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Posts Tagged ‘New York Rangers’

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview Bonanza

In Hockey on April 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

5281948Oh hey there, playoff hockey. Welcome back. Please, come in. Can I take your coat? Would you like a beer or are you more of a wine fan? Excellent, now please stay forever.

That’s right, we get playoff hockey back and I’m ready to actually do some writing for you loyal readers along with the binge drinking that comes with it. But as usual, work and video games got in the way of doing detailed breakdowns so I’m cramming everything into one post. I have avoided any preview material on the internet, so no one can alter my thoughts.

This is the part where I’m supposed to insert something funny before we get going, but I got nothing. I’m tired and the games are on, so let’s get this over with.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The fun and loveable Blue Jackets have a chance because Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the Pittsburgh net during the playoffs and damn it, it will make for an entertaining series at the very least. But too much Sidney Crosby and not enough support for Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky means the Pens move on. Don’t worry, their fans will still find plenty to complain about. Penguins in six.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
I have bounced back and forth on this series several times. Henrik Lundqvist vs. Steve Mason feels like it should be enough for me pick the Rangers alone, but I can’t help myself. Claude Giroux has been nuts after the team got off to a terrible start and he carries it over to the playoffs. Flyers in seven.

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
If any team in the East might give the Bruins a scare in the opening round, Detroit is the one that could do just that. This is great for the game because it throws the Red Wings into a series with someone that they could develop an intense rivalry with. It should be deja vu for the Bruins as far as round one goes this year, but the result will be the same. Boston is too good. Bruins in seven.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Everyone is sleeping on this series but I think it will be an entertaining slugfest featuring the game’s best goal scorer and Canada’s only hope. Early advantage goes to Montreal as they boast one of the best goalies in the world while the Bolts’ MVP (Ben Bishop) is out for at least game one. That’s enough for me to take the Habs. Montreal in six.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
Everyone in hockey has been waiting for the Avs to come crashing back to Earth based on their unsustainable fancy stats numbers and a goalie playing out of his mind. They’ll play former division foe Minnesota who would be primed for an upset if there wasn’t a giant question mark in the net. Avalanche in six.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Norris Division, we have missed thee. This series won’t be a throwback to the chaos that ensued during the Black and Blue Division’s heyday, but it’s going to be a war. St. Louis had the President’s Trophy in their sights before crapping the bed late in the year, giving us the matchup we all wanted one round early. St. Louis has been bad in every aspect of the game as of late and they’re going to need to get up for the Hawks before it’s too late. Chicago is too deep and the Blues have too many questions in net and on offense. Blackhawks in six.
Ed. Note: It was REALLY difficult to not rip on the Blues during that. Don’t worry, I’ll do plenty of that on Twitter.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
Fire wagon hockey will be present in every single game of this series as both teams love to get up and down the ice. Dallas has been a blast to watch and they have the edge in net with Kari Lehtonen over, well, whoever the hell the Ducks decide to play in net. Both teams have a superstar duo and plenty of secondary scoring. But the Ducks have Cam Fowler. That’s enough for me to make my pick. Stars in six. #CamSucks

Want to read an actual preview of the series? Check out our buddy Pierre Canard’s in-depth preview.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
My preview for this series is that I drink a lot and wind up in the fetal position because Antti Niemi can’t keep the puck out of the net. Yeah, I’m not going into much detail. Let’s just say I’m not optimistic and I don’t wanna talk about it and JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. Shit. Kings in six.

That’s it. If you want something more in-depth, I’m sure you can find about 5,283 articles on each series. Want more of an in-depth answer from me on the series in the West? Follow me on Twitter and I’ll be sure to answer. Also, follow along for the retweets, especially if you don’t like the Blues.

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New York Rangers 2013-14 Season Preview

In Hockey on September 25, 2013 at 10:13 pm

2013 Recap
Last season, the Rangers took a step back that few people thought would happen. After finishing atop the Atlantic Division and acquiring Rick Nash as the final piece, the Blue Shirts’ offense dried up, the locker room became toxic, players shifted in and out and the Rangers became a John Tortorella sideshow at times. But the team was still good enough to finish sixth and make the playoffs.

After struggling to get the offense going against Washington, the Rangers were able to take four of the last five games of the series to advance to the second round. Waiting for them was the pending buzzsaw known as the Boston Bruins, who dispatched the Rangers rather easily in five games.

When the dust settled, the Rangers ended the Tortorella era, hiring Alaaaaain (sorry, that’s become a habit) Vigneault to right the ship. This is still a talented team, but will they be able to re-gain the form that saw them get to the East Finals two seasons ago?

Forwards
There’s still plenty of talent up front that should keep the Rangers formidable. Brad Richards could be due for a bounce back year now that he’ll be playing for more of an offensive-minded coach, and Derick Brassard meshed nicely with the Rangers after he was acquired from Columbus. Right now, those are your top two centers. Nash will slide onto the top line once again and continue to produce the way Rick Nash always has. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider will also battle for top line minutes, but the Rangers will enter the year without two of their most important pieces.

Ryan Callahan will start the year on injured reserve, and the team’s top center, Derek Stepan, is currently locked in a nasty and pointless contract battle with GM Glen Sather. Callahan will miss a few weeks of the regular season with an injury, and that’s a huge blow for the club as the man does everything when he’s on the ice. I expect a deal with Stepan will be done, but it’s going to put the Rangers right at the salary cap when that happens.

Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Dorsett, Dominic Moore, Benoit Pouliot and Arron Asham will all compete for spot on the bottom six. Prospects J.T. Miller and Oscar Lindberg could snatch spots later in the season if the team is looking for a little more offense. And let’s be honest, they probably will be.

Defense
One of the steadiest blue lines in the league. While you won’t know what to expect from the team offensively, the defense should keep the Rangers in games. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh remain one of the top shutdown pairs in the game, and they’ll draw the opposition’s on a nightly basis. Michael Del Zotto is the team’s top puck mover on the back end, and he’ll be joined by John Moore and Anton Stralman once again. Rounding out the top-six is Marc Staal, who seems to be ready for action after missing a significant amount of time with a horrific eye injury. He was the team’s top defenseman before the injury, but he should slide in on the second pair with Del Zotto and not miss a beat.

The team still lacks depth, and for a blue line that has logged heavy minutes over the last four years, they’ve managed to remain relatively healthy (except for Staal). Aaron Johnson, Justin Falk and Danny Syvret will all compete for the seventh spot on D.

Henrik Lundqvist has alot to play for heading into the last year of his contract.

Henrik Lundqvist has alot to play for heading into the last year of his contract.

Goaltending
The backbone of the team still remains the uber-dreamy Henrik Lundqvist. Hank has been one of, if not the, top tendy in the NHL since he made his debut back in 2005. And this year, he’s going to have extra incentive as he enters the final year of his contract. That spells bad news for opposing shooters. Even as he enters his mid-30s, there are still no holes in his game and he gives the Rangers a chance to win every time he’s between the pipes.

Martin Biron will backup Lundqvist, and should see somewhere around 20 starts this year. He’s still a great guy for the Rangers to have in the room, even with his game slipping as he gets older.

The Hat Trick

1. New Coach, New Era
Not only did the media breathe a sigh of relief when Tortorella was let go, but you have to wonder if the players did as well. It’s no secret Torts demanded alot out of his players, including going down to block every shot the opposition attempts. They played two straight years of what Jeff Marek calls “heavy hockey,” and they looked burnt out against the Bruins last year.

In Vigneault, the team will have a chance to start fresh. Look for the offense to take some more chances offensively. They may not asked to block near as many shots, which helps when you have Lundqvist in net.

2. Contractual Issues
This team needs Stepan in the lineup immediately, and when Sather wants to stop playing hardball and pay his best offensive player, the Rangers will be better for it. With Lundqvist, he has said he won’t discuss a new deal in the season. If you’re Sather, do you chance having maybe the best goaltender in franchise history walk? I still think this team can win now, so it only makes sense to get a deal done.

(Ed. Note: Stepan was signed to a two-year deal a day after this was written. I’m not changing this point though.)

3. Rebound for Richards
Yes, he wasn’t great last year. But for the Rangers to compete in this division, Richards needs to be much better than he was last year. Playing under Vigneault should help, but the guy looked like he couldn’t keep up last year. He’s still a smart player, and he’s going to have to rely on those smart to keep a spot in the lineup. If not, he’s probably going to get bought out in the offseason.

Prediction
The Rangers are going to be in the mix once again thanks to their defense and goaltending. They could struggle out of the gate without Callahan and Stepan, but I still see this as a playoff team at the end of the year. Third in the Metropolitan.

Must-Follow Rangers Twitter Account
Much like the Islanders, I don’t follow any Rangers fans or bloggers on Twitter. Follow Blueshirt Banter and go from there.

I am Ryan Thomas, and there’s no way in hell I’m getting these done on time. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, for more #WestCoastBias.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #4 Boston Bruins vs. #6 New York Rangers

In Hockey on May 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Yet another Original Six matchup rounds out the second round of the playoffs, with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins set to meet each other in the playoffs for the first time since 1973. Wait, 1973?!?! That can’t be right.

*Checks Wikipedia*

Yeah, it really has been that long. Well this series should be the better of the two in the Eastern Conference, if you like low scoring games. But they’ll be competitive and close games all series, and I pray that one of these teams is able to score more than three goals in one game.

The Bruins looked to be dead in the water before pulling off the most ridiculous comeback that I can remember seeing to down those poor Maple Leafs. So despite sleep walking through most of the Toronto series, Boston enters this series with momentum and their forwards need to continue to play with the tenacity they showed in the last 15 minutes of that game. The one area that the Bruins could be in trouble is on defense, as Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden are all questionable to return for the series. That means heavy minutes for Zdeno Chara and an increased role for Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton. If the kids have trouble, Tuukka Rask is going to need to bail his team out, which is something he did several times to help the Bruins beat Toronto.

The Rangers haven’t allowed a goal in two straight games, and they appear to be firing on all cylinders heading into tonight’s game. No, they didn’t score a ton against the Capitals until exploding for five in a game 7 rout. But just like the Bruins, it came at the right time against a team that’s much better defensively than the Leafs are. Rick Nash is going to likely draw a matchup with Chara, meaning contributions are going to need to come from everyone in the lineup. The Rangers’ D and Henrik Lundqvist give New York a decided advantage, and for a team that struggled to score on James Reimer, the Rangers should frustrate the B’s attack for this series.

Boston Will Win If…They are patient with their shot selection. Yes, the Rangers employ one of the game’s top goaltenders. But the Rangers are well-known for their shot-blocking prowess. Boston can’t be looking for the perfect pass, but they need to make New York’s shot blockers make the first move before letting one rip. Pucks on net are always a good thing, and the more the Bruins can get on net means the more opportunities that Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton will have to use their size to punch home some rebounds.

New York Will Win If…They can get their power play going. The Rangers were atrocious with the man advantage against Washington, and Boston isn’t exactly known for staying out of the penalty box. New York will need to get Brad Richards and Nash going and on the PP could be the best spot for those two to get some momentum going. Being inept on the power play nearly cost the Rangers against Washington, and if they can’t get that area figured out, it will do so against Boston.

Prediction
No one scores through the first six games, all of which are decided by sack races featuring all members of the team. Just kidding. Offense will be at a premium and we’re looking at plenty of 2-1 games. That favors the team with the healthy defense and better goalie. Rangers in 7.

Thankfully, we don’t have to listen to Pierre McGuire cream himself every time Dougie Hamilton is on the ice this series.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m glad this round’s previews are done. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, because what better things do you have to do?