Blueshirt Blast–February 27: Rangers Still Rolling, No Moves Yet

Welcome to THW’s inaugural Blueshirt Blast!  We’re here to provide a one-stop shop of quick hits for the week’s New York Rangers news, insights, and analysis. For this first edition, we’ll explore the Blueshirts’ recent run, their trade deadline possibilities, and the latest games.

Blueshirts Dodge Bullet In Arizona Win

Lee Stempniak and Chris Kreider each scored two goals in the Rangers’ 4-3 win against Arizona. Both Kreider’s game-tying goal and Stempniak’s game winner were scored in a similar fashion, with the Rangers player batting in their own rebound after Mike Smith’s initial save. (Newsday)

Smith picked up a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after Kreider’s goal when he smashed his stick on the post and appeared to yell something at referee Steve Kozari. On the previous play, Derick Brassard caught Coyotes defenseman Andrew Campbell in the face with his stick. As the resulting injury to Campbell left him bleeding from the mouth, Brassard should have received a double-minor for high sticking at a pivotal point in the game.

Historic Run Puts Rangers in First

Despite the nervousness surrounding the Rangers on social media and the press, they have improved their February record to 10-1-2. This team continues to win, even if the wins themselves are often far from pretty. They have equaled their franchise record for wins in the month of February, and have a chance to surpass it with a win against the Flyers on Saturday.

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Cam Talbot has earned at least a point in each of his last nine games. The last Rangers goalie to accomplish this was amazingly not Henrik Lundqvist, but Mike Richter, who earned points in 16 consecutive appearances during the 1996-97 season.

With their Thursday night win over Arizona, the Rangers moved into a tie with the Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division. As the Rangers have played two fewer games, they hold the tiebreaker over their rivals from Nassau County.

All Quiet on the Trade Deadline Front

While other teams have been making waves leading up to the trade deadline, the Blueshirts have been silent so far. One of their acknowledged targets, former Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera, has already been moved to Los Angeles. They have also been linked to Toronto center Tyler Bozak, but given Bozak’s $4.2 million cap hit for three seasons coupled with their own pending cap problems, perhaps it would be best if they sit this one out.

Though this Rangers team is far from perfect, they have all the pieces to put together another playoff run.  If they can add some depth on center or defense without giving up too much, then a deal could make sense.  Otherwise, any moves could potentially do more harm than good.

 Injury Updates

According to Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News, Jesper Fast may play as soon as Saturday’s game against the Flyers. Fast has been practicing with the team this week, finally shedding the non-contact jersey for Thursday’s morning skate. The Rangers have provided no updates on Henrik Lundqvist’s vascular injury. No re-evaluation has yet been scheduled, but the King continues to practice on his own. (NY Daily News)

Four Games, Two NHL Debuts

The past four contests have seen two Rangers play their first NHL games. Mackenzie Skapski started the Blueshirts’ current four-game winning streak on February 20 against Buffalo. The 20-year-old Abbotsford, BC native was solid, turning aside 24 out of 25 shots in the Rangers 3-1 win. Skapski earned the Broadway Hat for his performance, and continues to serve as Cam Talbot’s backup.

Two games later, on February 24 against Calgary, the Rangers called up center Oscar Lindberg from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Lindberg filled in for Rick Nash, who sat out that game with a minor neck injury. In 8:18 of ice time centering the third line between J.T. Miller and Carl Hagelin, Lindberg recorded two shots, three hits and a pair of face-off wins. The Rangers would win the game, 1-0.

The Upcoming Week

The first week of March will be a light one for the Rangers.  After closing out February on Saturday in Philly, they only have a pair of games: Monday against Nashville and Wednesday at Detroit. Call it quality over quantity–both of these teams are top-level opponents who will put the Rangers current winning ways to the test. The Predators still hold the best record in the NHL, and the Wings currently sit only three points behind the Rangers with 79.

We hope you enjoyed the first edition of Blueshirt Blast.  Have any questions or comments? Let us know.