The New York Rangers will begin a very important weekend of games tonight. First up is the Los Angeles Kings in a rematch of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals.
New York Rangers (31-18-5, 67 points, 2nd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Los Angeles Kings (32-18-3, 67 points, 1st in NHL Pacific Division)
Tonight, 7:00 PM on NHLN-US, MSG
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
By Chris Wengert
The New York Rangers have a huge couple of games on deck this weekend with the Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers both coming to Madison Square Garden.
But is anyone over it yet?
“SCOOORE!!! MARTINEZ!!! THE STANNNNNLEY CUPPPP!!!”
Yeah me neither.
That goal, which won Game 5 and the Cup for the Kings, is embedded permanently is every New York Rangers fan’s brain.
Fast forward to today, and the Kings find themselves in a very similar position as the Rangers. LA has alternated wins and losses for a couple weeks now and both teams are boasting 67 points.
The good news is that the Rangers may not face Jonathon Quick, who is sidelined with a lower body injury after Boston Bruins’ forward Jimmy Hayes collided with the LA goalie.
Similar to the Rangers, the Kings are seeing production from a wide range of players, rather than relying on just one or two. The Rangers will need to be aware of the usual LA suspects tonight:
The special teams battle could be the biggest factor in this game. The Kings have the fourth best power play in the league with a 22.9% success rate. This is especially worrisome for a Rangers team that has struggled on the penalty kill.
Was the PK better against the Pittsburgh Penguins? Yes, but once is luck. The Rangers were successful because they were challenging the shooters and covering the slot (minus the Phil Kessel misfire).
But the Rangers have been brutally inconsistent in all facets of their game this year, so I’m not buying that the PK is fixed just yet.
Conversely, Henrik Lundqvist‘s play has been very solid lately. Ever since the Devils loss a couple weeks back, Henrik has stabilized his game.
For a stretch Hank would let in soft goals at the worst times, and it would kill the Ranger’s momentum. Perhaps Hank has made some adjustments that has improved his play:
Lundqvist also says he changed something in his technique two games ago, won’t reveal what. Technical stuff.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) February 11, 2016
From RR: AV on Raanta “He’s got to play better…I expect more from him and he’s very aware of that.” https://t.co/j5r1wYBelQ
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) February 9, 2016
I was a little surprised by this quote from Alain Vigneault. While he’s right, Raanta hasn’t played in about a month so I’m not sure it’s fair to call him out publicly.
But then again, that’s why I’m not a coach.
Are the Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh injuries a good thing? Of course not, but the Rangers have stepped up and rallied around their two fallen teammates. Like I’ve said previously, if it takes a couple injuries to band these brothers together, so be it.
As long as Nash and Mac return of course…
Ranger’s Keys To Victory
Stay Out Of The Box
The Kings power play is good and the Rangers take too many penalties, so this one is fairly straight forward. It will be interesting to see if the Ranger’s penalty kill can establish some consistency in this game.
Consistency On Defense
And that’s whole team defense, which has been much better. The defensemen are not chasing the puck behind the net and have been covering the weak goalpost, which has improved coverage in the slot.
Tonight will be very telling as to how much this coverage has improved though, because the Blueshirts will be playing a physical team that loves to park in the slot.
Protect The Puck
The Rangers were credited with five turnovers against the Pens, which is a farce. I counted three Marc Staal turnovers in the first five minutes.
Staal and Dan Boyle need to be better with the puck. Lobbing lame duck passes through the middle of the ice never results in anything good.