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Rangers kick off second half against the Blue Jackets; Staal and Fast expected to play

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-blue-jackets-11-18

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

  • New York Rangers (31-17-1, 63 PTS) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-12-4, 68 PTS)
  • The Rangers were shutout in their last game against the Flyers. New York played an outstanding game despite not getting any goals, and they had the majority of the chances and had the two points stolen away by Steve Mason, who made 34 saves. There’s no such thing as a “feel good” loss, but this is about as close as you can get to one of them.
  • The Blue Jackets lost their last game against the Nashville Predators, 4-3, and have lost two straight games. Columbus had an incredible 16 game win streak earlier in the season, and since that was snapped, they’ve been about a .500 team. However, they still have the second most points in the league and have played well in their recent losses.

THE MATCHUP

  • This is the third of five meetings between the Rangers and the Blue Jackets and the first of two at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers, playing their 50th game tonight, won the last meeting on Jan. 7, erasing a three goal deficit and getting a four point night from Michael Grabner, including a hat trick. The teams have split the first two games of the series so far.
  • The Rangers have won eight of the last nine games against Columbus, dating back to Jan. 16, 2015, going 8-1-0 over that time span.
  • The Rangers sit just five points behind the Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division standings, so this game has important implications for playoff seeding.

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Rangers should use the second half to audition Ryan Graves

Bobby Bevilacqua

ryan-graves-wolf-pack

Photo courtesy of Chris Rutsch/Hartford Wolf Pack.

It’s no secret that for a large portion of the season, the defense has been the biggest issue for the Rangers. Sure, it’s been better over the last week or two, but the defensive deficiencies and inability to make three balanced pairings has been the biggest source of problems so far.

To recap: Dan Girardi hasn’t been much better than last season, Kevin Klein has been far worse than last season, and the other players haven’t been spectacular either. Ryan McDonagh has done his best to carry this team, but has had some bad games and is often dragged down when partnered with Girardi and Klein. Holden has been a steadying force, Staal is okay and Skjei has had an encouraging rookie season with the expected rookie mistakes and growing pains.

Regardless of what you think about the defensive corps, which also includes Adam Clendening, the bottom line is that they haven’t been able to get the job done on a consistent basis and have cost the Rangers more games than they’ve won. With Marc Staal out, the Rangers have been able to test out Clendening and while we’ve seen some good things from him, he’s not the solution to their problems. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers head into All-Star Break looking to continue win streak against the Flyers

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-flyers-10-3

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

  • New York Rangers (31-16-1, 63 PTS) vs Philadelphia Flyers (23-19-6, 52 PTS)
  • The Rangers won on Monday night, a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings despite being outshot 38-17. Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel and Mats Zuccarello all scored goals and Henrik Lundqvist won his third straight start, making 36 saves and playing extremely well.
  • The Flyers won in overtime to the Islanders in their last game, snapping a three game losing streak. Claude Giroux scored the game winner and the Flyers also got goals from Ivan Provorov and Wayne Simmonds. Steve Mason made 36 saves in the win. The Flyers are one point behind the Maple Leafs for the final Wild Card spot.

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My Thoughts and the Rangers’ outlook after a catastrophic loss to the Dallas Stars

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-stars-1-17

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

1. There is nothing positive that should be taken from this game. This cannot be viewed as a look at the Rangers’ resiliency or battling through adversity and nearly completing a comeback. There should be no positive light shed on this game, and it needs to be treated as it was – a disaster.

The Rangers were manhandled by the Stars for 40 minutes, and they looked absolutely lost on the ice. They were outshot 27-15 and surrendered seven goals. Henrik Lundqvist was not at his best but there were consistent defensive issues from the defensemen and the forwards, which did not help at all. The Rangers woke up for the third period and the Stars went into a defensive shell, which explains the 25-4 shot advantage from New York in those 20 minutes. Winning one period but looking pathetic for the other two does not warrant any praise. Treating this game as anything other than a failure would be to ignore the many, many problems that this team has.

2. To emphasize, this team has many, many problems. There needs to be a change, or many changes, but not at forward. It’s not a coincidence that the scoring has gone up with the return of Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. This is the best, most complete forward group that the Rangers have had in quite some time and it’s a group of forwards that could win a Stanley Cup. Read the rest of this entry

Halfway there: Evaluating the Rangers at the midpoint of the season

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-goal-celebration-11-3

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

We’re officially halfway through the Rangers season, and it’s been a pretty good start despite some injuries, rough stretches and a lot of new players for Alain Vigneault to figure out and utilize properly.

With a 27-13-1 record along with practically same defensive unit as last season, the Rangers have probably exceeded most people’s expectations. Their 55 points are tied with the Penguins for second in the division, as well as being tied for the second most points in the entire league (Pittsburgh has played three fewer games). The Blue Jackets sit in first in the division and the league thanks to their incredible 16 game win streak that stretched from late November into January.

Given the situation with all of the forward injuries, the first half of the season has been a big success. There have been some issues and rough patches, like with just about every team, but it’s hard not to come away with more positives than negatives. Read the rest of this entry