Losing Streak at 3 as Rangers Fall to Isles

A tough few days for the Rangers got tougher last night, as they lost at home to the New York Islanders, 6-3. The Blueshirts have now lost three straight and have looked bad in those losses. There’s a got to be a growing sense of concern, not only in the locker room, but in the front office, and in the stands.

The teams were tied 2-all after two periods. Rick Nash continued his white-hot start to the season, scoring an unassisted goal from a tough angle in the 1st period, his 5th goal of the season. Derick Brassard scored his 2nd goal of the year in the 2nd.

Then the Islanders exploded in the 3rd, scoring four times against Henrik Lundqvist, before Nash added another goal in the game’s final minutes [his 6th]. Lundqvist has now given up six goals in each of the last two games, and has a 5.41 GAA for the season.

The defense has given up 17 goals in the past three games, the last two of those games at home, where the defense and the team are usually strong. Coach Alain Vigneault must keep trying to figure out a combination of defenders that will mesh, to stop the recent onslaught of goals each game. Hard to win in the NHL when you give up 5 or 6 goals a night.

The Rangers are back in action Thursday night, at home against Carolina.

 

 

Malone, Kostka To Play Tonight vs Islanders

The Rangers take on the New York Islanders tonight [7:00pm on MSG], and two new Rangers will make the season debuts. 34-year-old winger Ryan Malone, who was signed as a free agent September 11th, will take the ice for the first time as a Ranger, as will defenseman Michael Kostka, who was called up from Hartford to help out, after the injury to Dan Boyle. Mats Zuccarello is expected back, after missing Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.

Looking at the projected lineups for tonight, one eyebrow-raising line change: 19-year-old rookie Anthony Duclair will skate with Martin St. Louis and red-hot Rick Nash on the team’s #1 line. Nash has four goals in the team’s first four games.

 

Lost Weekend

Sunday night at the Garden began with such promise. It was the Rangers 2014-15 home opener, against the winless Toronto Maple Leafs. They raised the 2013-14 Eastern Conference Championship banner to the Garden rafters. The suddenly red-hot Rick Nash scored his 4th goal in the season’s first three games. And the Blueshirts were tied with Toronto 1-1 after one period.

And then it all came crashing down. The Leafs scored five goals in the 2nd period, including two goals in a :48 span. The offensive barrage sent goalie Henrik Lundqvist to the bench with 4:47 to play in the period, as the Rangers would go on to lose 6-3.

Toronto’s Phil Kessel, who had a goal and two assists, was named the game’s #1 star. Lee Stempniak and Derick Brassard had the other goals for New York.

The team missed defenseman Dan Boyle, who broke his hand Thursday at St. Louis and is out for 4-6 weeks. And missed the speed of Mats Zuccarello, who hurt his shoulder Saturday at Columbus. And the centering skills of Derek Stepan continue to be missed. He’s still got another month before his return.

After the game, there was little finger-pointing. Captain Ryan McDonagh told the media, “We’re trying to find our game, find our rhythm. It’s there in spurts, very little spurts, but as a whole we need everybody to get in sync here.”

Nash left the game after the 2nd period, to be with his wife, who is expecting the couple’s first child, and apparently went into labor during the game.

Coming on the heels of Saturday night’s 5-2 loss at Columbus, the Rangers are now 1-2-0 after the season’s first three games, and they host the Islanders Tuesday night at the Garden.

 

 

 

Rangers Fall to Blue Jackets; Play Home Opener Tonight

The Rangers were in Columbus Saturday night to face the Blue Jackets, and came away with a 5-2 loss. Columbus jumped out to a 2-0 1st period lead and never looked back. Cam Atkinson had two goals for Columbus, including an empty-netter late, Nick Foligno and Marko Dano each had a goal and an assist, and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 24 saves in the win.

There were some positives for the Rangers: Rick Nash, who played eight seasons for Columbusscored again, his third goal in two games, and 19-year-old Anthony Duclair had his first two career assists. The team is 8-for-8 killing penalties in two games.

Two noteworthy negatives: the team is 0-6 for the season on the power play, and they’ve had 44 minutes of penalties in two games. Chris Kreider had a ten-minute misconduct Saturday, coming to the defense of Mats Zuccarello.

Backup goalie Cam Talbot got the start, and made 19 saves in the loss. I’m going to guess that with the Rangers playing on back-to-back nights, Talbot got the start against Columbus so that Henrik Lundqvist could start in goal in the team’s home opener Sunday.

The Rangers skate against Toronto Sunday at 7:00pm ET at the Garden, the first of four straight games at home.

Nash Scores Twice As Rangers Win Season Opener; Boyle Hurt

Game 1: N.Y. Rangers 3 St. Louis 2

Rick Nash had 2 goals and an assist [yes, the much-maligned Rick Nash!] and Chris Kreider added a goal and an assist as the Rangers won their season opener 3-2  over the Blues in St. Louis. Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves for the win and now has beaten every other team in the NHL at least once.

Nash scored 4:01 into the 1st period to give the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead early, and scored again with 1:50 left in the 3rd, off a pretty behind-the-back pass by Martin St. Louis, to break a 2-all tie and give the Rangers the edge. The other day, in my 2014-15 Preview, I said Nash would have to score early and often to keep Rangers fans from booing. Two goals in the season opener fills the bill.

Kreider’s goal, 6:30 into the 3rd, made it 2-1 Rangers. Kreider put it just inside the left post, past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott.

But it wasn’t all good news for the Rangers. Defenseman Dan Boyle, acquired in the off-season and playing his first game for the Rangers, broke his hand in the 3rd period and will be out 4-to-6 weeks.

Next up for the Rangers: Saturday night in Columbus, before hosting Toronto Sunday at the Garden in the home opener.

It’s Opening Night!

Almost as good as Christmas morning, it’s Opening Night of the Rangers hockey season! The Blueshirts are in St. Louis to take on the Blues [8:00pm ET on MSG here in NYC].

Head Coach Ken Hitchcock‘s team went 52-23-7 last year, finishing 2nd in the Central. They lost to the Blackhawks in the 1st round of the playoffs in six games. The Blues’ biggest move in the off-season was signing free agent Paul Stastny to a 4-year, $28 million dollar contract, after he spent eight seasons with the Avalanche. In 2013-14, Stastny scored 25 goals, his highest total since his rookie season in 2006-07.

Brian Elliott goes into the season as the team’s #1 net minder. The 29-year-old Elliott posted a .911 save percentage in 31 games last year.

The two teams will face-off again Monday November 3rd at the Garden.

118 days later, it’s time for Rangers hockey!

Rangers’ 20-Man Opening Day Roster Announced

The NHL announced the Opening Day rosters of all teams today. The roster for the Rangers, in alphabetical order:

Dan Boyle, Derick Brassard, Anthony Duclair, Jesper Fast, Dan Girardi, Tanner Glass, Carl Hagelin, Matt Hunwick, Kevin Klein, Chris Kreider, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Malone, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, John Moore, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Marc Staal, Lee Stempniak, Cam Talbot, Mats Zuccarello

Toronto is #1! Off The Ice, That Is

In an article this morning from our friends at The Hockey News, the Maple Leafs are the No. 1 NHL team in terms of franchise value, [as calculated by Forbes magazine]. They have the NHL’s highest ticket prices [with an average resale ticket price of $373, according to a poll by TiqIQ, which averages prices from StubHub, eBay, TicketsNow, and other ticket resellers]. And Twitter announced today, on the opening day of the 2014-15 season, that the Leafs rank first among NHL teams, with 652,000 followers.

As of this morning, the Rangers had 387,000 Twitter followers.

2014-15 Season Preview

OPENING FACE OFF

The Rangers begin the 2014-15 season Thursday night in St. Louis against the Blues. The Blueshirts then head to Columbus Saturday the 11th, before playing their home opener at Madison Square Garden Sunday night the 12th against Toronto. The team hasn’t opened a season at home since 2007.

The short, two-game road trip to start the campaign is a lot nicer than last year; in 2013-14 the Rangers played their first nine games of the season on the road [going 3-6-0], while the Garden was undergoing renovations.

After a stirring run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the team made a number of changes to the roster in the off-season. The revolving door saw Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman leave, and saw the team pick up veterans Dan Boyle and Lee Stempniak.

But the core of the team remains largely the same. The offense will still be led by Martin St. LouisMats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, and Derek Stepan. When you combine St. Louis’ stats last year, from his 62 games with Tampa Bay and his 19 with New York, he had 30 goals, his most since 2010-11. He added eight goals in the playoffs, tops on the team. It will be great to have the 39-year-old in the Rangers lineup for an entire season.

Zuccarello was the team’s leading scorer last year, and had 40 assists last year [tied for most on the team]. He is the team’s most electric skater night in and night out.

Nash led the team with 26 goals in 2013-14, which was five better than the 21 he tallied in 2012-13, but after eight straight seasons of 30+ goals with Columbus, his two arguably-subpar seasons with New York have made him a very polarizing player. He will have to score early and often this season to keep from hearing boos from the Garden faithful.

Stepan is as tough a player as there is in the NHL; he had his jaw broken in the playoffs and only missed a game! But he will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season with a broken leg suffered in the pre-season. He played all 82 regular-season games last year, and his presence will be missed in October and November.

His loss has forced a little roster juggling by General Manager Glen Sather and Head Coach Alain Vigneault. One fresh new face on the team is 19-year-old Anthony Duclair, who was named to the 20-man roster Monday. He scored 50 goals last season in junior hockey, and adds some much-needed speed to the roster. He will be fun to watch.

The defense is anchored by Ryan McDonagh, was who named team captain Monday, Marc Staal, and Dan Girardi.

Between the pipes is goalie Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best player – and most popular player – on the team. The 2014-15 Rangers will succeed or fail based on the kind of season that King Henrik has.

 

INTERMISSION

Let’s talk for a moment about who’ll win the Stanley Cup next spring. Any conversation of which teams are the favorites would have to include the Los Angeles Kings [though no team has repeated as Cup champions since Detroit in 1997 and 1998], the Chicago Blackhawks, the Boston Bruins, the Rangers, if it all comes together again, and others like Anaheim, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Both conferences have a half-dozen teams that could realistically make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

FINAL HORN

Closing thoughts? The NHL season starts Wednesday with four games, and the Rangers take the ice Thursday. Stay tuned for more as the season rolls on. Let’s Go Rangers!