The Rangers will host the Montreal Canadiens tonight in a matchup of two of the premier goaltenders in the NHL. The Canadiens are seeking a fourth straight win, while the Rangers are looking to get the bad taste from Nassau Coliseum out of their mouths. They have a four game homestand to do so. [Habs Eyes on the Prize] [TSN] [Pro Hockey Talk] [Rant Sports]
The Montreal Gazette has a video with Michel Therrien commenting on the matchup. [Montreal Gazette]
Shuffling Deck Chairs
There will be some lineup juggling tonight. John Moore draws in for Matt Hunwick. J.T. Miller will be a healthy scratch as Dominic Moore gets bumped up to 3rd line center with Carl Hagelin and Lee Stempniak. The 4th line will feature, I guess, Jesper Fast, Kevin Hayes and Tanner Glass. Woof. [NY Post] [NY Daily News]
To me, these are combinations that all but insure the bench gets squeezed in the third period. I would guess the 3rd line would get the tougher defensive deployment based on its personnel, which leaves the 4th line to...? Play against Montreal's weak 4th line? I don't know.
The problem is that, aside from basic logic, those 4s have never shown any prowess when playing together. Albeit, very small sample size, but take a look. They each get worse when playing together.
Ignoring deployment decisions and whatever else, it just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to stick the rookie, Kevin Hayes, who isn't exactly a defensive dynamo, with two guys who are, presumably, in the lineup for their defense. To what end?
AV wants the Rangers to be more physical. Ok. Fine. [SNY]
Tanner Glass is his benchmark for physical play, though? Most of his hits come after the play has developed. IE: he finishes checks once the puck has been moved.
Look, I am all for physical play that disrupts passing lanes and skating lanes. This means congesting neutral ice and making it difficult for teams to skate through untouched. This was something they did not do against the Islanders. The Rangers have exceptional team speed and should be using it to squeeze opposition's space, force turnovers, and make teams pay for lackadaisical passes. That is playing physical, the right way.
Trailing plays and "finishing" checks is chasing, for the most part. Sure, force a guy with the puck to decide what to do faster, and let him know that he will pay a physical toll for having the puck, regardless. But the benchmark isn't Glass. It is guys who use their speed to actually force tempo.
Everyone Hates Chris Kreider
Hey, when you build a reputation for running goalies and playing a bit "out of control," you aren't going to win many admirers from other teams. After Kreider's most recent run in, this time with Jaroslav Halak (a play in which I contest his momentum was aided by the defenseman, but it's neither here nor there and likely a penalty regardless), others are jumping in on the issue again. Obviously Montreal media have memories of last postseason. [SNY]
While Kreider may not have the intention to injure goalies, he certainly has had some deliberate run-ins. He has had others borne out of both his own speed and the inability of defenders to do much with him but maybe trip him up or push his momentum forward. He has been penalized on half of the name-brand ones. Regardless, there are a lot of fast and strong players in the NHL. If you are standing out as a repeat offender of a certain sort, maybe you reassess approach. [The Hockey Writers]
Nobody would claim that Kreider is the "smartest" player on the ice. But a bit of discretion might be in order if he wants to change his rep. Then again, I happen to like backing goalies into their net a bit. If a penalty occurs because of it, so be it. As a goalie myself, I was always frustrated by getting run. It can have an impact on your game. Maybe a little bit of this stuff isn't such a "bad" thing. Though, of course, other teams will take issue, and that may mean repercussions for Henrik Lundqvist.
Can the Rangers Beat the Best?
The reality is that 6 losses have come against just two teams, and the Rangers have been largely successful otherwise. Not all top teams are created equal. They have different personnel, different strengths and weaknesses, different systems.
So it may be more about taking a better approach against Tampa Bay and the Islanders, yes? Yes.
Larry Brooks says that it is undeniable, the Islanders are the best team in New York. [NY Post]
Martin Brodeur will retire today after a long 21 season Hall of Fame career with the New Jersey Devils, and a short bumpy ride with the St. Louis Blues. He will jump into a front office role with the Blues as a Senior Advisor to the GM. [NY Times] [Puck Daddy] [USA Today] [Sportsnet]
Brodeur was the second-rated goalie in his draft year, behind Trevor Kidd. But the Devils took him as the first goalie selected (20th overall) in the 1990 entry draft. That worked out pretty alright. He will be most remembered for his all-time wins record, his propensity for playing the puck which largely revolutionized that aspect of the game (and created the "Brodeur Rule"), his unorthodox hybrid style during a time when the butterfly was becoming en vogue, and his three Stanley Cups. He also won two gold medals as a member of Team Canada.
Obviously Brodeur will go down as an all-time great, and a nemesis to the Rangers.