Rangers Looking to Continue Streak, Face Blue Jackets
Tonight the New York Rangers will play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets at home at Madison Square Garden. New York returns home after a weekend in Florida, playing two Overtime games vs. Tampa Bay and Florida. The New York Rangers have recently gotten things going, putting together a 3 game win streak against Las Vegas, Tampa Bay and Florida. Building off of their 3rd period comeback win vs. Las Vegas to add two more wins and coming off the heals of a tumultuous 1-5-1 start to the season. The Rangers are now 5-2-1 (11 points, 68%) in their last 8 games. Albeit a little early to begin watching the standings, The Rangers currently sit 2 points back of the final Wild Card spot in the East. They are 4 points out of the 3rd spot in the Metropolitan and 5 points back of Columbus who is currently tied for 1st in the Metro with the New Jersey Devils.
Columbus is one of the better teams in the East through the first part of the season but has cooled off a bit as of late. After starting the season 5-1 including a 4 game win streak, the Blue Jackets are 4-4-1 in their last 9 games. However, Columbus has found it’s scoring touch, outscoring opponents to a +10 goal differential over 14 games (good for 2nd best in the East). To make matters worse, the Breadman, Artemi Panerin hasn’t found the net yet aside from 1 goal, although he does have 10 assists.
With 48 goals for in 14 games (3.42 per game, 7th in the NHL) the Blue Jackets haven’t had a problem finding the net and put the puck on net consistently. Having been held to less than 30 shots on goal only once this season so Henrik Lundqvist can expect to be busy in net tonight. The Blue Jackets are led by recent offseason addition Artemi Panerin with 11 points who came over in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. He shares the lead on the team with Seth Jones.
This will be the 2nd of 4 meetings between these two teams and another good measuring stick game for the Rangers. In their first meeting Columbus beat the Rangers 3-1.
Keys To Victory:
Keep Climbing. The Rangers were facing certain doom just 6 days ago. Having returned home after a laugher up north vs Montreal, New York faced a 4-1 deficit going into the 3rd period versus the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Rangers rallied, won the game 6-4 and then put together their best game of the season versus what many believe to be the best team in the east, Tampa Bay, beating them 2-1 in Overtime. They will need to continue to build on that confidence and momentum.
Moral Victories don’t count. Maybe early in the season, or if they hadn’t gotten off to such a poor start, the Rangers could face opponents in the top of the league and be “okay” walking away with a moral victory where they played well but just didn’t win. It get’s late early in the NHL these days and if the Rangers are to have any hope of stringing together a run this year and thwart a sell off, points are vital every game. Even though the Rangers have won their last 3, they only made up 1 point for the final Wild Card spot.
Slow down the Neutral Zone. Against Tampa Bay, the Rangers faced a dual threat in Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. As a result, the team focused on slowing them down through the neutral zone and obstructing their entry into the zone. Of course with players of that caliber the old saying goes “you can only hope to contain them.” The next game versus Florida, they opened it back up a little bit, trading blows back and forth. The Rangers came out on top, but when you’re facing a goalie like Bobrovsky you can’t afford to give up the lead or exchange offensive blows. Columbus will shut down the Neutral Zone once they have a lead and that’s what makes them so dangerous to play against trailing. The Rangers will need to slow down Columbus up the middle and control the tempo of the game.
Staying hot. The first line of Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich has been a game changer lately. They were held off the score sheet against Florida, but when they play to their strengths they have the ability to stretch the ice and create opportunities for each other. JT Miller is coming off his best game of the season tallying 3 assists and counting his game winner in overtime versus Tampa Bay has had a hand in 4 of the Rangers last 6 tallies. He’ll continue to play on the 3rd line alongside David Desharnais and Jimmy Vesey.
According to Steve Zipay of Newsday (credit where credit’s due) tonight’s lines will stay the same aside from one change, Paul Carey out, Boo Nieves back in after missing the last game with the flu.
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Pavel Buchnevich
Rick Nash – Kevin Hayes – Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey – David Desharnais – J.T. Miller
Michael Grabner – Boo Nieves – Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh – Nick Holden
Brady Skjei – Kevin Shattenkirk
Marc Staal – Steven Kampfer
Tonight, the New York Rangers will honor Rick Nash for playing in his 1,000th NHL game. Nash spent the first half of his career with tonight’s opponent Columbus.
Who To Watch For
New York Rangers: Pavel Buchnevich has been a bit of a renaissance since being promoted to the first line. He has 5 points in the last 5 games but was held scoreless during the Florida trip. Expect him to light the lamp tonight.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets roll 4 lines with ease, but their revamped 1st line of Artemi Panerin, Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson has clicked very well. Josh Anderson’s willingness to put the puck on net and go to the dirty areas could prove to be a challenge for the New York Rangers. The 23 year old is coming off a 17 goal, 12 assist rookie campaign and already has 5 goals in 12 games for the Blue Jackets. Look for him to cause some frustrations for the Rangers in front of the crease.
Scouting The Competition
Blue Jackets Blog: The Dark Blue Jacket
Blue Jackets Beat: Aaron Portzline @aportzline
As Always, Full Tilt NY Rangers @FullTiltNYRBlog