Olympics 2014: Pre-Hockey Madness Notes

Streeter Lecka

A few notes before the men hit the ice in Sochi.

- Well we've officially hit the Olympic break, which means there won't be any NHL hockey until the end of February. The New York Rangers -- thanks to a massive 4-3 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday -- waltz into the break 5-1 in their last six. A swing that saw them retain their hold on second place with a one-point advantage over the Philadelphia Flyers.

- The Rangers will have seven representatives at the Olympics. Rick Nash will represent Canada. Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin will represent Sweden. Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan will represent the United States. Mats Zuccarello will represent Norway.

- There is a lot of debate about the rest/play aspect of the Olympic break. Would you rather your star players take a seat during this little hiatus, or play to keep their competitive edge sharp? It's a good question, and one with an answer that's hard to pin down. The good news for the Rangers' most important player (Henrik Lundqvist) is that Alain Vigneault prepared for this moment from the start of the season. Remember when everyone was flipping out because Vigneault started Cam Talbot three games in a row, and kept feeding him games throughout the year? Some of it, of course, had to do with his play, but some of it had to do with this moment right now.

- The reality is that Sweden is a favorite in this tournament. So if they do get to the Gold Medal Game that's a lot of hockey Lundqvist will be playing. Talbot had played in 17 games so far this year, starting 15 of them. That's a good amount of rest for Lundqvist so far in the season, and a good way to make sure he doesn't get burned out at the end of the year. Well played by Vigneault.

- As for the other guys? I think it's not a bad thing they play. The Olympics aren't nearly as physical as the NHL, and it really does jack the guys up because it means so much to them. Plus, guys like Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin (players who will thrive with the big ice surface) will probably gain a little confidence and hopefully take that with them when they get back to the regular season.

- Don't expect things to slow down here, either. We're going to do open threads for games where the Rangers have an active player, and we'll do some analysis as well. Obviously the bigger stories will be put on hold (the Callahan and Dan Girardi rumors) but the Olympics is a pretty big deal so we can all be patient and wait.

- USA USA USA USA!

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