If the New York Rangers want to have any kind of chance to both get into the postseason and go far in them, they will need a lot more offense.
In Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Blueshirts probably had one of their worst offensive performances. There was no sustained pressure, not enough pucks thrown at Canadiens' netminder Carey Price and not enough flow to their game.
Things will not get any easier tonight as the team takes on the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa without one of their key offensive cogs, Rick Nash. Nash is out with an undisclosed injury and for Rangers' head coach John Tortorella, that means some serious creativity is going to be needed to come up with balanced offensive lines.
For whatever reason, scoring goals on a consistent basis has been a problem for the Rangers over the last few seasons. You can play great defense and get solid goaltending but without scoring goals, it will mean nothing and all go to waste.
Past the quarter mark of the season, every game from here on out is going to get tougher and tougher as the league inches towards the Stanley Cup Playoiffs.
Tonight at Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers will have a tough test of their own when they take on the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens are currently 10-4-1 and find themselves atop the Northeast Division and one point behind the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Canadiens also come into tonight's game having won four straight. In those four games, the Canadiens have outscored their opponents 12-4 and have picked-up two shutouts in the process.
At the other end of the ice, the Blueshirts are not doing too shabby either. The club is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and while they currently sit in the eighth spot in the East, they are not that far behind the fifth place Boston Bruins.
The Rangers are coming off a 2-1 win over the visiting Washington Capitals on Sunday night. The Blueshirts got terrific goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, great play out of Carl Hagelin and a clutch power play goal in the third period by Derek Stepan.
The game might have been one of the Rangers' best efforts of the season. They threw plenty of pucks on net, did not take many stupid penalties, were perfect on the penalty kill and did all the little things a hockey team needs to do in order to win games.
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Tags: boston+bruins, carl+hagelin, carolina+hurricanes, derek+stepan, henrik+lundqvist, montreal+canadiens, new+york+rangers, pittsburgh+penguins, washington+capitals
After getting off to a somewhat slow start, it appears that New York Rangers' starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is back to being himself between the pipes for his hockey club.
This was extremely evident tonight in the Rangers' 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist stopped 27 of 28 shots and picked-up his fourth straight win as he improves his record to 7-5 on the season.
Lundqvist was especially terrific in the third period as the Capitals beared down in the third period. The Capitals fired 11 shots at Lundqvist but the 30-year-old netminder stopped them all.
Before Lundqvist got on a roll in this game, it looked like the Rangers were going to blow the Capitals out of the water. The team outshot the Capitals 20-8 in the first period and yet, the club went into the second period down 1-0 thanks to the outstanding play of Capitals' netminder Braden Holtby.
That all changed when streaking Rangers' forward Carl Hagelin scored on a deflection to tie the game at one apiece. For Hagelin, it was his fifth goal in his last four games.
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Tags: brad+richards, braden+holtby, carl+hagelin, derek+stepan, henrik+lundqvist, michael+del+zotto, montreal+canadiens, new+york+rangers, ottawa+senators, washington+capitals
This seems to be a consistent theme for the New York Rangers this season, eh?
Tonight, the Blueshirts will take on the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. The Capitals come into MSG on a three-game winning streak while the Rangers are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night at MSG.
Defensively, the Blueshirts will need to be at their absolute best tonight. This means no turnovers, blocking lots of shots, clearing the front of the net out for Henrik Lundqvist and being smart with the puck.
Speaking of Lundqvist, the team will also need him to be at his best. With a lineup that has Alex Ovechkin (five goals), Nicklas Backstrom (four goals), Troy Brouwer (seven goals), Mike Ribeiro (five goals) and Joel Ward (five goals), Lundqvist will have to stop lots of offensive weapons tonight.
As a team, the Rangers need to be clicking on all areas. When they get a lead, they need to hold onto it. The team needs to make better line changes and not take too many men on the ice penalties and lastly, the team's power play needs to start producing.
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Tags: alex+ovechkin, henrik+lundqvist, joel+ward, mike+ribeiro, montreal+canadiens, new+york+islanders, new+york+rangers, nicklas+backstrom, ottawa+senators, troy+brouwer, washington+capitals
For New York Rangers' youngster Chris Kreider, this was a long time coming.
Kreider, who has struggled with the big club this season so far, was sent down to the Connecticut Whale so that he could get some playing time. The 22-year-old winger played with the Whale while waiting for the NHL lockout to end and struggled a bit there as well.
The key for the Rangers' coaching staff and organization as a whole is to be patient. When Kreider burst onto the scene in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, he was already coming in on a high due to winning a National Championship with Boston College and being called up to the NHL just several days later.
For Kreider, it is important for him to find his game. His game consists of speed, a great shot, an ability to get pucks to the net and someone who is responsible on both ends of the ice.
Rangers' head coach John Tortorella knows this. Tortorella also knows that some day soon, Kreider is going to be an integral part of the Rangers' organization.
Brian Monzo, a producer and hockey writer at WFAN as well as a good friend of the blog, was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to give us his thoughts on the New York Rangers' play to date:
PH: I know it is still early on in the season but what are some of your general thoughts on the Rangers' play so far?
BM: I think they've played good at times and bad at times. Sometimes that happens in the same game (Bruins, Islanders games come to mind). I think some players have played well, and some players have not. It can be frustrating to watch, but I think you will start to see what we expect -- a good hockey team. They've gotten points and now find themselves only a few points out of first place. But it's definitely fair to say they need to play better.
PH: Why do you think the Rangers got off to the slow start that they did?
BM: Simple -- short training camp and lack of team chemistry. Some teams came out and have played great. For the Rangers it's been a struggle. I think we all know what they can be, and should be, but it's going to take more time for the team to get to that level. I also think Henrik Lundqvist seems to finally be getting into a groove, which will be a huge key to their success.
PH: What do you think of Tortorella's use of Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller? It seems that he has been more willing to sit Kreider this season.
BM: He likes using players he trusts and has gotten results from previously. As much as Ranger fans want to see Miller and Kreider getting big minutes game in and game out, it's just not going to happen here with Tortorella. They are going to need to earn their time. If they play well, as we've seen at times, they've been playing. When they struggle, they sit. It goes like that with most players on the team -- but it will be more visible when it's a rookie getting benched.
Had it not been for a terrible span of seven minutes in the second period, the New York Rangers may have never lost 4-3 to the New York Islanders in a shootout at Madison Square Garden.
After going up 2-0 in the first period, the Rangers stopped skating and allowed the Islanders to skate all over them for the first seven minutes. The result was three quick goals and the loss of a lead that the team should have built on.
The Rangers were able to tie the game at three when Carl Hagelin knocked a loose puck in the crease past Islanders' netminder Evgeni Nabokov. Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, the team was unable to get another one and the Islanders' first two shooters in the shootout did all the rest to spoil the Rangers' three game winning streak.
As always, the Rangers' power play struggled tonight. Yes, the team did manage to get one goal with the man advantage but other than that, they struggled to get pucks on the net, move the puck cleanly and even find good lanes to get a shot on Nabokov.
As I mentioned in my blog a little while ago, Brad Richards was just one of the reasons why the team could not do much on the man advantage tonight. His poor play on the power play actually caused team head coach John Tortorella to bench him for much of the third period.
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Tags: brad+boyes, brad+richards, carl+hagelin, evgeni+nabokov, henrik+lundqvist, john+tortorella, martin+biron, new+york+islanders, new+york+rangers, washington+capitals
While the game at Madison Square Garden between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders has yet to be settled, one interesting development has been the benching of Rangers' forward Brad Richards.
It was easy to see that Richards has had trouble tonight, both on even strength and on the power play. For Rangers' head coach John Tortorella, however, the main concern has to be Richards' poor performance on the power play.
Richards has not looked confident with the puck, was slow skating the puck out of his own zone and in general, has just had a tough time moving the puck. One could probably credit the Islanders' aggresive play on the penalty kill but it has been like this for Richards and the rest of the club's power play all season long.
There is no doubt that when Richards is at his best, he is one that creates offense by not being afraid to shoot the puck and being able to find the open lanes with his pin-point passing. This season, and even parts of last season, Richards has had trouble doing both when the team has the man advantage.
Obviously, the blame should not be placed solely on Richards's shoulders but as the team's supposed power play quarterback, he needs to get it going in order for this team to have success moving forward with the man advantage.
That is officially what the New York Rangers have and what they will look to do tonight against a struggling New York Islanders' hockey club at Madison Square Garden.
After beating the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout at the TD Garden on Tuesday night, the Rangers have now won three straight games and are starting to find ways to gain traction in an extremely competitive Eastern Conference. The Rangers currently find themselves in the eighth spot in the Conference with 14 points, which puts them five behind the leading New Jersey Devils.
At the other end of the spectrum, the club is also just one point of the ninth spot. With such a shortened schedule, each Conference is a lot more competitive than it usually is, which is pretty amazing considering how tight each Conference is every season.
This is why it is important for the New York Rangers to continue building on this winning streak. Every point matters and in the end, the eight teams with the most points in the East make the playoffs and with the roster the Blueshirts have, they should be one of those eight teams that gets to play for the Cup in May and June.
While I did not get to see the game on Tuesday night (I had a hockey game of my own to play in), it was nice to see Rangers' forward Carl Hagelin score again. After struggling out of the gate to start the season, Hagelin now has six points (four goals and two assists) and is starting to play with a lot of confidence.
That is what the New York Rangers will be looking for tonight in terms of wins when they take on the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
This will be the final regular season game this year between these two teams. The series is currently split and one game apiece with tonight being the grudge match.
The Blueshirts are coming off two games in which they have had no trouble finding the back of the net. In fact, in the last two games combined, the Blueshirts have scored nine goals, with most of them coming during even strength play.
Speaking of the team's last two games, the club's defense and goaltending have been stellar. The team has allowed just two goals in that span and starting netminder Henrik Lundqvist is starting to look more like the Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender that he was last season.
About Goal Line Report
Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.