With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the New York Rangers escaped the weekend with three of a possible four points against the New York Islanders. The Nassau Coliseum had been a house of horrors for road teams before the Rangers’ arrival, with the home team holding a 17-1-2 record before Friday’s game. But it was the Rangers skating away with a 4-1 victory on Friday and then overcoming a two-goal deficit on Sunday to finish the two-game set 1-0-1.
The Rangers now sit four points behind the Boston Bruins with 15 games remaining, with the Bruins holding two games in hand over the Blueshirts. It was the kids’ line that led the way this weekend, with Alexis Lafreniere (1 G), Filip Chytil (2 A), Kaapo Kakko (2 A), and Vitali Kravtsov (1 A) all registering points.
Alexandar Georgiev recorded the win on Friday, recording 31 stops and improving his lifetime record against the Islanders to 7-2-0. Igor Shesterkin suffered the overtime defeat on Sunday, registering 29 saves. He is now 0-2-1 against these bitter rivals in his young career.
Zac Jones Heading to Broadway
In the midst of a quiet trade deadline for the Rangers, GM Jeff Gorton did make a splash by inching closer to a deal to bring the UMass standout to New York. According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, Jones is expected to report to the Rangers after meeting the quarantine requirements. He initially expressed interest in returning to the University of Massachusetts next season. Still, the Rangers enticed the defenseman by electing to burn a year off of his entry-level contract if he signs now.
Jones is coming off a phenomenal college season which saw his team claim the National Championship for the first time in school history. He was named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament team and registered 24 points in 29 games in his Sophomore season. The Rangers drafted Jones in the third round of the 2019 draft as an offensive-minded defenseman, but the Virginia native has quickly rounded into a formidable two-way defenseman.
As Mollie Walker of the NY Post reports, it is unconfirmed if and when Jones will dawn the Rangers sweater. But this evolving situation should have Rangers fans excited for what the future of the blue line holds.
Nils Lundkvist On Track For Next Season
With top-prospect Lundkvist currently engulfed in the SHL postseason, there was speculation that the Swedish defenseman could follow Kravtsov’s route and come to North America upon the playoff’s end. That speculation was seemingly put to bed by Gorton, who said they have been in close contact with Lundkvist, but it is unlikely he arrives this season with the looming World Championships, per Dan Rosen NHL.com.
The 2018 first-round pick has had an incredible SHL career, culminating in him being awarded the Salming Trophy, handed out to the best Swedish-born defenseman in the league. Over the last two seasons playing for Lulea HF, Lundkvist has amassed 63 points in 97 games, including 14 goals and 32 points in 52 games this season.
With the announcement of Jones likely joining the Rangers this season, the hype continues to build for Lundkvist, who will seemingly round out what will be the most exciting defensive corps New York has seen in years. Obviously, Lundkvist’s focus is on Lulea’s postseason run, but one would think his mind is drifting to the possibilities that lay ahead in the Big Apple.
Upcoming Four Game Set
It’s not often that this happens, but the Rangers are about to embark on a four-game set against their Hudson River rivals in the New Jersey Devils. Tuesday and Sunday’s games will be played at the Prudential Center, with the middle two games being played at Madison Square Garden.
For the Rangers to keep their playoff hopes alive, taking at least three of four from the Devils is mandatory. Thus far in 2020-21, the season series is even at two games apiece, but the Rangers have taken the last two meetings. It has been well over a calendar month since these rivals last squared off on March 6th, with the Rangers going 9-7-3 since then.
The Rangers are 4-1-2 over their last seven games, and look to continue raking up points Tuesday night.
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!