Awful call, in my opinion. 2-1, Devils cut the lead in half. Chances were shared back and forth but the period ultimately ended 2-1 with the Devils leading in shots 20-16.
The Devils started the period on the Power play with Brian Boyle in the box serving a borderline call for boarding. The Rangers killed that off and then went on a Power Play of their own a few minutes later. No dice. And we continued on at 2-1. Then Jaromir Jagr showed us why, at 41 years old he’s still one of the hardest players to defend in the league. Off the face-off he protected the puck in the corner then after a quick turn moved around the net and flung the puck in front where it found its way to Travis Zajac for him to put home the game tying goal. The Rangers got another Power Play a few minutes later and just like their previous 2, no dice. Almost 10 minutes after the Zajac goal, Devils forward Michael Ryder picked up a puck in the neutral zone and totally un-dressed John Moore and put one in between Lundqvist’s legs to take the lead 3-2. (*side note – The Rangers gave up only 3 shots in the third period, 2 were goals.) With the Rangers pressing in the closing minutes to find some magic, a delay of game penalty to Travis Zajac helped them. A shot from Ryan McDonagh, hit Ryan Callahan in the midsection and dropped down for Chris Kreider to poke at it and get his seventh of the season & tie the game with 21.3 seconds remaining. To overtime we go, tie game 3-3 Rangers leading in shots 24-23.
Well it didn’t take long for us to find a game winner. Ryan Callahan took an undisciplined high sticking, double minor. 13 second later, the Devils skated off the ice as victors. The shot from defenseman Eric Gelinas beat Henrik Lundqvist and it was game over.
The Rangers will have to regroup quickly, as they have a quick turn around having to face another division rival tomorrow night in the Washington Capitals. Both teams will enter the game having played the night before. Only difference, the Capitals won 5-2 against Nashville. The Rangers will look to shut-down the leagues leading scorer in Alex Ovechkin (22 goals) and also not fall back to .500 for the season. Arguably the Blueshirts are in their easiest stretch of the season, they’ll need to start stringing wins together sometime soon if they plan on climbing in the standings and staying there.
By: Patrick Serao
Old Time Rivals
The New York Rangers will take on the New Jersey Devils and possibly for playoff positioning depending on what happens with other games, including the Devils matchup against the Red Wings on Friday. The Devils are only 2-5 in their last seven games which include back-to-back losses to the Montreal Canadiens in a home-home matchup. New Jersey has been streaky in the goal scoring department by scoring as much as five goals or zero during a 7 game span. Regardless of any of those stats though, anything can happen in a heated rivalry as big as New York vs New Jersey.The Rangers are winning the historic series with a 101-84-27-6 record.
New York will try to get a win in their third meeting thus far into the season. The Rangers lost their first matchup 4-0 in New Jersey during the month of October and looked a little better again when they lost 3-2 at Madison Square Garden in November. With a better understanding of Alain Vigneault’s system will the Rangers get their first win of the season against New Jersey? Will Lundqvist continue his brilliant performance after his lock down against the lowly Buffalo Sabres? Questions still loom about Hank. One game isn’t enough to convince a logical fan base if he’s back for real.
Countdown to 300
Henrik Lundqvist is only 15 wins away from a big number. 300. He is on his way to becoming the 29th NHL goalie ever do accomplish this and it should definitely happen this season. He is only 17 wins away from beating current team record holder Mike Richter who has 301 wins in 666 games. Lundqvist can do this in under 600 games...heck, he might be able to do this in under 550 games which is also a great accomplishment, but he would need to have a 15-3 record in the next 18 games and you never know, anything is possible.
By: Kyle Roberts
Martin Brodeur has already been given the nod for the contest. it could very well be the last game he ever plays at MSG.
INSTANT RETURN ON INVESTMENT
For those waiting for a classic Henrik Lundqvist take over game, or for Henrik Lundqvist to stand on his head and take the team on his back. Last night was your night, as he led the Rangers to a 3-1 victory against the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
Sure, you can say that the offense was there, scoring 3 goals for Henrik which is some sort of miracle as his past few starts (minus the Florida game). The team was really laboring to score goals for Henrik, but when the team broke down and slugged through the opening period, Henrik Lundqvist kept them in the game.
So I think it’s safe to say we can lay off the trade Lundqvist bandwagon for a long time. We all sensed it, the extension while he may deny it, was actually a nuisance for him.
THE GOAL BREAKDOWN
The first goal for the Rangers, came late in the first period, scored by Rick Nash, his fifth of the season, in a nice passing sequence by Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan. An equally finesse move, and deke by Nash was done confusing Ryan Miller, and gave the Ranger a lead at the end of the first period, where the Rangers were outplayed, and out worked in their own end by a surprisingly different Sabres team then what we were used to. Ted Nolan has this team working hard, they’re not going to magically turn it around, but can give some bubble teams late in the season some difficulty once they get everything going.
As the second period held everything at 1-0, the third saw the Rangers get a powerplay goal from a difficult angle, by who else? Brad Richards of course, scoring his eighth of the season, assisted by Brassard and Zuccarello. Brad continues his hot hand in Buffalo by scoring another goal against the team. Remember, Richards scored his first career hat trick last season against the Sabres during the Rangers press for a playoff spot. Richards has been struggling mightily as of late (2 goals in 12 games), but this goal will hopefully be a start of something good for him, and many of his teammates that were struggling along with him.
The last and final Ranger goal, came off the stick of The Hobbit, Mats Zuccarello his fifth of the season assisted by Brad Richards and Ryan McDonagh. The wrister that Zuccarello let off, went right over Miller and wasn’t anything less than a pretty snipe by Zucc. He has the ability as a playmaker already, but instead of being a pass first guy, he needs to use that wrister he shows of every now and then more often. He’s already a dangerous offensive threat due to his vision, but adding that element, will make him even scarier to face. Craig Janney and Adam Oates made long careers from shooting it occasionally.
TURN AROUND AHEAD?
I guess everyone on the Rangers read my latest article, because those that needed to step up (Girardi and Richards – looking at you), did just that and at least for Girardi, probably played his best defensive game of the season, but the kicker of all of this is how the team and the core group that Vigneault called out on Tuesday responded, and played very hard. Now they have to go out and play with the same passion Saturday against the Devils.
The Rangers need to up the energy in the first period though. Coming out flat against fast skating strong teams, will continue to get them beat. They need to come out fast, aggressive, and they need to be the team that sets the pace for the rest of the game, not the other way around. Consistency is key, and the term “consistently inconsistent” needs to go to the way side. This nine game home stand, will prove what type of team this Ranger team is.
And it starts and ends with how prepared Alain Vigneault gets this team night in and night out.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Rangers start their NINE game home stand Saturday against a Devil team that has had their number twice so far this season. Most recent memory was a 3-2 loss on November 12 after a late Dainius Zubrus goal in the third iced it for the Rangers, as they as usual had trouble putting the puck in the net. The Rangers need to put their best foot forward, and play a complete 60 minute hockey game in all nine tilts.
This will be a true test for the Rangers, where home cooking hasn’t been so good for them. So far the team is 5-6-0 at the newly transformed Madison Square Garden, highlighted by the new Chase Bridge. Bringing a consistent game and a solid game night in night out by the Rangers will be key on this home stand. They have no reason to not get on a roll, and put a solid string of wins together to get them away from mediocrity.
But like I said, it starts and ends with Vigneault. So let’s see how prepared he gets this team, as this is the test they all want to pass.
By Shawn Taggart
Where The Buffalo Roam
The New York Rangers are heading north west to Buffalo, New York where they will take on the Sabres. Buffalo, who is dead last in the standings by at least six points are struggling this year with only six wins and 20 losses and are by far the lowest scoring team in the league with a merely 48 goals scored. With a struggling offense like that, you can only hope the Rangers will win this game with ease, right? In seven of their last eight games, Buffalo has given up three or more goals and scored only two goals twice in that time span. It’s hard to say whether or not the streaky Rangers will take advantage of this opportunity to nail two points into the standings.
Long Live The King
It’s expected that Henrik Lundqvist will get the start today. Hank, who recently just signed a multi-year extension that is worth 59.9 million dollars over seven year is coming off his first career back-to-back losing records in consecutive months, with a 3-5 record in October and 5-6 in November. That is behind him though. Now is the time to see if Hank is ready to take on the challenge of bringing this team to the top with literally zero distractions left on his mind.
“I want to be a Ranger for life," Lundqvist said in a post-practice news conference Wednesday. "That was a big thing that became clear to me, because how they treated me. Everything from coaches to players to everyone working around the organization, the city, fans -- it's been incredible. To picture myself anywhere else, it was just wrong. Never, never an option."
Will Hank start off fresh with a second clean slate he’s been presented? Hopefully so. He has had two games off, the first time since 2011.
Blowout in Buffalo
The last time the Rangers visited Buffalo, New York torched the Sabres 8-4 in a goal scoring clinic. Ryan Miller, who looked completely lost gave up four goals, which included fumbling one to Ryane Clowe in the final seconds of the first period. Brad Richards also got his first career hat trick of his career that game. The Rangers hope they can find their scoring ways again against a lowly team like Buffalo.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
Through 28 games so far this season, the New York Rangers are sitting at .500 at a 14-14-0 record, which puts them in third place in the weakest division of the NHL, the Metropolitan Division.
After a rough start out west, the Rangers put together a nice string of wins to get them back at the Mendoza line, but since then, when it seems that this team can put together a solid effort their following game, they lay a huge egg. The Rangers find themselves right back at the start searching for answers.
WHAT TO DO?
We can ask for all the trades in the world we want, we can beg Glen Sather to get rid of Michael Del Zotto, beg for Alain Vigneault to bench Benoit Pouliot, start Cam Talbot over Henrik Lundqvist, doing anything outlandish (benching Pouliot is not a bad idea actually) that would make any armchair GM happy about this team going forward.
You can also blame it on the fact that this is a team that isn’t built for Alain Vigneault. A lot of the pieces on this team come from the John Tortorella brand of hockey, and what Vigneault is asking for isn’t grasping with certain individuals. These individuals, who will be named later, will be removed from the team, whether it be through trades, free agency, or buyouts. But, for the time being we have a team, according to our fearless leader that is built for .500 hockey, because of how they are playing.
STEP UP OR SIT DOWN
During an after practice press conference, Vigneault put his veteran leaders on notice, and looked at the core leadership in the room, and issued them a challenge:
“If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level, we need our top players to consistently play like top players.” Vigneault stated. He would add “Not a period in, a period out. Not a game in, a game out. We need that core group, the leaders of this group, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis and on a game to game basis. Just look at our lineup, look at our core group and look at our key guys and there’s the answer.”
And he makes a very good point. Right now the guys you expect to perform night in and night out aren’t performing. Before his goal last night, Captain Ryan Callahan has been quiet. We haven’t heard much from him, and we haven’t seen his presence around the ice as much as we have in the past. Whatever it may be, nagging injury, or if he’s just going through the motions, Ryan Callahan has to be the player who sets the tone. And simply, he’s not doing that.
Remember when Brad Richards started off hot? Me too, but since then, he’s slowly regressed into the player we loved to pick on during last season, not being able to successfully join the rush at the right speed, not being able to finish, and put pucks in the net. He seems like he’s lost his legs and is laboring trying to understand that he isn’t going to be the same player that he was 2 years ago. Until he realizes his skill set, and where he’s at physically, he’s going to continue to struggle.
On defense, both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are struggling on the back end. We all knew that Ryan McDonagh was going to continue his growth, and has both defensively and offensively, but with Dan Girardi, it seems he’s not understanding the new style switching to a zone after being so use to a man to man system. Girardi is making a lot more mistakes in his own end, due to positioning errors. Goals that have been due to deflections, is because of his mistakes in in that area.
With Marc Staal, you can easily blame his nerves. Staal came back after a horrific eye injury, and has to adjust not being able to see the ice the same way he use to. But in the preseason, and even in the beginning stages of the regular season, he was our lone bright spot on the team. Showing some flashes of offensive prowless, getting time on the powerplay, playing sound defensively. Recently, Staal has shown flashes that he’s still one of the best shut down defensemen in the league, but Anton Stralman, a quiet workhorse, has outplayed Staal in these past stretches of games. Especially the game in Boston, you could tell he was laboring out there on the ice trying to keep up. There’s been a lot of up and down this year with Staal, and that could be expected. But he’s another one that needs to turn it around ASAP.
WHERE'S OUR KING?
We can say that this season hasn’t been the brightest for Henrik Lundqvist. The terrible start in the western time zone where he got hammered pretty good by the powerhouse teams of the west, and now where a few unlucky bounces go in, and the offense cannot help him what so ever. Through Henrik Lundqvist’s 19 starts, and I know we’ve been pressing this statistic a lot, the Rangers offense is scoring 1.95 goals per game. After Henrik’s rough start, he’s been keeping this team in, and as per usual, the offense just is not there.
JUST START SCORING
Part of the inability to score offensively, is the Rangers abysmal 5 on 5. Through the 28 games they’ve played, the Rangers have 1.72 goals per game while on even strength. This has been highlighted all season, and is something that cannot be forgotten about, as the Rangers do not have a finisher to help out Rick Nash. Talking with Chris of Hockey Craze Radio, and co-host of Full Tilt Ranger Radio on Wednesday, those expecting Rick Nash to be like the Crosby’s, Malkin’s and Stamkos’ of the league should just stop. He’s a point per game player at best, and he always will be.
The Rangers have some home cooking with a nice long 9 game home stand that opens up Saturday against New Jersey. The Rangers need to start putting together complete sixty games together, and when they do (all signs point to them doing that), they will be an extremely dangerous team. Until then, the nerves and agita will continue for us fans.
When we heard AV declare at the end of Saturday’s press conference that we would find out Monday who the starting goaltender would be against the Winnipeg Jets, we all knew something was fishy with the way that sounded.
But, not so fast. Alain Vigneault is doing what is best for this team to win today, and right now it’s starting the hot goaltender in Cam Talbot, a man who has won six straight starts. Talbot has looked outstanding in his last 3 starts (2 shut outs, defeated a strong Canucks team 5-2 on Saturday). Yet, people are screaming that there is a goalie controversy.
Still Number One
Wait, what? A goalie controversy, even Vigneault had to take time to address that, and did so today during his post morning skate news conference:
“Henrik is definitely the number one goaltender on this team. He’s proven that he’s one of the best, if not THE best, in the National Hockey League.”
Let that sink in for a bit – the coach stating that his all world elite goaltender is still the number one goalie for this team.
Sure, we’ve heard this before, he played the same tune in Vancouver, stated Roberto Luongo is the starting goaltender over Cory Schneider, but we all know how that was suppose to end, before the surprise twist during the draft.
I brought up this stat following Friday’s game, but I’ll bring it up again, the Rangers are playing better in front of Cam, scoring 2.71 goals a game, compared to a 1.95 clip when Henrik is in net for the team. If you factor out Saturday’s start, Cam still has the advantage as the team is scoring 2.33 goals a game. Yet, lets also factor in that Cam has started 7 games prior to Monday’s contest, compared to the 19 Henrik has started.
You cannot deny the fact that this team has played defensively sound, and their overall game isn’t any different between the two goaltenders, because simply put it has been. Eventually, Cam will get rocked, and when he does, it’s about how he reacts, and how he responds in his next start that will show his mettle. Until then, we’ll see him as this extremely good goaltender, and it’s pretty early to claim him as one.
THE RANGERS ARE FORTUNATE
Yes, the Rangers and we as fans are lucky to have a good 1-2 goalie combo since the 2011-12 Lundqvist/Biron tandem. But, this is NOT the first time, nor will it be the last that Lundqvist has sat out consecutive starts healthy during his time with the Rangers. During Feb. 5-7 of 2012, he sat out consecutively, due to former coach John Tortorella not liking Lundqvist’s mindset at the time (hanging out with Justin Bieber, can cause any coach to be livid), and there was a stretch in 2010, where due to poor play, Lundqvist sat as Biron started 3 of 4.
No one was calling out goalie controversy then, and no one should call that out now.
Henrik spoke to the media after the morning skate as well. Here are some of his thoughts on sitting out:
“I have been here eight years, and have I ever been happy about sitting on the bench? I don’t think so. But that being said, Cam is playing really well. We have a great relationship. I support Cam and he supports me. This is about the team and doing what’s best for tonight. I support their decision.”
Sure, what player likes sitting on the bench watching his teammates do all the work? No one. We all know the workhorse Henrik Lundqvist is, and how hard he prides himself in playing great night in and not out:
"I'm not satisfied by being OK or playing a solid game. I want to be great, and if I'm not, I'm not going to be satisfied. I have to push myself even harder. I want to push myself to play great. It's what I expect from myself."
THE BIG PICTURE
There’s one big thing to remember: that this is an Olympic year. The last time Henrik Lundqvist was over worked in an Olympic year, was 2005-06, his first year in the league. After starting out 25-6-5 with a 2 GAA and a .930 SV%, Lundqvist finished that season 5-5-2 with a GAA of 2.83 and a .907 SV%, and started games 1, 2 and 4 of their first round exit to the New Jersey Devils. So wanting to keep Henrik fresh and limiting his starts will keep him strong for when the team needs him the most: late in the season into the playoffs.
So please before you cry goalie controversy know what exactly AV is trying to do: and that is to win the next game. And to win, he needs to put his best out there right now, and based on the statistics, and the way the team performs in front of him, Cam Talbot is a logical choice. Plus, he has earned this start as well.
At the end of the day, NY has in Lundqvist 8 plus years of incredible goaltending. Within that time frame a Vezina trophy, division title and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Cam Talbot has 8 appearances. Aside from a really cool Ghostbuster’s mask and a nice little run, we don’t have much else to go on. Let’s be grateful to have them both, because Talbot’s play really bodes well for the Rangers long-term success. Could you imagine what Lundqvist could do in the playoffs with goal support? It’s the stuff of NY dreams since 1994.
New York Jet Streams
The New York Rangers will faceoff against the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden. New York is coming off a great win against John Tortorella and the Vancouver Canucks, in a 5-2 laugher on the strength of Chris Kreider’s hat trick. Ironically he showed Tortorella what he’s truly capable of after being a bottom 6 player for most of his tenure last year under the Tortorella reign. Rick Nash also notched a goal and we saw a rare contribution from Michael Del Zotto.
Winnipeg is coming off a 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. Winnipeg is 5-5 in their last ten games, but had a 4 game losing streak during that span of 10 games and only winning 2 in their last seven. They have scored three or more goals four times in their last ten and have given up three or more goals in seven of their last ten as well.
The King or The Prince?
Alain Vigneault made it clear that he is not ready to name a starter for the game against the Jets. We speculate Henrik Lundqvist will be in net, but don’t be surprised if he gives the nod to Cam Talbot who has played well lately. Hank should get the start and then Talbot is back at it against the lowly Buffalo Sabres. It’s probably safe to say Ondrej Pavelec is in goal for Winnipeg. He’s allowed more than two goals once in his last seven starts, but has won only three of those games.
It’s A Powerplay Goal!
The Rangers have a chance to expose a team who is in the top ten in goals against. The Jets are right in the middle of the pack in goals against when its 5 on 5 hockey, but have given up 17 4-on-5 powerplay goals, which is within the top ten in the league. With the Rangers powerplay coming alive this season, you may see Winnipeg’s totals go up. The Jets are the 5th most penalized team among the NHL so you can expect some powerplay opportunities to come.
Players To Watch
The Rangers will have a tough task at preventing Bryan Little from scoring. He has 12 goals thus far and leads the team in points with 25. You can also expect big boy Dustin Byfuglien to be watched closely when on the ice as he has a bomb of a slap shot and has 15 helpers to go with his six goals. Although Evander Kane is slumping so far this year, he is still a dynamite threat on the ice as he can turn it on at any moment now. His status is questionable tonight, as he left the game Friday versus Philly with a lower body injury.
Full Tilt Forecast
Rangers will take advantage of Winnipeg on the powerplay by scoring on half of their opportunities. Rick Nash will continue his scoring ways and Chris Kreider continues his breakout with two more goals in a Rangers 5-3 win over the Jets.
The storyline was set, the return on John Tortorella to Madison Square Garden, to face his former team the New York Rangers. On the other side it was Alain Vigneault, the home coach in his first regular season matchup against his former team, the Vancouver Canucks. When asked about this game, players from the Rangers notably, Brad Richards said that they would take this as any normal game, but the media was playing up the hype of the game because of the two coaches.
This wasn’t a storyline for the players. It wasn’t a storyline that the people at MSG Network were going to pass up though, at every chance they could get, they would bring it up. Most importantly because one player in particular, that was put under the Tortorella spotlight performed so well, that it even had Tortorella scratching his head in confusion.
You can read about him all over this blog, we’re talking about the guy who scored a hat trick this afternoon, Chris Kreider.
Kreider’s two goals coming in the first period (one on the powerplay) and then his final tally in the third, really played in to the whole storyline that the team at the MSG Network was hoping for. At the end of the first period, when Al Trautwig was talking with Dan Girardi, a question was referenced about how Kreider feels about scoring, especially knowing who’s on the visitor’s bench. Girardi answered it perfectly, saying he’s sure Kreider felt excited, but it doesn’t matter who’s on the bench, they’re just trying to win. We then hear another mention from Bill Pidto during the MSG 150, about how Kreider was making Tortorella regret stunting his growth.
The tone settled down in the second as everyone on MSG talked about the game in front of them, as early in the second saw the end of Roberto Luongo’s night as Rick Nash made it 3-0 early. We would see Eddie Lack enter the game, but goals would still come, as Michael Del Zotto scored one on the powerplay to make it 4-0. The Rangers who were getting out shot, out hit, out everything had what mattered the most a 4-1 lead after two.
When the third period picked up you knew that the Rangers were going to do what they could to get the Kreider for his third, and he did just that. The Rangers would win this game, and defeat a former friend 5-1 in their game this afternoon at the Garden.
After the game, Kreider was asked if there was extra incentive, if he was playing with more of an edge because of who was playing, Kreider simply stated no, and moved on to the next question.
The incentive you ask? Rebounding after yesterday afternoon’s game. And responding after an angry Alain Vingeault told reporters after the game that with the team’s lack of effort, the result we saw was deserving due to the effort put in during the game.
Kreider said it best, telling reporters that the team understood how angry he was and that they wanted it to translate on the ice, and it did. They followed the game plan, and did just exactly what they needed to do to win. And that statement echoed throughout the locker room, and the team was more focused on bouncing back after Friday’s loss, and come out strong and make a difference in the early going of the game. I’d say the team did exactly that tonight, calming Cam Talbot down in his first career start at MSG.
Interesting Stat: Thanks to FullTilt reader Nick, he posed the question asking what the goals a game are for both Ranger goaltenders, and the stat is telling. When backup goaltender Cam Talbot is in net, the Rangers score 2.71 goals a game (7 starts), when Henrik Lundqvist is in net, the goals per game drop down to 1.95 (19 starts). What does that tell you? Simply, that the Rangers seem to play very sound defensively and offensively in front of Cam Talbot. In short, they play better for the backup.
Comment with your thoughts about today’s game, as well as that stat I just threw out there. Rangers back at it on Monday against the Jets.