It’s showtime for the Rangers…roster update and more

We are just hours away from the New York Rangers first postseason game in three years

With the puck drop scheduled for just after noon, the New York Rangers are still not revealing who will be their starting goalie.  There were also questions about the defense with Marc Staal and Tony DeAngelo facing health issues.   Coach David Quinn was succinct in his answer. “Marc ‘s okay, he’s going to be fine for tomorrow. Tony didn’t practice, he’ll be a gametime decision. We will announce our goalie before the game tomorrow.”  So there.

The DeAngelo injury was something of a surprise, but with the NHL rules regarding revealing health issues, the team is not obligated to say anything other than whether he is fit to play.   If he cannot play, it presents issues for the Rangers with their lack of defensive depth. It’s likely that Libor Hajek would replace DeAngelo in the lineup, most likely to be paired with Marc Staal.  Adam Fox would take over on the number one power play unit.  Darren Raddysh is the only back up righthanded shooting defenseman so either Staal or Hajek would have to play the opposite side.

The goalie situation and DeAngelo’s health are just two of many questions facing the Blueshirts.  No one knows how they will respond in their first postseason game in three years and the first time  as many as ten Rangers will be playing in an NHL playoff scenario.  While they have been working out during the pause, there are questions about conditioning.  As usual there are questions about the Rangers’ defense and the biggest question is whether the big guns on the team, namely Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, can rise to the occasion.

How important are Panarin and Zibanejad?  There were 56 games this season when both of them were in the lineup.  In eight of those games, both players were held off the scoresheet.  The Rangers’ record in those eight games?  0-8.

The whole world expects the Rangers to go with Igor Shesterkin in net with Henrik Lundqvist as his backup, but until David Quinn confirms his choice, there is an argument for both to start.

About the Hurricanes

There will be no Dougie Hamilton in Game One as he is still recovering from the surgery on his broken leg.  Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell told Sirius radio that he hoped to see Hamilton in the lineup in Game Two.

One Hurricane who will not be available this round is defenseman Brett Pesce. He is still out and there is no chance he will be in this series, in fact, he isn’t even in Toronto.

The was a question about the health of forward Martin Necas, but he practiced on Friday and is hopeful for Game One.

Coach Rod Brind’Amour did tell the media that he planning on using his two goalies, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer,  in Games Two and Three.  The Game One starter will not be revealed until Saturday so, just like the Hurricanes, they won’t know who they will be facing until late.

While a lot has been made about the Rangers’ youth, the Hurricanes are very close.   The Rangers are acknowledged to have the second youngest postseason roster.  In terms of average age of players, the Hurricanes are seventh youngest, but in an analysis of weighted minutes by age, the Canes move up to fourth youngest.

The Hurricanes top line is very young with Sebastian Aho (22), Andrei Svechnikov (19) and Teuvo Teravainen (25).  Their second line seems ancient in comparison with Jordan Staal (31),  Ryan Dzingel (27) and the veteran Justin Williams (38).

What’s important

A few weeks ago Blue Line Station looked into the importance of winning the first game of a five game series.  The NHL used a best-of-five format for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for seven years from 1980 to 1986.   It’s worth revisiting the numbers.

  1. Winning game one almost guarantees a series victory.    In the 56 series played, the first game winner won 49 series and in 1981 and 1986, all eight of the series in those seasons were won by teams that won the first game.
  2. Most series don’t go the maximum five games.  Only 12 series out of 56 went five games.
  3. Don’t lose the first two games. Only one team in modern NHL history lost the first two games of a best-of-five series and went on to win.  That was the 1985 New York Islanders who fell behind the Washington Capitols on two overtime losses, but then won the next three to take the series

Of the six series won by teams that lost the first game, include the Rangers who lost their opener to Philadelphia in 1982, but came back to win the next three.  So, it’s not impossible, but according to the numbers, it’s not likely.

Game information

Gametime is 12pm EST.  That means Ranger fans on the west coast will be waking up to watch them play, just another bit of weirdness in this strange season.

The telecast will be on the MSG Network locally and nationally on NBCSN.  MSG Network will start with a pregame show at 1130am.   The radio call will be on ESPN Radio 98.7 FM.

Blue Line Station will be maintaining a live chat during the game so you can share your observations with your fellow Ranger fans.   The thread should be up about a half hour before gametime at bluelinestation.com.