- Personal note: It’s looking like my daughter is going to be born in the middle of next week. I’m going to be a little absent for a week or two around then. The gang is more than capable of running the ship, but please be understanding if we’re scrambling a bit.
- First of all, I hope all of you enjoyed time with your families and friends yesterday or will do so this weekend. You guys have continued to support the hell out of this space, and we really appreciate that, as well. Big shout out, as well, to all the staff here at Blueshirt Banter for their tireless work in keeping this place churning day after day.
- Sandwiched between two losses to Chicago and Columbus, the Rangers have won eight of their last ten games. They’re propelled themselves up into actual playoff contention again (no, it’s really not too early to worry about such things) and they’re playing better hockey. I said it on the podcast this week (please subscribe/comment/rate us on iTunes) the Rangers really haven’t done much anything different on this winning run. Alain Vigneault has kept the KZB line together, and has done better work (for the most part) with forward deployment/usage, but the defensive side of that equation continues to be unreliable. The honest difference on the six-game streak was the red, red, red, red, red-hot power play, that bailed the Rangers out of a few really bad situations. Against Chicago and Columbus the power play faltered and the Rangers failed to get anything going. I don’t mind the Rangers being a special teams specialty, so long as they know that’s what they are. Those teams are still dangerous.
- One of the things that might change that is the secondary level of this team’s offense heating up. Think Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, and Jimmy Vesey. We’ve seen that a little over this run of games, specifically from Hayes and Miller (with some Nash sprinkled in, too). And, of course, Kreider most recently -- coming off a two-goal game in Carolina. Getting that level of secondary scoring normally separates the really good teams from the fakers, and with the way the defense has been, the Rangers might need every goal they can get.
- Henrik Lundqvist seems to have finished his patented slow start to the year, and is back in fire mode. He was really good against Ottawa (when he was needed) and then again against Carolina. The Rangers aren’t so reliant of Hank as they have been in the past, but this offense is still too fragile outside of five players to really expect to win games 5-4 consistently. So this “resurgence” from Lundqvist is good to see.
- Mike has a longer story coming on this, I think, but we’ve been ranking the Up-To-Thanksgiving MVP of the team. My picks in order: Kevin Shattenkirk (slow defensive start aside, he’s changed the entire dynamic of the power play which is the only reason the Rangers are winning a lot of games), Mika Zibanejad (dropping sick beats hasn’t stopped him from scoring!), Pavel Buchnevich (bit of a heart pick here, but not really; having another forward capable of consistent offensive generation on the top line makes KZB actually dangerous). Who are yours?
- Brendan Smith has gone from a healthy scratch for six straight games to Broadway Hat wearer. These drastic swings aren’t all that uncommon, actually. But good to see him playing better.
- I said this on the podcast as well (seriously, listen to it, fools), but I don’t understand the love affair for Paul Carey. I like Carey as a 13th forward, but that’s all he’ll ever be. He’s a career AHL player for a reason, perfect for spot duty here and there, but not someone who should be playing in place of David Desharnais. Desharnais is a guy capable of putting up 40 points a year, and is on pace for roughly 38 points (if he played a full 82 games). That includes a bunch of games where was was sat for no reason in the third or didn’t really play. I get it, he’s not going to light the world on fire, but in 20 games this year he has 8 points, in 42 career NHL games Carey has three points. I suppose if I knew why Desharnais was permanently in the dog house this wouldn’t be as big of a concern — and Carey scored against Carolina, so there’s that -- but I truly have no idea.
- The Rangers next four games (including tonight) are the Red Wings, Canucks, Panthers, and Hurricanes. Their next four after those are Pittsburgh, Washington, Dallas and New Jersey. Easy to tough. Gotta get as many of the next eight points as possible.