Coming Down The “Homestretch”

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As the Blueshirts finish off the 2016-2017 regular season, they are in a unique position. They should/will finish with one of the NHL’s top five records, and still be in a wild card spot. And that’s all well and good, but the team still has some things to figure out.

  • The Blue Line – The Rangers defense has been an issue for them since the start of the season. Aside from Ryan McDonagh, there was a whole lot of uncertainty in the back end. Would Dan Girardi and Marc Staal bounce back from their brutal 2015-16 season? How would new acquisitions Nick Holden and Adam Clendening fit into the lineup? Could Brady Skjei continue to develop into the player he showed signs of last year?

    And while those questions may have been answered, new ones have come up. What’s gone on with Kevin Klein? And now that the defense seems to be getting healthy, who will AV put on the blue line? The Rangers have the benefit of depth, so if a player starts to slip, they can “swap” him out of the lineup. Ryan McDonagh will obviously remain on the top pair, but the question becomes who joins him. He has looked good these last few games with Marc Staal, but that may not last when Dan Girardi comes back in the lineup. Nick Holden has struggled the last few weeks, showing signs of why Colorado may have been willing to let him go in the offseason. Kevin Klein’s play has fallen off a cliff in comparison to previous year’s with the Blueshirts. Dan Girardi has been better than he was, and the aforementioned Skjei has looked like the next stalwart on the blue line.

    So how should AV deploy his troops when they are fully healthy?

    I wouldn’t break up the Staal and McDonagh pairing. Staal has played well the last few games, and has done a nice job with the captain. As for the other four slots, I’d go with Holden and Smith as a pair, and then Girardi and Skjei. Smith has been pretty steady in his short time on Broadway, and putting him with Holden should help him get back to playing his game. As for the Skjei and Girardi pairing, Skjei will have more freedom to take the “extra pinch” knowing he has a defensive defenseman playing with him.

    If this is how it shakes out, Klein would become the seventh defenseman, Kampfer would most likely be sent back down to Hartford, and Clendening gets to sit in the press box some more. He (Clendening) has only gotten into the lineup when there have been injuries, and with the acquisition of Smith, there just isn’t enough room on the ice for the young defenseman.


  • Special Teams – The Rangers special teams have been bouncing around as of late. The power play has been on a bit of a rise the last few games, scoring six goals in their last ten games. And while that has been a much needed boost for the Blueshirts, the penalty kill has struggled a bit, clicking at just 75 percent in the month of March. The Rangers need to figure out how to get both of these going at the same time, so they can have their best chance come playoffs
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  • House of Blues – For what is called the “World’s Most Famous Arena”, the Rangers have become famous for not playing well at home this season. The team has played to a measly record of just 19-15-3 so far; and with only four home games left, they don’t have much time to figure it out. The Blueshirts are likely to finish in the first wild card slot, which means they would start their Cup chase on the road. But they won’t go anywhere in April if they can’t find a way to win at home.
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