Latest posts by Phil Kocher (see all)
- Tony DeAngelo Will Miss 3-to-4 Weeks with Sprained Ankle - 03/14/2018
- Quick Hits - Rome Wasn't Built in a Day - 03/10/2018
- Quick Hits: Rangers Suddenly Deep at C, but D May Kill Hank - 03/03/2018
Pain is the Name of the Game
If you could only take one thing away from Thursday night’s drubbing at the hands of the league’s best Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s this: the Rangers have a long way to climb to return to contention. Part of the reason why is of their own doing, having dismantled much of what made them competitive for the last few years at this year’s trading deadline. But even with the likes of Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Grabner, they still couldn’t hang with the best the NHL has to offer. It’s why Jeff Gorton was so proactive about proclaiming his team a lost cause weeks before the February deadline. Hope is not a strategy, even if it can be marketed for a short while.
What the Lightning dominatingly illustrated is that there are no shortcuts to rebuilding a Cup contending team. Like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks before them, the Bolts did it right. Not only did they suffer the requisite pain for multiple seasons to allow them to draft franchise types like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in back-to-back drafts in 2008 and 2009, but they also proved that the draft is the key to establishing a pipeline to fill out the remainder of a competitive roster.
With ten selections in the coming draft, perhaps the Rangers will get as lucky as the Lightning were in 2011 when they drafted Vlaidslav Namestnikov (27th), Nikita Kucherov (58th), Nikita Nesterov (158th), and Ondrej Palat (208th) all in the same class. But like Tampa, it’ll likely take at least one more painful season of enduring more losses than victories to establish the kind of prospect pipeline that years from now might be looked back on as the start of something special.
The Rangers might even be lucky enough to land a franchise-changing talent with their own first-rounder while drafting a bevy of complimentary talents with their remaining selections.
Landon the Legend
Of course, the lesson in rebuilding wasn’t the only positive takeaway from the Lightning game. The Bolts weren’t even the biggest winners of the night. That honor unequivocally belongs to Landon Girardi, the now 8-year-old son of former Ranger Dan Girardi:
#TBLightning defenseman Dan Girardi (5) stands along side his son, Landon Girard, on the ice during the National Anthem after Landon carried the glowing stick as the be the thunder kid before the @TBLightning take on the #NYRangers @AmalieArena in Tampa. #NHL pic.twitter.com/3kbZWJD6mk
— Dirk Shadd (@DirkShadd) March 9, 2018
Misery Loves Company
With the Blueshirts diving head first into the world of pain that an honest rebuild produces en route to reestablishing a winning product, it’s comforting, if not euphoric, to see their rival New York Islanders floundering alongside them. The Isles—currently seventh in the Metropolitan division with 68 points and seven points back of the final Wild Card position—have dropped an embarrassing eighth straight game in what is now inarguably a critical juncture in John Tavares’ career. Next stop: Unrestricted Free Agency.
The Spooner Dilemma
Decisions, decisions. Now with ten (!) points in his first six games, the Rangers must not only be elated with the play of Ryan Spooner—something of a throw-in in the trade that sent Rick Nash to Boston—but face an increasingly tougher call on his future in the coming weeks. There’s no denying the revelatory nature of the 26-year-old’s play since arriving in New York, albeit riding an unsustainable 1.67 points per game (P/GP) wave more than double his career average (0.59). Yet if Spooner’s ask on a multi-year extension is too rich, and at least one club is willing to pay it on top of providing the Rangers a nice return at the draft this June, it’s something the Rangers will need to seriously consider.
This kind of deal would be a prime example of selling high. Spooner’s a good player, clearly, but might actually be of greater long-term value flipped at the draft to a team willing to move something like a second-round pick and a younger late teens or early twenties prospect who can grow with the wave of new bodies expected to replenish the Rangers’ pipeline.
Alexandar the Great
This Rangers club—a skeleton crew in blue—isn’t home to many positive performances these days, and probably won’t be until next season’s training camp and preseason begin. That said, the play of 22-year-old netminder, Alexandar Georgiev is certainly praiseworthy. Since being recalled by the Rangers as a result of long-term injury to Ondrej Pavelec, the Bulgarian-born backstopper has posted a highly respectable .930 save percentage (SV%) and 2.65 goals against average (GAA) through three starts and four games played.
Lundqvist is in no danger of being dethroned by him anytime soon, but if Georgiev can sustain this level of play, barring unforeseen circumstances, you can likely pencil him in as the Blueshirts’ backup next season.
— Woj (@BryanWojtanik) March 4, 2018
By the Numbers
- Shield your eyes, loyal subjects, for there’s no more unbecoming a stat line than the one you’re about to read regarding our beloved King, Henrik Lundqvist: dating back to February 13th, Hank has given up four or more goals in an appearance in four of his last ten contests, and boasts an aggregate .901 SV% and massive 3.94 GAA in that span.
- Since the start of the month, Ryan Spooner leads all Rangers skaters in scoring with five points (two goals, three assists) in four games.
- Prospect Watch: according to @NYRStatsInfo, Filip Chytil (0.72) and Lias Andersson (0.67) rank first and second, respectively, among AHL players younger than 20 years old in P/GP this season.
- Lundqvist’s next start—likely against the Florida Panthers—will be his 800th career NHL appearance, tying him with Nikolai Khabibulin for the most appearances by a goalie born outside of North America in NHL history.
- One more for the prospect watch: Ty Ronning, who scored his 56th goal of his WHL season on March 7th, has to be a lock for the new-look Hartford Wolf Pack next season, no?