The New York Rangers suffered their worst defeat of the season in Tampa on Thursday. Tonight they take on the Florida Panthers and the question is what Blueshirts team will we see tonight.
Less than a week ago, the New York Rangers got into an ill-advised run-and-gun match with the Panthers at Madison Square Garden and were lucky to escape with a point. The team needs to get back to basics and focus on team defense and structure if they expect to have a chance.
The less said about the Tampa game the better. Let’s just chalk it up to youth and inexperience and a lack of discipline. David Quinn summed it up after the Tampa game. “We lost to a really good hockey team that was on their A game and we were far from on our A game…when you’re in the situations we’re in, that happens, you get the result we got tonight.”
Let’s hope the Rangers have their A game.
About the Rangers
The Blueshirts will be going with almost the same roster for tonight’s game that played in the debacle against the Lightning. That means that Jacob Trouba, who left the Tampa game midway through the second period with an upper body injury, will be back in the lineup.
Despite injuries to Mika Zibanejad and Marc Staal, the team hasn’t called anyone up from Hartford, so they are carrying the minimum 20 players. If Kaapo Kakko is over the flu, Micheal Haley will not be in the lineup. He only saw 3:59 of ice time on Thursday, probably due to the 24 minutes in penalties he took.
Haley took two ten-minute misconducts and Brendan Lemieux had another so the Rangers had to deal with a shortened bench for much of the game. That didn’t sit well with Quinn.
“We had to play people because of the numbers and I would have liked to sat some guys for their actions, but I didn’t want to put our other players in jeopardy and we have the game to play on Saturday so I didn’t want to overload certain guys. When you get ten minute misconducts and spend time in the box the way we did I’m forced to play people and when things go bad, when you have frustrating situations and things are going bad you gotta learn to make it better.”
The question is who would have spent time in the “Quinn Bin” because of poor play. There were a lot of candidates.
Last Sunday the Rangers lost in a shootout to Florida, 6-5 at the Garden. They came back from two deficits to take the lead only to see Brian Boyle tie the game in the third period. The game came on the heels of two wins against Detroit and Carolina and it was Henrik Lundqvist‘s third straight start. Lundqvist will be be in goal today.
The Rangers fell into the trap of trying to skate with Florida and thanks to power play goals from Kakko and Chris Kreider, they were able to keep up. Quinn called it a “shootout at the O.K. Corral” and he was right. If they do that again, trouble will be brewing.
Despite the Tampa blowout, the Rangers are still 5-2-1 in their last eight games and have gotten points in eight of their last 11 games. When they play a disciplined game and win the battles in the corner, they can win games.
About the Panthers
The Panthers are in third place in the Atlantic Division with a 9-5-5 record and 23 points. They are coming off a home 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Despite the good record, they have been unable to go on an extended winning streak. They’ve gone to overtime three times in the last five games, with only one win in regulation.
Florida has gone to overtime nine times in 19 games this season, winning four of those games. Only Washington has played more overtime games, with ten. The Rangers have gotten to extra time only three times so far.
The Panthers are one of the top offensive teams in the league, averaging 3.53 goals per game, sixth best in the NHL. They average 34.8 shots per game, second most in the league. Defensively, they are fourth worst in the NHL, allowing 3.58 goals per game. They are slightly better than the Rangers who are third worst at 3.59 goals allowed per game. Thanks, Tampa.
After allowing five power play goals to Tampa, now best in the league with a 32% success rate, the Rangers get to play the team with the fourth best power play in the league, successful one fourth of the time. The Panthers are 14th in the league in the penalty kill (81.6%), but the Blueshirts were 2-4 last Sunday against them.
Aleksander Barkov is building on his reputation as one of the top players in the league, leading the team in scoring with six goals and 19 assists. Meanwhile, Jonathan Huberdeau has quietly become an offensive powerhouse. He’s on a pace to score 39 goals and 103 points. Last season he finished with 30 goals and 92 points.
In the meantime, iron man and former Rangers Keith Yandle is their leading scorer on defense with 15 points.
If the Panthers needed any additional incentive, coach Joel Quenneville will be trying for his 900th career win. He is second on the all-time list with 899, only behind Scotty Bowman with 1,244 wins. This will be his second try for the hallmark number.