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Rangers vs. Flyers: The Tank Rolls On

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Rangers drop second in a row, continue to hold ground in #tankszn.

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
  • The New York Rangers fell 4-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers in a very peculiar back and forth game. Alexandar Georgiev made 32 saves on 36 shots, and did the best he could with some very spotty defense in front of him.
  • He had to sprawl out more than a few times on the evening, and here’s one of his better stops.
  • A lot of Rangers continued some hot streaks including the line of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast.
  • Zibanejad scored his 26th goal of the season, his fourth game in a row in which he’s scored at least a goal. The Rangers’ No. 1 center has seven goals in his last six games, and continues his push for 30 goals. He is attempting to become the first Ranger center since Eric Lindros to finish with at least 30 goals in a season. There’s also this interesting stat, and boy are these names a blast from the past.
  • Then there’s Mr. Fast who just continues to contribute offensively in unexpected fashion. Heading into this season Fast had seasons which included 14 points in 58 games, 30 points in 79 games and 21 points in 68 games. These numbers are average, and coupled with his defensive play make him an exemplary bottom-six forward.
  • At times this season he’s received assignments on the first or second line at the expense of more talented players, which has drawn some ire from the fan base. This is not to disrespect Fast, but at age 26 there’s an understanding of his role, although he seems to be challenging that.
  • Recently he’s been a fixture on a line with Chris Kreider and Zibanejad, and in that time he’s done nothing but execute. In his last six games he’s scored three goals and added five helpers for eight points, and he continued that on Thursday night.
  • Kreider himself picked up an assist to improve his stat line to three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 13 games since returning from the issues he had with blood clots.
  • Fast meanwhile added two goals and an assist vs. the Flyers, and tied his career best in points in a season with 30. What is impressive about this feat is that he’s done it in just 66 games, as opposed to his 2015-16 campaign in which he finished with 30 points in 79 games.
  • In the offseason he signed a three-year deal with a annual cap hit of $1.85 million. That deal has two years left, and that’s quite a bargain for a player who could end up with 35 points by the end of the season. No one is pushing him out the door, but given the nature of the rebuild and amount of players who could be in the picture, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him dangled given his ability to be a jack of all trades player.
  • Then there’s Neal Pionk who just keeps on picking up assists, and making a strong case that he should be considered for the top-four next season.
  • As the graphic shows, Pionk is the first Rangers defender with 11 assists in an 11-game period since Brian Leetch accomplished the same feat during the 2000-01 campaign. I would say that’s pretty, pretty, pretty good for a rookie. During that span he’s averaged over 22:40 a game, so this isn’t a situation where he’s receiving softball minutes.
  • Pionk tallied just 51 points in 82 NCAA games before he signed with the Rangers. While a 0.62 point per game average is good, it is fair to say the Rangers didn’t expect him to be making an impact at the NHL level this year.
  • There’s other elements of his game he needs to work on, but fair to say he’s exceeded initial expectations. Tallying 12 points in 20 games is nothing to sneeze at, and I think his play gives the team some additional confidence in the state of the right side on defense.
  • In other defense news, Ryan Sproul, Rob O’Gara and John Gilmour also picked up points. Marc Staal and Brady Skjei were the lone defenders not to tally a point.
  • In ice time news, Vladislav Namestnikov was demoted to the fourth line, and ended the game with 12:06 of ice time, 1:04 of which was on the power play. Cody McLeod swapped places with him which resulted in a line of him, Ryan Spooner and Pavel Buchnevich. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Under normal circumstances I’d get animated about it, but there are eight games left in a lost season. Yeah it is dumb that Namestnikov is the latest talented young forward to end up in the fourth line lounge, but nothing’s going to make Alain Vigneault change his tactics at this point.
  • The Rangers are off on Friday and return to action on Saturday night vs. the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00 p.m.

*Stats via Elite Prospects and Hockey-Reference unless otherwise noted.