New York Rangers (37-29-4, tied for 3rd in the Metropolitan Division) versus Columbus Blue Jackets (36-27-6, tied for 3rd in the Metropolitan Division)
Puck Drop: Friday, March 21 at 7:00 pm EST
Venue: Nationwide Arena- Columbus, OH
After a two-day break, the New York Rangers are back on the ice. In the second game of another three game road trip, the team finds themselves visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets. After a win on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators, the team is looking to build off that road success moving into the playoffs. In Ottawa, the offense finally woke up by tallying eight goals and Henrik Lundqvist earned his 302nd career regular season win, making him the all-time winningest Rangers goalie, passing Rangers’ great Mike Richter. That’s in the past and it’s time to focus on the next opponent. Entering the game tonight, the Rangers are 37-29-4 with 78 points. This puts them two points ahead of Columbus and the Washington Capitals. In their last 10 games, the Rangers are 4-5-1. Currently, they are 1-0 on this road trip. The first of back to back games, the team will head to New Jersey to take on the Devils tomorrow, before heading back home to host the Phoenix Coyotes.
Last game, the Rangers goal drought was answered with an offensive explosion. The greatest impact was from the 3rd line, namely Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, who are perhaps the most consistent scorers for the team. The pair broke through from their mini slump and made a huge impact on the outcome of the game. Combined, they produced two goals and three assists, with each carrying a +4 rating. Rick Nash found the back of the net twice, scoring two goals, one of which came short-handed. The defense was able to pot in two goals from Ryan McDonagh and John Moore. Henrik Lundqvist stood firm and made some keep saves to keep the see-saw battle from getting out of control. These same players will need to continue their recent offensive spurts.
If the Rangers have plans for the playoffs, their offense needs to make frequent appearances, as they did on Tuesday. The offensive leaders, such as Martin St. Louis, need to contribute more. Statistically, he leads the team with 64 points. However, since the trade deadline on March 5th, he has only three points in eight games played with the Blueshirts. Fortunately, Rick Nash will be available to help offset any pressure St. Louis might be feeling as he is still adjusting to his new team. If you remember, Nash was out of the lineup against his former team with a concussion suffered against the San José Sharks. Tonight’s game will mark the first time he has played in Nationwide Arena since being traded in 2012.
With the Blue Jackets nipping at their heels, the Rangers will need to play a disciplined and controlled game. The team saw the penalty box twice, which was a good sign. However, a goal was given up. In this game, the Rangers will need to tighten up on defense, get sticks in the passing lanes, and bodies in front of the shooters. Also, they will need to spend more time in the offensive zone, setup plays instead of a “one and done” approach. They will need to put pressure on the reigning Vezina trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.