The Rangers try to make it five wins in their last six contests and three straight victories when they take on the Blue Jackets on Sunday. Columbus comes in red-hot, led by Elvis Merzlikins, who has posted shutouts in three of his last four games, including a 5-0 whitewash of the Devils on Saturday. New York closes out their pre-All-Star portion of their schedule with a game at home Tuesday against the Islanders.
David Quinn - Post-practice Saturday
, who sat the past three games, will be between the pipes. As I wrote Friday, this wasn't a surprising move. in addition, I expected Alexandar Georgiev to man the nets Tuesday. Henrik Lundqvist will then have played one game in the past 17 days. Speaking on Lundqvist, the NY Post had a good column on him today (https://nypost.com/2020/01/18/rangers-henrik-lundqvist-dilemma-nearing-eli-manning-level/)
“I saw what was going on [with the Giants] this year, and there are some things that are similar, for sure,” Lundqvist told The Post after practice Saturday in Tarrytown. “He was there around 15 years, same for me, just about the same years, too. When you’re in one place for a long time, of course you’re going to go through some different phases with an organization.
“They’re not easy discussions, but Hank and I also have had good conversations regarding the situation we’re in,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “It’s about players adapting in their careers, and as their careers evolve.
“[Lundqvist] is in a situation where he’s obviously not playing the amount he’s played in the past. That doesn’t mean he’s not a really good goalie. We have faith in him. But our organization feels that we’re gonna have three goalies here as of right now, and it’s just kind of the way it’s evolved and the situation we’re in.”
“It’s a bit of a challenge, for sure. In the end, you want to play. If you’re in this room, you want to play games,” said Lundqvist, who has one year remaining on his contract at a $8.5 million cap hit with no indication he’d be willing to waive his full no-trade clause. “I understand the big picture here, and at the same time, [Georgiev and Shesterkin] are playing well, both of them. I’m trying to focus on the things I can control, and that’s the way I practice and prepare.
“It’s important for me not to overthink it too much, and I’m sure it was the same for [Manning] when he went through it. I know I can play well when I get the next opportunity to play and get my chance.”
Managing this situation will not be easy for the organization, given all that Lundqvist has done his first 15 years in the league. But, right now, Georgiev and Shesterkin give the team a better chance of winning. That's not to say Hank has been bad, since the defense around him for the most part was poor and he provided the squad a chance to win in the games he started, stopping more shots than expected in most cases.
I do expect Lundqvist to put together a string of really good games when he does get back between the pipes. Because that's how he has responded in the past. If/when that happens, Quinn will have to figure out how to manage sitting the other two goalies for longer than expected. New York holds all the cards with Georgiev, as they don't have to deal him and if they do, hold fast to their view on what return would be acceptable. If those terms are not met, then he stays a Ranger; a situation that could linger even beyond the offseason. I know that's not a popular view or maybe the best approach, but it is one that I think is still feasible.
As the Post wrote and what we all like about Thursday's win was that the Rangers didn't force the issue
. They took what the Islanders gave them and didn't veer fro their structure. The Islanders clogged the neutral zone, but the Rangers were content to chip the puck in, chase and forecheck, rather than try and use speed and turn the puck over. This shows a sign of maturity missing earlier this season.
Part of that maturity might have been caused by the opponent, given the hype over the New York-New York match up. But we have seen signs of this play lately, especially on the revamped forecheck, which has created turnovers and offensive chances. When Brendan Lemieux, out since December 27 returns, the lineup will get deeper, as the fourth line might be able to be a weapon that has been lacking, The flip side is this will take minutes away from the top-nine, but having more rather than less talent is not a bad thing.
Lemieux might suit up Sunday but more likely Tuesday. I would say Michael Haley should sit but against the Isles, you never know. Leave Greg McKegg at center and Brendan Smith on the other wing. Maintain the Brett Howden-Filip Chytl-Kaapo Kakko trio, at least for now. then adjust as needed once Lemieux, who says he is in better shape than he was even earlier in the season, gets back up to game speed.
I noted in the recap blog, the penalty kill
was very good Thursday. The Rangers’ penalty kill went 5-for-5 against the Islanders and has been 19-of-21 since the debacle in Edmonton on New Year’s Eve, when they allowed three power-play goals. For the season, the kill is ranked 19th in the league at 79.3 percent.
As the NY Post noted, both units were strong in the contest. Mika Zibanejad-Ryan Strome starting up front, with Brady Skjei and Jacob Trouba on the back end. When it went to Brett Howden and Jesper Fast along with Marc Staal and Ryan Lindgren. The blueliners blocked shots while the forwards chipped pucks out and were in the right position defensively. Both aspects were lacking when the penalty kill struggled.
On the opposite side of the coin, the power play
scored twice against the Islanders, and is now 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) in the past seven games and 10-for-29 (34.5 percent) in the past 10. The Rangers are ranked 11th in the league at 21 percent and are 17-5-2 when registering at least one power-play goal in a game this season. Given the talent they have up front, the struggles were maddening. But I like how the players moved around, as they did on the game-winner, when Artemi Panarin was on the opposite side and he feed Zib in the slot for the one-timer. That shot created the rebound which Chris Kreider, posted in front of the net, pounced on for the score.