The Rangers took care of business this weekend, sweeping both games, 5-2 over the Hurricanes and 3-2 over the Sharks. The two victories gave New York seven wins in their last eight games and 10 in their last 13 contests, continuing their surge into playoff contention. What the victories have done is increase the pressure on Rangers' management, as they now have to decide whether to stay the course, add players for a possible push or move unrestricted and restricted free agents, as looked to be the plan just a few short weeks ago.
A few thoughts:
, Mika Zibanejad potted a goal, showing his speed on the breakaway, and a pair of assists while Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome (empty-net) each added a marker and an apple. The victory was aided by a pair of goals off Carolina skates by Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei, which propelled New York into a 3-1 lead in the second period. Igor Shesterkin, starting his second straight game after missing three contests due to an ankle injury, made 27 saves for the victory. The win was the Blueshirts' seven straight on the road.
, New York was somewhat flat and showed signs of being tired, which makes sense given their recent schedule. Give some credit to San Jose, who forced the action, putting the team on their heels. But the Rangers weren't skating much of the first two periods.
Down 2-1, Mika Zibanejad, aided by a great defensive play by Artemi Panarin, tied the game late in the second, which rejuvenated New York for a bit. In the third, despite getting outplayed, Panarin put the puck on net and Fast fafter his initial deflection was stopped, stuck with it, tallying his second of the game, which proved to be the game-winner. The two assists upped Panarin's point streak to nine games, during which he has four goals and eights assists, and his season total to 83 points in 60 games. Zibanejad tied his career-high point streak at seven games (six goals and six assists) with his goal, while Strome did the same at eight games due to his assists on Fast's goals.
David Quinn Post-Game:
3) I know some view Fast
as just a nice player, who is easily replaceable. I don't share that view. He is miscast as a second liner, but his value is his ability to move up and down the lineup while also playing a key role on the tea. Quinn knows his value, as seen in his comments below. Fast may go before the deadline and may not be re-signed. But he is one of those whose value many won't really realize until he is gone.
"Shift in and shift out, we probably don’t have a more consistent player," Quinn said. "He just plays hard, and he’s got enough skill to complement people that do have skill. There’s such an honesty to his game, and it certainly is infectious throughout our lineup. He’s an important piece to the puzzle here."
made 44 saves in the win and is now 7-0-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in his past seven starts. Larry Brooks said it yesterday, Shesterkin is giving New York what Sean Burke gave New Jersey in 1987-88; a boost of energy and stellar goaltending. Igor's is coming earlier in the season, but the impact has been the same, he has his team in the playoff hunt.
5) With the win
, the Rangers are now 33-24-4 on the year. With 70 points, New York is now four points shy of Carolina (61 games), Columbus (63 games) and the Islanders (60 games) for the two wild card spots in the East. Three weeks ago, this looked liked the longest of long shots. But the team has really coalesced, aided by the play of Shesterkin and the Metro has really tightened.
6) The moms clearly couldn't get enough. After being on both road wins and Quinn jokingly saying they should stick around. Some took that advice to heart, showing up last night.
7) What will President John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton do?
Does Chris Kreider get moved if he doesn't sign a deal by end of day Sunday or Monday am? Is Fast here following the trade deadline? What about Strome and Tony DeAngelo? Will Henrik Lundqvist be asked to waive his no-movement clause and is there any interest in the market place? Does Carolina losing both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer force them to make a deal, putting Hank or Alexandar Georgiev even more on their radar and would NY trade in division?
My view overall is stay the course. Is the tea, elite? No, far from it. But Shesterkin gives them a chance in each game and the team is finally playing like a team, though aided broadly by the play in net. Don't blow it up, because what is going on ow is something special.
As i said on the Hockey Buzz cast on Friday and tweeted last night, offer Kreider eight years at 6.25 mil, which lowers the AAV and still gives him his money. Front load the deal to make it possibly easier to deal him, especially rolling more into the signing bonuses. We have no idea what the cap will be in years 5-8, but you have to expect a continued rise, which reduces the impact of this deal % wise.
Mustang Harry Event, Zib signing 2/23:
Today, Mika Zibanejad is doing a signing event at Mustang Harry
, see details below. The mood should be very light, though tempered by the pending trade deadline.
For more info or to purchase tickets, visit nyrfans.com/signings/ or email [email protected]
Tiered ticket packages range from $59-$199 based on player(s) and include:
Package 1: Player Meet & Greet and signed puck and case or 8x10 photo ($59-$119)
Package 2: Player Meet & Greet and signed professional large 16x20 player action shot photo or official NY Rangers mini helmet ($99)
Package 3 (VIP Package): Player Meet & Greet with front of line privileges, upstairs private seating, signed 16x20 player action shot photo* ($99 - $199; limited to first 80 fans)