After eliminating Canada’s hockey capital (Montreal) it is only fitting that the next obstacle for the New York Rangers to climb would be Canada’s capital (Ottawa) in a rematch of their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals won by the Rangers in seven games after trailing three games to two.

This year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals features many intriguing off-ice and on-ice stories that bear watching.

Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson has split his time this season tending goal for the Senators and tending to his wife Nicholle as she battles cancer – a situation that I am all too familiar with and as a result wish Craig and Nicholle nothing but the best.

Clarke McArthur’s triumphant return from missing nearly two full seasons recovering from a concussion and its aftermath was capped off with his Game 6 winning goal in overtime to eliminate the Boston Bruins.

Of course, one can’t talk of the senators without mentioning the “impending domination” of perennial Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson and Anderson’s mastery over the Rangers (10-5-3 with a 1.77 GAA, .941 SV% and four shutouts).

In the minds of a lot of Rangers and Senators fans, this series will go a long way in deciding which team won the Mika Zibanejad-Derick Brassard trade. Early returns look good for the Sens as “Big Game Brass” is tied for second in the playoffs with eight points while Zibanejad has half as many points for the Blueshirts. Speaking of Brassard, the series reunites him with his former Rangers BFF Mats Zuccarello.

Alain Vigneault will be coaching against the organization that gave him his first NHL job as he served as an assistant coach for Ottawa for three and a half years.

Vigneault offered an interesting take to the media on the Zibanejad-Brassard trade leading up to the start of the series. The Rangers were able to acquire a 2018 second round pick from Ottawa in that deal which, in turn, allowed the Rangers to package a 2018 second round pick to Detroit as part of the Brendan Smith deal.

All of these off-ice and on-ice stories make for nice print and on-air talking points, but the main story for this series will come to down to “1-3-1” – the defensive system used by Ottawa’s coach Guy Boucher. It is a system that Boucher started when he was Tampa Bay and caused Philadelphia Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette to mock Boucher’s strategy.

The Rangers ability, or inability, to break the 1-3-1 is the key to the series. Job (sounds like rob) is to be as patient as Job (sounds like robe) when it comes to breaking Ottawa’s trap. In order to counter Boucher’s plan to stifle puck movement through the neutral zone, the Rangers must resist resorting to what Rick Carpiniello likes to call their “fancy-boy” way of playing hockey where the Blueshirts put more reliance on piling up style points rather than shots or goals.

Whether they like it or not, the Rangers will have to play dump-and-chase hockey (emphasis on their need to chase). Considering on how much Boucher relied on his top four defensemen against Boston (without Mark Borowiecki who missed four of the six games, but should be back sooner rather than later), the Rangers can make good use of putting bodies on the Ottawa d-men, especially early in games.

In a discussion on the NHL Network, the analysts believed that the Rangers physical pressure on Karlsson would pay off late in shifts/periods/games. If the Rangers attack and put bodies him, they can take advantage of Karlsson – and by extension the rest of the Ottawa blueliners.

The Rangers need to implement a strategy that former Canadian Junior Brian Kilrea used to employ. In racking up nearly 1,200 wins with the Ottawa 67’s, Kilrea’s forechecking strategy was “asses and eyeballs”. In Kilrea’s book, “They Caller Me Killer”, Bryan Trottier explained what Kilrea means by “asses and eyeballs”:

“If you see their asses, let’s pressure like hell! If you see their eyeballs, we’ll just send one,” Trottier explained.

In addition to hard forechecking and dump-and-chase, the Rangers will need to be in constant motion to break the 1-3-1 with quick crisp passes – as opposed to their preferred method of looking to stretch the ice with long passes (which can play into the Senators’ trap).

In addition to patience, the Rangers will have to remain disciplined and not try to force a round peg into a square hole. The importance for discipline carries over to eliminating, or at least limiting, the lazy stupid penalties they took against Montreal – like all of those high sticking penalties late in the series.

In a way, the Rangers will have to do like they did in the Montreal series, adjust their style of play to meet the needs of the game. It is something that Derek Stepan recognizes.

“You have a game plan, but you also have to be ready to take what series’ give you and I think that’s how teams succeed in the playoffs,” Stepan admitted to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “We have superstars on our team, but we don’t rely on superstars taking over games. We’re team-oriented and built that way.

“I go back to what Marty [St. Louis] preaches about the importance of being able to make adjustments. That’s what he did as an individual to be able to succeed in the league for so long, and that’s what teams need to be able to do.”

It is ironic that Stepan mentioned St. Louis because Marty was part of that Lightning team that implemented the 1-3-1.

Of course, the easiest way to break the 1-3-1, or any trap for that matter, is to get the lead and then add to it. The more Ottawa falls behind, the greater the pressure is to change their style of play and open the game up – which will play to the Rangers skill and speed advantage.

One way for the Rangers make sure they get the early lead is to win the special teams battles. The Rangers penalty killing helped do them in during their Game 3 loss and their power play goal in Game 6 helped win the series. With the way Anderson and Henrik Lundqvist are playing goals are expected to be at a premium so the special teams should be crucial.

Interestingly enough, success on special teams hasn’t been all that successful for playoffs teams this year. Calgary leads all playoff teams in PP% (37.5) and they were swept in four games. Minnesota and Montreal had the playoffs best penalty killing units (93.3) and both of those teams are out of the playoffs.

The Rangers need some of their young stars to pick up their play in the Ottawa series. Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller were far too inconsistent in the Montreal series, although Hayes began to show life towards the end of the series. Kreider and Miller got lucky after taking some really stupid penalties late in the series and can’t afford to do so now. With Montreal and the Carey Price Affair a memory, perhaps Kreider will regain his confidence to go to the net utilizing his size and speed.

While Stepan helped ice the series with his empty net goal, two points in six games is not going to get the job done – especially when you are only winning 37.2% of your faceoffs. That was the one part of Hayes’ game that was strong (57.6%).

The Rangers had success against Price when took advantage of him going down to the ice early. While he is a very athletic goalie, Anderson can fall into that same trap as well. The Blueshirts will need to get traffic in front of him in the hopes he will have problems going side-to-side and picking up the puck through traffic.

In addition to shutting down Brassard and Karlsson, the Rangers will have to deal with the resurgence of Bobby Ryan who scored four goals and three assists against Boston. He was using his Rick Nash-like ability in a way that the Rangers need to see from Nash and their big forwards.


Many Rangers fans were pleased with the extra rest they received thanks to eliminating the Canadiens in six games instead of the usual seven games it always seems to take the Rangers. Frankly, the rest probably did more for Ottawa given the four overtime games they played against the Bruins – not to mention the “healing time” Karlsson’s hairline fracture in his foot received. The Senators captain averaged over 30 minutes of ice time that was topped off by nearly 42 minutes in double overtime in Game 5. Karlsson had to battle through cramps in that game so any extra rest for him was welcomed.

This series is going to be like the typical Rangers death struggle when it comes to the playoffs. There are going to be time when they resemble the team that started the season 13-4-0 and then there will be times when they play like the team that limped home during the final few weeks of the regular season.

Ottawa’s trap is sure to lead some ugly hockey at times, and that is to be expected. The Rangers response to the trap will determine the outcome of the series. As we have seen this year, home-ice is not the advantage it is cracked up to be. The Rangers were the NHL’s road warriors while the home team in the Ottawa series was just 1-5.

In the end, the Rangers depth, skill and speed will win out. The Rangers won their second straight playoff series against Montreal in six games so I expect the Rangers will win their second straight seven game series against Ottawa.

Once again, if you are looking to talk Rangers playoff hockey just visit Rangers Report 2.0. It is a place where we have serious (and sometimes not so serious) discussions on the Rangers and hockey.

Also, don’t forget to follow Rick Carpiniello on for his unique takes on all things New York Rangers ACCORDING TO CARP.

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

After it appeared that the New York Rangers were not going to win the Metropolitan Division crown, Blueshirts fans have been calling for their team to go into the tank (just enough) to clinch the first wildcard and cross over into the Atlantic Division as the fourth seed.

Ranger fans: Be careful what you wish for.

Switching divisions does have its advantage as the Rangers avoid the gauntlet of having to defeat two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (who also rank first, second and fourth in the NHL) in order to just reach the Eastern Conference Final.

Of course, that advantage means the Rangers get to face the Montreal Canadiens and the house of horrors known as the Bell Centre. Despite the Rangers having, as Rick Carpiniello, now writing online for MSG at ACCORDING TO CARP calls it, “road-ice advantage”, the Rangers would have been better off crossing over to the Western Conference where they posted a 21-6-1 record. Only Chicago’s 43 points against the Eastern Conference matched the Rangers.

The Rangers passed on their fans “tanking” mantra last season and paid the price with a five-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite that loss, that series was tied at 1-1 with Game 3 being tied at 1-1 going into the third period at the garden. The Rangers could have been ahead if not for Michael Sullivan winning a coach’s challenge that wiped out Chris Kreider’s PPG midway through the first period. Pittsburgh tied the game on a late second period PPG by Sidney Crosby.

Rather than that memory, fans remember the Rangers third period collapse in Game 3 and the Pens thorough dismantling of the Rangers in the next two games as The King was unceremoniously dethroned.

As is the case any time the Rangers have entered a playoff series, their fates rest squarely on the shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist. For the first time in a long time, Lundqvist enters a series as the decided underdog in the battle of the goaltenders.

Since the end of the 2008-9 season, Lundqvist has been anything but a king in the Bell Centre posting a 0-6-1 record with a 4.42 GAA. In 2014, Lundqvist held Montreal to three goals as the Rangers won the first two games at the Bell Centre. Game 5, on the hand, was a nightmare as Lundqvist gave up four goals before being pulled about midway through the game leaving Cam Talbot to take the loss after the Rangers erased a 4-1 deficit.

As formidable as Price has been in his career during his 10 year career (he only played 12 games last season), he has been rather pedestrian in terms of his playoff heroics. In looking at his statistics Price’s numbers, his playoff numbers are slightly off when compared to regular season numbers: GAA – 2.62/2.40 and SV% – .914%/.920%.

For comparison’s sake, Lundqvist’s playoff numbers closely mirror his regular season numbers: GAA – 2.28/2.32 and SV% – .921/.920.

The Carey Price-Chris Kreider escapade of 2014 has been written about and talked about enough that there is no need for me to analyze and over-analyze what happened. I will say this – if Montreal needs that particular revenge factor as a motive to beat the Rangers – then the Habs are done before the series starts.

Another angle that has been beaten to death is the rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final coaches with Claude Julien replacing Michel Therrien during the regular season. Given that Julien and Alain Vigneault are coaching different teams this angle is nothing more than any interesting tidbit as what happened in 2011 will have no bearing on what happens in 2017.

What will have a bearing is which Rangers team decides to show up for this series. Is the disinterested Rangers team that stumbled home with an 8-9-4 record or is it the team that roared out to a 40-19-2 record?

While Jeff Gorton has done a pretty good job of injecting some youth into a team that was left bereft of first round draft picks, some tough decision will be coming in the off-season thanks to the Expansion Draft and the intrigue over next season’s salary cap. Contract clauses and high salaries will limit Gorton’s ability to break up the veteran core, but another uninspired playoff exit might force the Rangers to make hard decisions – which are for another day.

The concern for the Rangers is how to game plan a strategy to beat the Montreal Canadiens. Being a diehard Rangers fan – as if there is any other kind of Rangers fan – I offer Vigneault the following suggestions.

The first is some advice that I had stored way from an old Elliotte Friedman article from Friedman was writing about the 2015 playoff matchup between the Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. Friedman wrote, “One NHLer, watching that series, said despite all of Ottawa’s pressure, there’s a certain way you have to do it against the Canadiens — drive the middle and push the defence back. ‘(The Senators) don’t shoot for rebounds,’ he texted. ‘They shoot to score from far out,’ and that is ‘too easy for Price.’”

The Rangers forwards are going to have to camp out in front of Price and being active and alert for any rebound chances and look to screen him at every chance. Think of Derek Stepan’s PPG against Philadelphia in the regular season finale as the blueprint for the Rangers – especially on the power play. Tristan Jarry had no chance to stop Stepan’s shot because he had to look around Rick Nash.

Shea Weber is going to be an imposing figure in this series at both ends of the ice. You can expect he will be out against either Kreider or Nash and will try to neutralize either one. On the plus side, that probably means he can’t be on the ice to defend them both as long as AV pays attention to matchups.

Offensively, Weber’s howitzer of a shot will be as imposing as that of Alex Ovechkin – especially when the Habs are on the PP. The Rangers must know where Weber is on the ice at all times in the Rangers zone and the Blueshirts must be active with their sticks and bodies to disrupt his shot – something they don’t always do enough of when facing Ovechkin – especially on the PP.

Offensively, especially early in games, dump the puck into his corner and make him play the puck. The Rangers have enough forwards who have the skating ability and size to put pressure on Weber and make him give up the puck. When he does, that is when the Rangers must attack on the forecheck. It is similar to the strategy the Rangers used in 1979 when they defeated Denis Potvin and the New York Islanders.

Some fans are concerned about the size the Habs added at the trade deadline. If the difference in this series comes down Jordie Benn, Dwight King and Steve Ott then the Rangers had no business even being in the playoffs. The Rangers have enough size in their lineup to battle Montreal – it is a matter of them using it.

It is that size and the Rangers speed among their forwards that make it a must that the Rangers harass Montreal on the forecheck, above and beyond what I wrote previously about slowing Weber down. Julien is going to have the Habs clogging the neutral zone so the best way for the Rangers to combat that is to pin the Canadiens in their own zone.

Remember, dump-and-chase is not always a bad idea as long as the Rangers don’t forget the chase part – something they often do. When they dump the puck in they have to do it smartly because price can handle the puck. Either band it hard around the boards or put into the corner where Price can’t play the puck. Cross-ice dump-ins with the weak side forward going hard after the puck will help.

Speaking of being pinned in their own zone, could the Rangers please abandon this fake news about them playing man-to-man defense because they don’t. The Rangers forwards drop down into the shooting lanes rather than cover the points. Watch the Rangers’ defensive zone coverage; the forwards are playing a spot on the ice as opposed to playing the man. This is why the Rangers get caught in their own zone for extended periods of time.

In coming up with a prediction, I am of two minds. My heart says that the Rangers can and will win in six games. However, my brain says something different.

If the Rangers were an offensive juggernaut or a lockdown defensive team, then I could see them being able to flip the switch and return to the success they had prior to the final quarter of the regular season. Since the Rangers are neither of those type of teams, the prediction is Montreal in six.

If you are looking for a place to gripe, kvetch or just talk Rangers playoff hockey just visit Rangers Report 2.0. It is a place where we have serious (and sometimes not so serious) discussions on the Rangers and hockey.

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

This edition of Ranger Ramblings represents my first blog entry since the June 2015 NHL Draft articles. I am writing this entry with a heavy heart as it is dedicated to and in memory of the Rangers most diehard fan, my most ardent supporter and the love of life – my wife Roe who passed away in May 2016. I want to take this opportunity to not only share Roe’s Rangers stories with you, but also explain my long absence from blogging.

It is no coincidence that my first blog in well over a year was posted on November 20 because it marks the six month anniversary of Roe’s passing. The anniversary theme kind of fits given that the Rangers are celebrating their 90th anniversary and Ranger Ramblings first appeared some 20 years ago (more on that later).

In mid-October 2015, I found myself with an unexpected vacation courtesy of an eight-day stay in the hospital. While not immediately life-threatening, it was enough to knock for me a bit of a loop for a few weeks. Combine that with the New York Mets run to the World Series and you can see why I was a little slow out of the gate in terms of blogging about the Rangers.

As time flew by, I just never seemed to get back on the writing track as the 2015-2016 NHL season progressed. I had many starts and stops before deciding I would try to get back in the saddle in time for the playoffs. Obviously, that never materialized as the Rangers quick exit never gave me a chance to even warm up my keyboard.

It was at that point that I figured that my love for the NHL Draft would be the thing that would get me to put pen to paper, so to speak, and end my writing “sabbatical”.

After celebrating my 30-year anniversary working at Iona College – a feat that Roe was prouder of than I was – my world came crashing down when she got sick on the evening of April 28 – only eight days after the aforementioned work celebration.

The details of what happened aren’t that important and, to be honest, are still a bit raw to this date – even though I have repeated the story many times since. Suffice it to say, three weeks later Roe was gone and my life permanently changed.

Now that I have given everyone the Reader’s Digest version of why I have been away for so long, I want to get much happier talk about Roe and her boys – the New York Rangers.

Roe and I met online in September 2003 – yes online dating does pay off. One of the first stories she told me was when her family would decorate the Christmas tree there would always be a Rangers game on the television.

While she was a Rangers fan before meeting me, Roe would attain diehard status after we started dating. Honestly, she never stood a chance in terms of loving the Rangers. She was quite proud to say that she “wasn’t a hockey fan, I am a Rangers fan.”

Little by little her Rangers fandom would grow. She started asking more and more questions about the game and Roe started learning the nuances of the game.

One of her biggest questions, and one that I could never properly answer, was why the team seemed to have so many problems in the second periods of games. The only answer I could provide was the idea of the long change being a possible answer. She often reminded me that their opponents faced the same dilemma. My final response would always be “because they are the Rangers”.

Of course, the Blueshirts have managed to correct that problem this year. Could they be getting a little intervention from above? Who knows, but I’d like to think that she looking down on her boys. It might also explain the offensive ‘explosion” we have seen from Dan Girardi at the start of the season. She would always get upset when I would let her know that the fans on Rick Carpiniello’s Rangers Report Blog (more on that later, too) would be getting on her “DANNY!”

Girardi was one of a handful of Roe’s Rangers favorites. Henrik Lundqvist was at the top of the list and his jersey is one of two that I bought for Roe over the years. The other is one that she stopped wearing in March 2014.

She was a big Ryan Callahan fan until he was dealt to Tampa Bay. She couldn’t understand why he was traded until I explained all of the free agency/salary cap machinations. In time she came to understand and adopted the Rangers Report nickname of “Tax Free” for Cally.

Another favorite of hers was Mats Zuccarello. It was Roe who helped me coin the nickname that I still use for him today – LINK (Little Italian Norwegian Kid).

As I mentioned that Roe became a DIEHARD Rangers fan after meeting me. I think I can even pinpoint the exact day that became official. It was May 4, 2007 when the Buffalo Sabres beat the Rangers in Game 5 in overtime. That was the game when Chris Drury tied the game with about eight seconds left in regulation and then Maxim Afinogenov won it about four and a half minutes into overtime with a power play goal.

As soon as the Sabres scored, Roe got up from her chair in the living room and went straight into the bedroom without saying a word to me. It was then that I knew she was one of us.

As far as I am concerned, her special place in Rangers fan history was set during the Rangers Eastern Quarterfinals matchup against the Ottawa Senators in 2012. That was the series that saw Carl Hagelin get suspended for three games for his hit on Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2.

That was also the series where Brian Boyle got concussed on a cheap shot from Chris Neil in Game 5. Then NHL dean of discipline Brendan Shanahan decided not to suspend Neil for the hit.

Shanny was Roe’s first favorite Ranger. So much so that one of the first Rangers items I gave to her was a Shanahan tee shirt.
Roe earned her stripes as a Hall of Fame Rangers fan after finding out that Shanahan was not suspending Neil after previously suspending Hagelin.

She calmly took out a pair of scissors and methodically began cutting that shirt to shreds. I must say that I was amazed at how coolly and calmly she cut that shirt up with the precision of a surgeon. Needless to say, I slept with one eye open (gripping my pillow tight) that night ?
The only thing she did not cut to shreds was the Rangers wordmark on the front of the shirt because she was keeping that. An interesting story so far, eh? Well, it is not over.

Roe was not content with dismantling the shirt. She had a higher method to her madness. She sat down and wrote a letter to Brendan Shanahan expressing her displeasure over his actions and told him that she was sending him the shreds of his shirt. She made sure to explain that she was not including the Rangers wordmark because “he did not deserve to wear the Rangers name”.

She made me get his address at the NHL offices and packaged everything up. I would love to be able to say that she mailed the package, but cooler heads prevailed and she did not. I will let you know that package sat waiting to be mailed for a couple of months before she ended up throwing it out.

In retrospect, I really wish we did mail it just see what, if any, response she would have received. Part of me regrets it because we might have been able to score free Rangers tickets and perhaps a meeting with Shanahan.

Oh, one final addendum to that story. When Roe finished packing the tee shirt shreds, she placed the Rangers wordmark on the end table near her recliner. I am happy to report that it has been there ever since and it will always remain there.

That 2012 playoff season provided us with the biggest Rangers thrill we shared as a couple. While the Stanley Cup Final run was special, Game 1 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Final marked the first and only playoff game Roe ever attended. If you forgot that game, allow me to refresh your memory. Henrik Lundqvist shut out Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils 3-0.

It was poetic justice that night because Marty was one the players that Roe loved to hate. Uncle Daddy (she got a big kick out that when I explained it to her) rivaled only Sidney Crosby when it came to her dislike for Rangers opponents.

Speaking of Marty and the Devils, Roe and I went to one of those viewing parties at Foxwoods to watch the Rangers play the Devils – a game the Blueshirts would win. Among the Rangers legends were my all-time favorite Eddie Giacomin and one of Roe’s all-time favorites Adam Graves.

We saw Giacomin before the event and I called out “Eddie” and went over and talked to him for a few minutes. Roe was surprised that I would just go over to him and talk to him as if we had known each other for years.

Later in the evening Roe and hoped to get a picture with Graves. She thought she had him lined up, but he ended up going to a private area to spend time with an elderly gentleman.

After a few minutes he came out and one the young women working for Foxwoods was escorting him somewhere. I told Roe we should go and get the picture. Believe it or not, Roe was shy and didn’t want to do it. For her family and friends, yes Roe was too shy to go over and ask for a picture.

Anyway, I call out to Adam and ask if he would take a picture with my wife. Of course, he agreed and the young women also ended up taking a picture of three of us.

Okay, you are wondering what the big deal is. Well, the kicker was that she was so nervous that she kept referring to him as “Mr. Graves”. Mind you, Roe had a couple of years on him. Needless to say, we shared many laughs afterwards whenever I would mention “Mr. Graves”.

Allow me one more Rangers story in Roe’s memory. While I indoctrinated Roe into diehard Rangers fandom, she opened my horizons it terms of watching new TV shows. One such show was “Third Watch”. One of the characters on that show was Officer Maurice “Bosco” Boscorelli, portrayed by Jason Wiles – a character that often found himself getting in trouble for going over the line.

If you are familiar with Jason Wiles you will realize that he bears a resemblance to Rangers bad boy Sean Avery. It was not too much of a stretch to see that Avery soon became “Bosco” in our household.

To make a short story long, we have two female cats – Vinnie and Frankie. Yes, that is what happens when you pick out the names before you get the cats.

Anyway, Vinnie (Vincenza) was almost four-years-old when we got Frankie (Francesca) as a kitten. As you might imagine, they had some tussles during the first few weeks. Once Frankie got her bearings she managed to learn how to “torture” her sister.

After one such session, I remarked that Frankie was acting like Sean Avery and presto, Frankie’s nickname of Bosco was born.

I must admit that I kept putting off writing this article because I didn’t think I could do it without drowning my keyboard in tears. While my eyes did get misty, it was not as bad as I anticipated. It gave me a chance to reflect on some of the good times that Roe and I had. For that I am thankful that I had her in my life – even though the time was waaay too short.

I am also thankful for all of you who had to put up with reminiscing and for putting up with my 17 month absence. I do promise to try and get back to writing. I want to thank you for allowing me this insight into my life. I am hoping that it will help provide me some form of closure, even though there will always be a hole in my heart.

I am still fighting the doubts of whether Rangers hockey will ever mean the same to me again without my “linemate” being around. I know she is staring down at me and giving me that look only a wife can give her husband, but there is still something missing in terms of enjoying the Rangers.

Thankfully, the Blueshirts are providing me with some happier times. Whether it lasts or not remains to be seen. But if along the way, the Rangers get some “unexpected” breaks along the way this season – a post here and a lucky bounce there, we will know it will be because they have an angel on their right shoulder keeping an eye for them.

Before I close, I want to get back to a pair of items I mentioned previously.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Ranger Ramblings, which began at before moving to NY Sport Day’s site. After using some of the skills I have acquired during my 30+ years working in a library, I found that very ORIGINAL EDITION of Ranger Ramblings.

I also mentioned Rick Carpiniello’s Rangers Report Blog that was housed on the Journal News web site. As most, if not all, of you know Carp was fired as part of housecleaning/money purge at the Journal News. I won’t comment any further because I don’t want to give that “newspaper” the time of day.

Anyway, one of his loyal readers started up a web site to continue Carp’s legacy and Rangers talk. I invite everyone to go to Rangers Report 2.0 – it is a place where we have serious (and sometimes not so serious) discussions on the Rangers and hockey.

Roe and Mr. Graves

Roe and Mr. Graves

Roe with "Ryan Callahan"

Roe with “Ryan Callahan”

Roe showing that she is a Ranger

Roe showing that she is a Ranger

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

Rick-Nash-640x427Rick Nash had to sit out seven weeks because of a bone bruise in his leg, but since his return to the New York Rangers lineup, Nash has been unable to find his scoring touch, which is affecting New York’s NHL online sportsbook odds of winning the Stanley Cup.

Nash was instrumental in New York’s appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings two seasons ago, and the team is hoping he can find his touch in time to help them make another push for the Stanley cup.

In an interview, Nash acknowledged that he was having trouble finding the back of the net. According to Nash, the scoring touch is actually the hardest thing to get back. Nash said his legs are feeling fine as is his cardio. But when it comes to scoring, the only way to get the touch back is by playing more games.

Nash acknowledged that he had a few opportunities to score since his return but his instincts didn’t take over like they usually do. He attributed the lack of goals to his hands not doing what his brain was thinking, which is something he believes will improve as he gets more comfortable on the ice.

In the four games since his return, Nash has 12 shots on goal and zero points. Nash attributed some of the missed opportunities to nerves. He said he was trying to force plays instead of making the simple plays.

Going by his body of work, it is only a matter of time before Nash finds his groove and starts scoring again. Nash is a six-time All-Star that has scored 40 goals in a season three times. Last season, he finished with 42 goals, which is the most he has scored in his career.

In the past, Nash has admitted to spending most of his time playing video games whenever he got hurt. this time around, he spent most of his time changing the diapers of his one-year-old son and has given up on the video games. The Rangers are hoping his change in priorities will make him a better player on the ice.

Former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes, who currently works as a television analyst, doesn’t doubt that Nash will eventually regain his scoring form. Weekes believes that the more Nash shoots, the quicker he will find his scoring touch.

The Rangers boast one of the deepest teams in the NHL, but they know that once the playoffs start, they will need their best scorer to be at his best, which is why they are hoping Nash can find his scoring touch quickly.

While Nash was recovering from his injury, the Rangers added more depth to their team by acquiring Eric Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes. Nash, who played with Staal on the Canadian youth team before winning gold as members of the Canadian senior team, is excited to have Staal on the team and believes he can help the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup since 1994.

Weekes also believes the Rangers have a very good chance of winning the Stanley Cup if Nash can find his scoring touch and Staal plays up to his capabilities.

As the playoff approaches, the Rangers are hoping that Nash regains his touch much sooner than later.


Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

The intrigue for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft reached its crescendo on April 18 when the Edmonton Oilers cashed out as the Draft Lottery winner for the fourth time in the last six years – thus anointing themselves as the winners in the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes.

“He’s not only the most productive junior player, but also the most dynamic,” then-Oilers GM Craig MacTavish admitted to Mike Brophy of
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is for us to win this lottery. Any team would have been just over the moon about winning the lottery, and we’re the same. It’s a game-changer.”

While the Buffalo Sabres lost, they are also winners of a not-too-shabby consolation prize – Jack Eichel.

“We don’t have the first pick, but we have the second pick and we have said all along there are two top-end, impact players, if not franchise players in this draft and they both play the right position (center) for rebuilding,” Buffalo GM Tim Murray explained to Brophy. “So as disappointed as we are in not having the No. 1 pick, we’re extremely happy to be picking No. 2.”

With the first two picks about as set in stone as any first two draft picks can be, the 2015 NHL Draft really begins once the Arizona Coyotes are on the clock with the third overall pick – the first of three the Coyotes own in the first round.

Arizona will shape the Draft depending on what GM Don Maloney does with the third pick. Do they look to continue to add to a young reserve of blueliners and select Noah Hanifin? If they decide on a forward, is it winger Lawson Crouse of centers Dylan Strome or Mitchell Marner? Given the intrigue and machinations swirling around the Coyotes, does Maloney entertain the possibility of dealing the third overall pick for immediate help and look to build the future late in the first round?

While there is a drop off in talent once you get by McDavid and Eichel, there is no lack of talent as there is depth throughout the draft – a point made by Red Line report’s Kyle Woodlief.

“Given the strength and depth of this year’s draft class, there appear to be a lot of teams highly motivated to get something done, so the inclination is to think we will see an active trade market at the draft,” Woodlief predicted in a column for USA Today.

In addition to Woodliefs’ depth proclamation, I expect trades to be the name of the game in the first round of Draft Weekend at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida because of the number of teams that have multiple picks in the first round. The same also holds true for other rounds in the 2015 NHL Draft.

The Coyotes (Nos. 3 and 30) lead the charge of six teams with multiple first round draft picks. The other teams include the Oilers (Nos. 1 and 16), the Sabres (Nos. 2 and 21), the Toronto Maple Leafs (Nos. 4 and 24), the Philadelphia Flyers (Nos. 7 and 29), and the Winnipeg Jets (Nos. 17 and 25).

The Sabres and Oilers will be the most active teams early with Buffalo set to make three picks within the first 31 selections and with Edmonton scheduled to make three picks in the Top 33.

Conversely, barring a trade, the New York Islanders will not make their first selection until Round 3 (72nd).

You can expect a lot maneuvering as teams look to move up and down in the first round, as well teams who will be looking to replace lost first round selections.

For example, the New York Rangers have been discussing deals involving backup goalie Cam Talbot who whined during Henrik Lundqvist’s absence. You can bet President/GM Glen Sather covets the Oilers second 1st round pick (formerly Pittsburgh’s) as well as keeping his eyes on Edmonton’s two second round draft picks (Nos. 33 and 57) as a fallback.

However, Sather and the Rangers will draw competition from the Ottawa Senators who can offer up prospect Robin Lehner or veteran Craig Anderson. Even the Dallas Stars have floated Kari Lehtonen’s name.

Time will only tell to see which team blinks first. In a perfect world, Edmonton would keep the second of their 1st round picks and draft a goalie for the future and possibly use their 2nd round picks and/or prospects to secure their goalie of the present.

In this Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting “services”: NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Bob McKenzie of TSN. CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters (NAS), European skaters (ES), North American goaltenders (NAG) and European goaltenders (EG). THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation while ranking skaters and goaltenders together. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player (for their Top 30 rated players) and has separate rankings for skaters and goaltenders. McKenzie and TSN rank the Top 75 prospects along with 10 Honourable Mentions and rank skaters and goaltenders together.

The First Round Draft positions utilized are those as of 12p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

CS: # 1 NAS —– THN: # 1 (Franchise Center)
ISS: # 1 (Sidney Crosby) —– TSN: # 1 (Gilbert Perreault)
If new Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli plays his card properly in terms of draft selections and draft dealings, Edmonton might be able to bid a fond farewell to the NHL Lottery for some time because McDavid is that good. He is the ultimate franchise player who is so good that ISS scout Phil Myre said McDavid’s “acceleration and execution with the puck at high speed is the best I’ve seen since Bobby Orr.”

CS: # 2 NAS —– THN: # 2 (Franchise Center)
ISS: # 2 (Mike Modano) —– TSN: # 2 (Ryan Getzlaf)
Eichel is no slouch in terms of the franchise player label and is in good company with comparisons to Modano, Getzlaf and Joe Sakic (according to ISS). One concern is that Eichel is not sure where he wants to play next season. It is possible he returns to Boston University, which sets the Sabres up for another round of Draft Lottery bingo and the chance to select Auston Matthews first overall in 2016.

CS: # 4 NAS —– THN: # 4 (Top Line Center)
ISS: # 3 (Anze Kopitar) —– TSN: # 5 (Ron Francis)
The third overall pick is really where the 2015 Draft starts because it has been McDavid and Eichel one-two for a long time. Once again dark clouds rise over the Arizona sky in terms of where the Coyotes will play. If the Coyotes stay the course, Strome will help give Arizona a strong one-two punch down the middle when he teams up with Max Domi.

CS: # 6 NAS —– THN: # 5 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 6 (Patrick Kane) —– TSN: # 4 (Patrick Kane)
With no GM in place, Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter is expected to run the Leafs draft. With rumors swirling over possible deals (i.e. salary dumps) for Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, T.O. could go forward or defense. If decide to go for offense then the Leafs will have a fine one in Marner.

CS: # 3 NAS —– THN: # 3 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 5 (Erik Johnson) —– TSN: # 3 (Jay Bouwmeester)
Another team that is looking to move some salary (Eric Staal or Jeffrey Skinner), Carolina could forward or defense. If Toronto goes defense, it is possible the Hurricanes would snap up Marner. If not, Carolina goes for the best d-man prospect in Hanifin. The youngster still has room for growth and maturity and will not turn 19 until the middle of the season.

CS: # 5 NAS —– THN: # 8 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 4 (Ryan Kesler) —– TSN: # 7 (Andrew Ladd)
A new era is dawning in New Jersey with Ray Shero taking over from Lou Lamoriello as GM. Look for Shero to change the culture of the club and to open up the offense as he is able to reload the cupboard. He is a power forward with what ISS calls “elite” level size and strength (6-4/215). He also has a mean streak as evidenced by his eight game suspension in his Junior’s teams final playoff contest.

CS: # 7 NAS —– THN: # 6 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 7 (Andrei Markov) —– TSN: # 8 (Mark Giordano)
Another team with a new sheriff in town as Ron Hextall returns to Philly as the newest “Flyer Du Jour” as the Broad Street Bullies look to return to prominence. Hextall learned his craft well while with the Kings and should look to Provorov. The youngster is playing in the WHL and might not be as quick as Hanifin to join the rush; Provorov is a much heavier hitter.

CS: # 1 ES —– THN: # 12 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 9 (Jeff Carter) —– TSN: # 10 (Jakub Voracek)
The Jackets led the NHL is games lost to injury so they might want to consider drafting help in the training staff. The failure to sign Mike Reilly might have Columbus look to Zach Werenski with this pick, but Rantanan is a solid top-six forward with size (6-4/209) and ability to play in the Finnish Elite League at the age of 18.

CS: # 10 NAS —– THN: # 13 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 14 (Chris Kunitz) —– TSN: # 12 (Marian Hossa)
The Sharks might be joining the Oilers as one of those teams on the prowl for goaltending help; therefore, it is possible that this pick ends up somewhere else. If San Jose keeps it, Meier brings a European background to a player who is hard on the puck and managed 44 goals in the QMJHL last season.

CS: # 9 NAS —– THN: # 9 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 11 (Rob Blake) —– TSN: # 11 (Brent Seabrook)
For me, it was a tough decision as to which way I would go if I were the Avalanche. After looking at the later parts of the draft, it seems there is more value in Werenski at 10 and help in other areas later in the draft. While he is the third d-man taken in the draft, he has the ability and skills to be the best of the bunch.

CS: # 11 NAS —– THN: # 10 (Playmaking Center)
ISS: # 8 (Claude Giroux) —– TSN: # 9 (Justin Williams)
Florida needs to find ways to improve an offense that was 25th in goals and 24th on the PP. Barzal brings playmaking skills to the table based on his hockey sense and skating. Played in only 44 games due to, what THN calls, a freak off-ice knee injury. He came back to lead Canada in scoring and to a Bronze medal in the U-18 championships in April.

CS: # 12 NAS —– THN: # 22 (Physical Defender)
ISS: # 22 (Niklas Kronwall) —– TSN: # 14 (Niklas Hjalmarsson)
The Stars have a good corps of puck-moving d-men, but their physical defensive blueliners are projects. At 6-2/185, Zboril is still maturing as a player but he has a jump on other European-born players as he made the jump to the QMJHL last season.

CS: # 8 NAS —– THN: # 7 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 10 (James Neal) —– TSN: # 6 (Eric Staal)
While the Kings have concerns on defense, L.A.’s path to repeating as Cup winners was stalled by an inconsistent offense. At 6-3/214, Zacha gives the Kings the option of a solid power forward that might stay at center or shift to the wing.

CS: # 13 NAS —– THN: # 11 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 13 (Kyle Turris) —– TSN: # 13 (Brandon Saad)
Boston is another perennial playoff team that will look to 2015 as a bump in the road and treat it as a year to reload. Like most teams, the Bruins are looking for ways to add scoring and speed. Connor used his speed, fast hands and goal scorer’s know-how to snipe 34 goals in 60 USHL games with Youngstown – helping them to league record 17-game winning streak.

CS: # 23 NAS —– THN: # 15 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 19 (Brayden Schenn) —– TSN: # 17 (Nicklas Backstrom)
The Calgary native might not be the fastest or most elegant skater in the draft, but he is a playmaker who is stronger on the puck than you might expect from someone his size (5-10/187). While his goal dropped from 25 to 20, his assists numbers skyrocketed to 70 from 33.

CS: # 1 E-G —– THN: # 38 (Starting Goaltender)
ISS: # 1 G (Not Available —– TSN: # 19 (Andrei Vasilevskiy)
I still have to believe this pick could be in motion in the right deal for the right goaltender. Even if they moved later picks and/or prospects for a veteran-type goalie, Samsonov still makes sense moving forward. While first round goaltenders that succeed are few and far between, the Oilers can’t take the chance that another team won’t snap up Samsonov later in the first round. Besides, why have some nay draft picks if you are not going to gamble every now and then.

CS: # 17 NAS —– THN: # 16 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 18 (Jakub Voracek) —– TSN: # 18 (Max Pacioretty)
While he is listed as a RW, Cape Breton used him at center toward the end of the regular season and the playoffs. He ended up winning 52% of his faceoffs in a seven-game losing effort against the Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts.

CS: # 14 NAS —– THN: # 24 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 12 (Zach Parise) —– TSN: # 15 (Pat Verbeek)
Konecny and a few other players of his size (5-10/172) will all owe Tyler Johnson a few adult beverages because the Lightning’s play in the playoffs will have opened some eyes. Travis has had a history of concussions and shoulder problems so he will hate to adjust his game slightly, but his hockey sense and compete level should win the day.

CS: # 16 NAS —– THN: # 23 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 16 (John Klingberg) —– TSN: # 25 (Alex Edler)
The Red Wings are a team whose star players are beginning to see the end of superb careers, so Detroit has to start replenishing their system. With Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha on the horizon, the Wings could look to the blueline and draft Jakub Zboril’s Saint John teammate. Chabot stepped up his play when Zboril was injured and parlayed his season into a spot with Canada’s U-18 team.

CS: # 26 NAS —– THN: # 17 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 17 (James van Riemsdyk) —– TSN: # 20 (James van Riemsdyk)
Bittner (6-4/204) has the size that NHL scouts drool over. The Crookston, MN native has drawn some criticism for not using his size more and for not producing more despite being on a line with NHL draftees Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bittner is solid in terms on 5-on-5; PPP and PK play and is willing to drive to the net for goals.

CS: # 6 ES —– THN: # 20 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 32 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 24 (Keith Yandle)
Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report reminded everyone that current Sabres GM Tim Murray drafted Erik Karlsson when he was in Ottawa. Woodlief refers to Kylington as “Karlsson-lite” so it isn’t too much of a stretch for Buffalo to use one of their many picks on a player that one scout told THN reminded him of a cross between Niklas Kronwall and Trevor Daley.

CS: # 21 NAS —– THN: # 26 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 23 (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) —– TSN: # 29 (Dan Boyle)
With three veteran UFA d-men (including Mike Green), looking to bring in first round depth is not a bad thing. Roy’s size (6-0.183) isn’t ideal, but his sense for the game more than makes up for it. He is good at moving the puck, especially on that first breakout pass – and he has the ability to QB the PP as a right-handed shot from the point.

CS: # 18 NAS —– THN: # 30 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 40 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 38 (Sean Couturier)
Chlapik is never going to win any awards for his skating style, but his hockey sense and natural abilities more than make up for it. Born in the Czech Republic, Chlapik joined Charlottetown of the QMJHL and did not miss a beat, scoring 33 and 42 assists in 64 games.

CS: # 29 NAS —– THN: # 19 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 15 (Patrice Bergeron) —– TSN: # 16 (Brandon Sutter)
A wrist injury and a bout with mono wreaked havoc with White’s USHL season with Team USA. However, the Boston College recruit responded in the U-18 with six goals and three assists in seven games. THN joined ISS in making Patrice Bergeron comparisons with White.

CS: # 45 NAS —– THN: # 18 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 47 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 73 (Joe Colbourne)
Roy might be a bit of a reach at #25, but for a team that is seeking to add size at center then Nicholas is worth the gamble. At 6-4/203, Roy is already an NHL center. The problem is that his skating is not. Roy needs to step up his development and production this season after a pair of 16-goal season with Chicoutimi. He did score three goals and three assists in seven games with Canada’s U-18 team.

CS: # 19 NAS —– THN: # 28 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 27 (Kyle Okposo) —– TSN: # 28 (Ondrej Palat)
While Jake (6-0/176) is a bit smaller than his father Louie (6-1/225), the younger DeBrusk far outshines his father in terms of offensive ability. After posting 39 points in 72 games in his rookie season with Swift Current, Jake erupted for 42 goals and 39 assists in 72 games. The offensive improvement was keyed by his strong skating and solid hockey IQ.

CS: # 27 NAS —– THN: # 14 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 35 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 26 (Kyle Okposo)
While the Ducks have some youth among their secondary scorers, their big guns (Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf) are turning 30. Boeser affords the Ducks a solid opportunity to bring in a potential big-time scorer. Originally committed to attend Wisconsin, Boeser reopened his recruitment and chose North Dakota.

CS: # 4 ES —– THN: # 27 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 20 (Lars Eller) —– TSN: # 23 (Derick Brassard)
Ek is the solid two-way performer that the Detroit Red Wings won Stanley Cups with, so it shouldn’t be a stretch for GM Steve Yzerman to select the Swedish center. He split time playing in the Swedish Elite League and the Swedish Junior League. He held his own against the older players and averaged a point a game against his age level.

CS: # 25 NAS —– THN: # 31 (Shutdown Defender)
ISS: # 21 (Marc Staal) —– TSN: # 22 (Brayden Coburn)
While the Flyers are carrying Chris Pronger for salary cap purposes, they could use a physical d-man as part of their rebuild. Carlo (6-5/185) fits that need to a “T”. His reach is even bigger than what you might expect from someone 6-5. His skating ability is also better than one would expect from such a big player.

CS: # 22 NAS —– THN: # 33 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 29 (Ryan McDonagh) —– TSN: # 37 (Kevin Bieksa)
Two-way d-man who has spent the last two years refining his game in North America with Everett of the WHL. While he is a little smaller than you would like (6-1/181), THN pointed out that scouts say he plays bigger than he really is – muck like Kevin Bieksa and Rhett Warrener. He played the PP in Juniors and his ability to do so in the NHL will signify the difference between a top four d-man and a third-pair defenseman.

1. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ first-round pick will go to the Edmonton Oilers as the result of a trade on January 2, 2015 that sent David Perron to Pittsburgh in exchange for Rob Klinkhammer and this pick.
2. The New York Islanders’ first-round pick will go to the Buffalo Sabres as the result of a trade on October 27, 2013 that sent Thomas Vanek to New York in exchange for Matt Moulson, a second-round pick in 2015 and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Buffalo will receive a first-round pick in 2014 or 2015 at New York’s choice – was converted on May 22, 2014 when the Islanders elected to keep their 2014 first-round pick.
3. The Nashville Predators’ first-round pick will go to the Toronto Maple Leafs as the result of a trade on February 15, 2015 that sent Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to Nashville in exchange for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic and this pick.
4. The St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick will go to the Winnipeg Jets as the result of a trade on February 11, 2015 that sent Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf to Buffalo in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Winnipeg will receive the lowest of Buffalo’s first-round picks in 2015 – was converted on April 27, 2015 when the Islanders were eliminated from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, ensuring that the Blues’ first-round pick would be lower.
Buffalo previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on February 28, 2014 that sent Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and conditional second and third-round picks in 2014 to St. Louis in exchange for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a conditional first-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
5. The New York Rangers’ first-round pick will go to the Tampa Bay Lightning as the result of trade on March 5, 2014 that sent Martin St. Louis and a conditional second-round pick in 2015 to New York in exchange for Ryan Callahan, a conditional first-round pick in 2014, a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 and this pick.
6. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first-round pick will go to the Philadelphia Flyers as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Braydon Coburn to Tampa Bay in exchange for Radko Gudas, a third-round pick in 2015 and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Philadelphia will receive the Lightning’s first-round draft pick in 2015 if it is not the first overall selection – was converted on March 30, 2015 when Tampa Bay qualified for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs ensuring that this pick could not be a lottery selection.
7. The Chicago Blackhawks’ first-round pick will go the Arizona Coyotes as the result of a trade on February 28, 2015 that sent Antoine Vermette to Chicago in exchange for Klas Dahlbeck and this pick.

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

In this Second Round Mock Draft, each player has ratings for the following scouting “services”: NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Bob McKenzie of TSN. CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters (NAS), European skaters (ES), North American goaltenders (NAG) and European goaltenders (EG). THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation while ranking skaters and goaltenders together. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player (for their Top 30 rated players) and has separate rankings for skaters and goaltenders. McKenzie and TSN rank the Top 75 prospects along with 10 Honourable Mentions and rank skaters and goaltenders together.

The Second Round Draft positions utilized are those as of 12p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

CS: # 1 NA-G —– THN: # 39 (Starting Goalie)
ISS: # 5 G (Not Available) —– TSN: # 35 (Braden Holtby)
The Sabres emptied out their goaltending cupboard as part of their strategy to make an eventual run at Connor McDavid. While they will need to bring in someone for the present (e.g. Cam Talbot?), Blackwood sets them up for the not-too-distant future. The big netminder (6-4/215) has played two full seasons with Barrie (OHL).

CS: # 47 NAS —– THN: # 50 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 31 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 62 (Benoit Pouliot)
Don’t be too surprised if Greenway’s physical makeup (6-5/223) and potential as a power forward doesn’t push him into the first round. He still has some maturing to do hockey-wise, but once he develops his game he has a chance to be a steal of the draft.

CS: # 2 ES —– THN: # 29 (Shutdown Defender)
ISS: # 30 (Braydon Coburn) —– TSN: # 27 (Jonathan Ericsson)
A disappointing U-18 tournament might have cost Carlsson a shot at the first round. While is most likely this pick is involved in whatever deal Edmonton makes for a goaltender, we will presume they keep the pick for Mock Draft’s sake. It makes sense for the Oilers to draft a defensive d-man with solid hockey sense and size – a nice addition for whomever is in goal in Edmonton.

CS: # 32 NAS —– THN: # 34 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 51 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 36 (Trevor Daley)
Dunn’s game is built on being an offensive d-man. One scout told THN that Dunn not only joins the rush, but is just as adept at leading the rush. A bit on the smallish side (6-0/185), Dunn overcomes it thanks to a high compete level and solid skating.

CS: # 15 NAS —– THN: # 21 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 25 (Jordan Staal) —– TSN: # 30 (Ryan O’Reilly)
Todd Harkins, Jansen’s Dad, was the younger Harkins’ GM in Prince Albert. He uses his hockey sense to be more playmaker than goal scorer. Jansen needs to work on his skating if he wants to see top six forward minutes on a consistent basis.

CS: # 7 ES —– THN: # 66 (Not Available)
ISS: # 24 (Chris Stewart) —– TSN: # 21 (Chris Kreider)
New GM Ray Shero continues his effort to revitalize the Devils offense. Guryanov (6-3/183) is still filling out and learning to play to his size. Once he does that, he will easily be a top six forward because of a wide arsenal of offensive moves who has a nose for the net.

CS: # 20 NAS —– THN: # 25 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 26 (Marian Gaborik) —– TSN: # 33 (Alex Semin)
The Amsterdam, Holland native is the next step in new GM Don Sweeney’s attempt to increase scoring and skating to the Bruins organization. Sprong has tallied back-to-back 30 goal seasons (30 and 39) with Charlottetown (QMJHL). Sprong is equal parts sniper and playmaker.

CS: # 39 NAS —– THN: # 37 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 36 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 34 (Chris Kunitz)
The Columbus native allows the Blue Jackets to continue to stockpile talent. Roslovic has shown an ability to survive and thrive with 2016 Draft wunderkinds Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk. Roslovic, who will be attending the University of Miami-Ohio, made a big splash at the U-18 by scoring five goals and 4 assists in five games.

CS: # 2 E-G —– THN: # 40 (Starting Goalie)
ISS: # 2 G (Not Available) —– TSN: # 47 (Martin Jones)
The Sharks are no strangers at drafting, developing and winning with European-born goaltenders. Vladar played poorly and was pulled against Team USA in the U-18. However, he did how the ability to split time with Kladno’s Men’s Team and its U-20 Team in the Czech Republic. He uses his size (6-5/185) in the butterfly. Vladar just needs to refine his game and technique before making the transition to the NHL.

CS: # 40 NAS —– THN: # 54 (Physical Defender)
ISS: # 37 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 44 (Francois Beauchemin)
At 6-2/198, Meloche is what you expect him to be a – defensive d-man who plays a physical (and sometimes nasty) game. Rather than stand out in one part of the game, Meloche does a little bit of everything well.

CS: # 60 NAS —– THN: # 74 (Not Available)
ISS: # 28 (Tyler Johnson) —– TSN: # 53 (Mats Zuccarello)
It is very possible that the Devils might, and should, look to draft a defenseman at this point. However, Bracco’s talent and ability is too much to pass up. The only thing standing between Bracco and a definite first round selection is his size (5-9/173). Bracco makes up for his lack size with very strong skating skills and outstanding puck skills. While he is more of a playmaker, Bracco has a goal scorer’s shot and should thrive in the NHL as a PP specialist – at the very least.

CS: # 38 NAS —– THN: # 47 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 39 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 40 (Joel Ward)
The Ottawa native spent most of the season playing on the fourth line for a loaded Sault Ste. Marie team. Despite the lack of top line ice time, Senyshyn score 26 goals and 19 assists in 66 games in OHL rookie season.

CS: # 12 ES —– THN: # 79 (Not Available)
ISS: # 56 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 32 (Simon Despres)
At 6-3/220, Siegenthaler already has an NHL body. In addition, he is also a mobile defenseman and a good skater for someone his size. Jonas will not be a big point producer, but he is able to play smart game and keep the puck moving.

CS: # 14 ES —– THN: # 56 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 52 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 58 (Lars Eller)
Hintz has proven to be a jack-of-all trades with his ability to play the wing or the pivot. While he needs to develop a consistency to his game, Hintz has shown that he can elevate his game by spending last season in the Finnish Elite League. Hintz also has a familiarity with North American hockey after playing Junior A hockey in Tampa Bay and Bismarck in 2012/13.

CS: # 34 NAS —– THN: # 36 (Offensive Defender)
ISS: # 74 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 63 (Kimmo Timonen)
After utilizing just one pick on their last 10 first rounders, the Flames will look to a unique player. One would have a hard time finding another d-man who runs the point on the PP and then moves up to forward to kill penalties like Vande Sompel. It is that hockey IQ and compete level that have allowed him to overcome his lack of size (5-10/181),

CS: # 17 ES —– THN: # 58 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 45 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 54 (Devante Smith-Pelly)
In the salary cap era, the Penguins have done a great job of keeping Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin happy contract-wise. However, that same salary cap has hampered their ability to find permanent linemates for them. At 6-4/201, Dergachev presents an imposing target for either star center. He has all the tools to be a bona fide NHL power forward – now he just needs to bring all of his components together. Missed being eligible for last year’s draft by 12 days.

CS: # 71 NAS —– THN: # 55 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 50 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 56 (Michael Raffl)
Originally committed to North Dakota, Gropp switch plans and signed with Seattle two years ago. He has an NHL body (6-3/192) and features strong skating [and] a good shot. Gropp needs to harness and develop his size and use it more to his advantage – like driving to the net more. Gropp saw some time on the same line with first rounder Matthew Barzal.

CS: # 16 ES —– THN: # 99 (Not Available)
ISS: # 42 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 41 (Michal Rozsival)
At 6-3/202, Cernak already brings an NHL-ready body to the table. He uses his size and hockey IQ to win battles down low and he has the ability to get into proper position to get into the shooting lanes. Cernak has a good enough shot to be used on the PP and is a must on the PK.

CS: # 2 NA-G —– THN: # 86 (Not Available)
ISS: # 8 G (Not Available) —– TSN: # 51 (Brian Elliott)
While the Stars have Jack Campbell, there has been some talk that they might move Kari Lehtonen. The 6-3/200 Booth plays his angles well and has the ability to square up to the shooter. While he does a lot of the little things well, he does need to work on his rebound control. Booth has plenty of time to fill in the holes because he doesn’t turn 19 until late May 2016.

CS: # 28 NA —– THN: # 25 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 44 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 57 (Derek Stepan)
Novak already has a majority of the Wild fans won over. The Wisconsin native committed to the U. of Minnesota. The 6-0/181 Novak needs to work on his skating and bulk up a bit more, but his playmaking abilities can’t be questioned.

CS: # 33 NAS —– THN: # 48 (Scoring Center)
ISS: # 41 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 43 (Jaden Schwartz)
Beauvillier was one of the two captains at the CHL Top Prospects game (Connor McDavid was the other) – which shows how scouts are willing to overlook a lack of size (5-10/181) when they see talent. His leadership ability and talent level are seen at both ends of the ice. His development from his rookie season to his sophomore season with Shawinigan was remarkable as he went from 33 points (9-24) to 94 points (42-52) in just three more games last season.

CS: # 50 NAS —– THN: # 46 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 60 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 69 (P.A. Parenteau)
There is no fear of losing Korostelev to the KHL because the 6-1/196 RW has spent the last two seasons with Sarnia (OHL) – giving him a nice head start against other Euro-born prospects. His skating is the one thing that probably kept him out of the first round. Despite that, his size and offensive game will make him a PP specialist.

CS: # 43 NAS —– THN: # 49 (Two-Way Defender)
ISS: # 54 (Not Available) —– TSN: # HM (Mark Stuart)
Wotherspoon is a two-way defenseman who seems to fall between the cracks because he does not have the size (6-0/170) of a big physical d-man and he does not have the complete offensive game to be an offensive d-man. What he does do well is compete every shift and look to make plays.

CS: # 48 NAS —– THN: # 43 (Two-Way Winger)
ISS: # 59 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 64 (Mickael Backlund)
The 6-2/179 Trenin is another Euro-born prospect who decided his best path to the NHL was through Major Junior. Trenin seemed to improve game-by-game with Gatineau (QMJHL). While he does need to work on his skating, he has shown a willingness to work on his game. A poor defender at the start of the season, Trenin was seeing time on the PK.

CS: # 112 NAS —– THN: # 65 (Not Available)
ISS: # 33 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 46 (Andrew Shaw)
The sentimental pick would be d-man Caleb Jones, brother of star blueliner Seth Jones. Predators need for more help offensively has to swing the day at this point of the draft. Stephens is a playmaker who bases his game on hockey sense and a strong competitive spirit – both of which were on display for Canada at the U-18.

CS: # 30 NAS —– THN: # 45 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 48 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 38 (J.T. Miller)
The 6-1/187 Yan is an interesting story. He is an American-born player who was raised in Russia. He started with the U.S. National Team Development Program before joining Shawinigan (QMJHL) last season 33 goals and 31 assists in 59 games and seven goals in seven playoff games.

CS: # 41 NAS —– THN: # 74 (Not Available)
ISS: # 46 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 48 (Marc-Edouard Vlasic)
The Oilers have more than enough offensive prospects in the cupboard. Brisebois is a two-way d-man who served as Bathurst’s captain at the age of 17 (in his second year of Juniors). At 6-2/175, Brisebois has time to develop his game from both a physical and maturity level. Despite his youth, he is a strong competitor with a solid hockey IQ.

CS: # 31 NAS —– THN: # 57 (Two-Way Center)
ISS: # 55 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 52 (Daniel Winnik)
The Swedish center is taking an unusual route to the NHL. He has spent the last two seasons with Omaha (USHL) and has committed to play at Boston University. It will be interesting to see of “JFK” teams with Jack Eichel in a Boston-area school next season. The Blue Jackets are developing an organization where they can afford a 2ns round pick on a player who, at the very least, be a solid two-way third-line center who is strong on faceoffs and kills penalties.

CS: # 35 NAS —– THN: # 67 (Not Available)
ISS: # 43 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 64 (Dwight King)
Wagner will continue the Rangers quest to add stronger and stronger skaters to the lineup. The 6-1/178 Wagner uses that speed to be dangerous on the rush and when he kills penalties. Of most interest to Rangers fans, Wagner uses his speed to be defenders wide and then funnel everything to the slot and to the net. He could turn out to be a bigger Ryan Callahan-type of player.

CS: # 37 NAS —– THN: # 59 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 38 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 45 (Alex Killorn)
For a team that seems to have perennial ownership issues, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to draft a player who is committed to Notre Dame as they can stash him there for three or so years. Meanwhile, the Coyotes add a power forward (6-1/21) who has drawn some interest at the end of the first round.

CS: # 57 NAS —– THN: # 53 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 73 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Available (Not in Top 85)
The 6-3/192 Knott has drawn varied scouting reports. Some see him merely as a third-line forward who will hit and pop the occasional goal. Others see him as a top-six forward. While he almost doubled his point totals with Niagara (23 to 44), there are those scouts who believe he should be productive. The feeling is that if he can’t get stronger and work on raising his compete level, Knott will live up to the latter scouting report.

1. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ second-round pick will go to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the result of a trade on March 5, 2014 that sent Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles in exchange for Matt Frattin, a conditional third-round pick in 2014 and this pick. Los Angeles previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on June 23, 2013 that sent Jonathan Bernier to Toronto in exchange for Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin, and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Los Angeles will receive a second-round pick in 2014 or 2015 at Toronto’s choice – was converted on January 18, 2014 when Toronto’s second-round pick in 2014 was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.
2. The Philadelphia Flyers’ second-round pick will go to the Boston Bruins as the result of a trade on October 4, 2014 that sent Johnny Boychuk to New York in exchange for a second-round pick in 2016, a conditional third-round pick in 2015 and this pick. The Islanders previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade March 4, 2014 that sent Andrew MacDonald to Philadelphia in exchange for Matt Mangene, a third-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
3. The Florida Panthers’ second-round pick goes to the New Jersey Devils as the result of a trade on February 26, 2015 that sent Jaromir Jagr to Florida in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in 2016 and this pick.[25]
4. The Dallas Stars’ second-round pick will go to the Ottawa Senators as the result of a trade on July 1, 2014 that sent Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson to the Stars in exchange for Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill and this pick.
5. The Los Angeles Kings’ second-round pick was re-acquired as the result of a trade on March 5, 2014 that sent Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers to Buffalo in exchange for Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parkers, LA’s second-round pick in 2014 and this pick. Buffalo previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on April 1, 2013 that sent Robyn Regehr to the Kings in exchange for a second-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
6. The Boston Bruins’ second-round pick will go to the Tampa Bay Lightning as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Brett Connolly to Boston in exchange for a second-round pick in 2016 and this pick.
7. The Detroit Red Wings’ second-round pick will go to the Dallas Stars as the result of a trade on March 1, 2015 that sent Erik Cole and a conditional third-round pick in 2015 to Detroit in exchange for Mattias Janmark, Mattias Backman and this pick.
8. The New York Islanders’ second-round pick will go to the Buffalo Sabres as the result of a trade on October 27, 2013 that sent Thomas Vanek to New York in exchange for Matt Moulson, a conditional first-round pick in 2014 and this pick.
9. The Washington Capitals’ second-round pick will go to the Calgary Flames as the result of a trade on March 1, 2015 that sent Curtis Glencross to Washington in exchange for a third-round pick in 2015 and this pick.
10. The Vancouver Canucks’ second-round pick will go to the Calgary Flames as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Sven Baertschi to Vancouver in exchange for this pick.
11. The Chicago Blackhawks will receive the 24th pick of this round (54th overall) as compensation for not signing 2010 first0-round draft pick Kevin Hayes.
12. The Montreal Canadiens’ second-round pick will go to the Edmonton Oilers as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent Jeff Petry to Montreal in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2015 and this pick.
13. The Anaheim Ducks’ second-round pick will go to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the result of a trade on March 2, 2015 that sent James Wisniewski and Detroit’s third-round pick in 2015 to Anaheim in exchange for Rene Bourque, William Karlsson and this pick.
14. The New York Rangers’ second-round pick will go to the Arizona Coyotes as the result of a trade on March 1, 2015 that sent Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and a fourth-round pick in 2016 to New York in exchange for John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a conditional first-round pick in 2016 and this pick.
15. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s second-round pick will go to the New York Rangers as the result of a trade March 5, 2014 that sent Ryan Callahan, a conditional first-round pick in 2014, a first-round pick in 2015, and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 to Tampa Bay in exchange for Martin St. Louis and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – the Rangers will receive a second-round pick in 2015 if Callahan is re-signed by Tampa Bay for 2014/15 – was converted on June 25, 2014 when Tampa Bay signed Callahan to a six-year contract.
16. The Chicago Blackhawks’ second-round pick will go to the Philadelphia Flyers as the result of a trade on February 27, 2015 that sent Kimmo Timonen to Chicago in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2016 and this pick.

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

The 2015 NHL Draft represents the third consecutive year that the New York Rangers will go without a 1st round draft pick. Barring any trades, this year or next, it will be four years and counting come the 2016 NHL Draft as the Rangers moved that 1st rounder to the Arizona Coyotes in the Keith Yandle deal.

As a result of the Martin St. Louis-Ryan Callahan trade, the Rangers first selection in 2015 will be the Second Round with the 59th pick.

The Rangers have made the 59th overall selection four times in the history of the NHL Draft. The last time the Rangers made the 59th pick was last year when they selected goaltender Brandon Halverson.

Prior to the Halverson pick, you have to go back to the 1999 NHL Draft to find the next time the Blueshirts made the 59th overall pick. They drafted Center David Inman in the second round. Inman played four years at Notre Dame and then played a couple of years in the minors – splitting 71 AHL games with Hartford and Lowell and 69 ECHL games with Charlotte.

You have to jump 12 years to the 1978 Draft to find the Rangers exercising the 59th pick – a selection who would make history two years later as a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. Fourth round pick Dave Silk made his bones in the Olympics, but he did play 249 NHL games.

The first time the Rangers made the 59th overall pick was 1969 when they spent a fifth round pick on defenseman Gord Smith – a veteran of 299 NHL games with Washington and Winnipeg.

Unless the Rangers are busy on draft day, they will make five draft picks during their time in Sunrise, Florida. The Rangers own the following picks in the Second Round (59th overall) and Third Round (89th overall).

Odds are the Rangers will be adding to that above-listed total as President/GM Glen Sather is actively shopping goaltender Cam Talbot. While the team would love to swap Talbot for Edmonton’s second 1st round pick (#16), that is highly unlikely to happen unless the Blueshirts are able to play the Oilers off the Sabres, Sharks and Flames.

Further complicating the matter is that Ottawa is making Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner available and there are talks that Dallas could be persuaded to deal Kari Lehtonen.

Talbot’s one-year deal at $1.45 million is very enticing to any team looking to acquire a goalie. It would cost at least two to three times that much if a team wanted to sign an UFA. The problem is that any team acquiring Talbot is prohibited by the CBA of extending him until after January 1, 2016.

On Thursday morning, the NY Post’s Larry Brooks reported that the Rangers have given teams permission to speak to Talbot’s representatives to judge Cam’s opinions on an eventual contract extension.

Darren Dreger of TSN reported on Tuesday that the Rangers were offered two 2nd round picks for Talbot, but the Blueshirts turned down the deal. Dreger confirmed the offer was not from Edmonton but he could not confirm if the draft picks were in the same year or not.

There was some talk that the Oilers were offering their 2nd round pick (#33) and defenseman Martin Marincin, but the Rangers were cool to the deal – and rightly so. Marincin, much like Dylan McIlrath, will need to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL so there is no reason to bring him and run the risk of losing him on waivers.

For the purpose of my Rangers Mock Drafts, we are going to work under the presumption that Talbot remains with the Rangers – at least through the Draft. To take any other stance would be to open up too many variables. Also, the Rangers could decide to keep Talbot and look to move him prior to the 2016 Draft. The Blueshirts would not get as much at that point, but a team would probably make a deal in order to get a jump start on signing Talbot.

However, if the Rangers were able to secure the 16th overall pick from the Oilers (or another 1st round pick) I would not hesitate to use it on any of the following four players: Paul Bittner, Jake DeBrusk, Brock Boeser, and Colin White. If the Rangers were really daring, they could try and move down a couple of spots in the first round and look to add some additional picks.

As we move ahead to the Second Round and Third Round previews, I have selected three players of interest per round and they are listed in order of preference.


CS: # 50 NAS —– THN: # 46 (Scoring Winger)
ISS: # 60 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 69 (P.A. Parenteau)

The 6-1/196 Korostelev spent the last two seasons preparing himself for the NHL and North American style of hockey by playing for Sarnia (OHL). He did show some incremental offensive improvement between his first year in Sarnia (60-17-21-38) and his second year (54-24-29-53).

There is a concern that skating will hold him back, but that his skill set still points to him being a solid PP specialist.

ISS Scout: “Exceptional shot, quick release. Can score and make plays, although sometimes makes blind passes [See, he already sounds like a Ranger]. Speed is not great, but he has good sense and not afraid to play in traffic.”

CS: # 35 NAS —– THN: # 67 (Not Available)
ISS: # 43 (Not Available) —– TSN: # 64 (Dwight King)

The 6-1/178 Wagner works equally as hard in all three zones on the ice. He continues the Rangers plan of adding speed and strong skaters to the lineup. In 61 games with Regina (WHL), Wagner scored 20 goals and 19 assists – not too bad for a youngster who just turned 18. He could turn out to be a little bigger and quicker version of Ryan Callahan.

ISS: “Funnels everything to the net and skates to the slot with ease. Works hard 200 feet and shows strong discipline to take care of one zone at a time, doesn’t force the game. Expect his level of play and production to rise next year as he takes on a bigger role in the offense.”

CS: # 18 ES —– TSN: # HM (Patrik Elias)
ISS: # 61 (Not Available) —– THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

It should be interesting come draft day because there are two prospects named Sebastian Aho who are draft-eligible. This Aho is born in Finland and is a winger while the other Aho is a Swedish defenseman who, interestingly enough, is rated as the 13th best European skater.

Aho is one of those players in this year’s draft who will owe Tyler Johnson some props for opening up scouts eyes to players who are six-feet tall. Of course, the Rangers have experience with such players (Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello).

While it won’t make sense to play Aho on one wing and Zucc on the other, it would be equally as foolish to pass on the 5-11/172 based just on his size. With limited draft picks available, the Rangers have to take the best players they can and sort out the rest.

ISS Skill: “Creative, intelligent winger who reads the game extremely well and has strong offensive tools.

ISS NHL Potential: “Second line offensive winger who can bring a high-tempo, creative game.”


CS: # 57 —– THN: # 60 (Power Forward)
ISS: # 57 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

Truth be told, I am very high on the 6-3/203 Greer that I would give every consideration of drafting him the second round – which is why I would like to see the Rangers add some extra draft picks.

The Quebec native spent his freshman year as a teammate of Jack Eichel at Boston University. It was a rollercoaster ride of a season as Greer battled early season benching, to a “promotion” to the fourth line before seeing action on the Terriers second line during the Frozen Four’s final two games.

While he tallied just three goals and four assists in 37 games, much is expected of Greer. His game is based on his size and strength and a solid skating game for someone of his size.

Could you imagine the havoc the Beantown Line of Greer, Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes could wreak on the NHL?

CS: # 40 ES (Not Available) —- THN: Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: 69 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

The 6-3/201 right-handed shooting defenseman has extra motivation during the 2014/15 season as he went undrafted during the 2014 NHL Draft. While known for being a physical defensive d-man, Jaros has good skating and puck-handling skills and might merit some PP in the future because he has a pretty good shot from the point.

ISS: “A strong two-way figure on the backend [who] brings it on both sides of the puck, defensively intelligent, attention to detail and active, while offensively showing good vision and good decisions on the first pass and ability to generate from the point on the PP.”

CS: # 65 NAS —– THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: 65 (Not Available) — TSN: # HM (Matt Martin)

ISS sees the 6-1/217 Kolesar as a “3rd line, two-way, power forward” who can play on the PK. He is the type of player who is going to bring a physical presence to whatever line he is on. He can add valuable defensive play to a scoring second line and much-needed offensive spark to the checking third line.

ISS: “Big winger with above average hands and puck control, heads up and carries the puck with confidence. North-south type but has good upside [potential].”

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

Trying to map together a draft strategy for the New York Rangers in the Fourth Round (#119), Sixth Round (#179), and Seventh Round (#209) is a lot like trying to find that proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack. However, that hasn’t stopped me before and it isn’t going to stop me now.

The game plan has to be to try and get the biggest bang out of the buck as possible. It does not matter if it seems that the team is over-stockpiling talent at one position – that is what trades are for. It is also why I have a goaltender on my list in the sixth round – although he could be gone by the time the Rangers draft.

Once again I list three players in my preferred order of selection in each round.


CS: # 25 ES —– THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: # 89 (Not Available) —– TSN: #: Not Rated (Not Available)

Skating and the ability to join the rush are the calling cards of the 6-2/169 right-handed shooting d-man. ISS says that his so adept at joining the rush that he acts more as a fourth forward than the first blueliner in on the rush. He is going to need to work on maturing and getting stronger so that he can add a physical component to his game.

ISS: “offensively gifted defenceman who possesses an elite skill-set and skating ability. Quality offensive defenseman who can QB the breakout and the PP.”

CS: # 61 NAS — THN: # 71 (Not Available)
ISS: # 104 (Not Available) — TSN: #65 (Andrew Desjardins)

NHL bloodlines run very deep for the 6-3/202 forward. His father Frantisek was a veteran of 797 NHL games as a d-man. Brother David made his NHL debut on defense for Edmonton playing four games and his uncle is Bobby Holik.

Musil has room to develop his game, especially in terms of improving his skating. While ISS projects him out as a potential top-six forward candidate, he might fit nicely in the niche his Uncle Bobby had as a force as one of the NHL’s best checking/third line centers.

CS: # 21 ES — THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: 90 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

At 6-3/205, Stenlund already has an NHL body – and he doesn’t turn 19 until September. On the down side, he has had two knee injuries and only time will tell as to if/how they play a role in his development. Stenlund served as the captain for his HV71 U-20 team.

ISS: “A big center who plays with maturity and great leadership. Utilizes his big frame well in protecting the puck … needs significant development time.”


CS: # 22 NA-G —– THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: # 19 G (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

Many of you are wondering why I have a goaltender listed given the depth in the organization. The answer is simple, you can never have enough goaltending and in a draft with such few selections it is best to get the best you can.

The 6-4/180 Bednard has committed to Bowling Green University after posting a 2.86 GAA and a .913 SV% for Johnstown of the NAHL. Factor in four years of college and another two years honing his craft in the minors, it will be at least six years before Bednard could logically state his case for a shot as the number one in New York – and a lot of things can happen during that time.

Bednard uses the butterfly style and pays attention to playing his angles. One benefit that he would bring is his ability to control the puck with his stick and distribute it to his teammates.

CS: # 111 NAS —– THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: 144 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

Hunt is another one of those players who spent last season with a chip on his shoulder as he went undrafted in the 2014 Draft. Much like Christian Jaros, there might be a couple of teams regretting that they didn’t take a late round flyer on either player.

Hunt (6-0/199) projects out as a two-way center who exploded between his second WHL season (62-21-19-40) and his third season that was split between Regina and Medicine Hat (71-33-50-83).

ISS: “An effective two-way center who shows strong strength, balance and protection skating up ice. Third line ceiling. Secondary offensive contributor who can play special teams well.

CS: # 90 NAS —– THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: # 141 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

The 6-1/167 d-man is a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Gabriele does a little bit everything well. His game should develop as he starts to mature on the ice and off the ice – and adds some bulk to his frame. He has committed to play at Western Michigan University.

ISS: “Steady simple two-way defenseman showing good mobility and awareness in all zones. Depth defender who will show up every day and give you his all.”


CS: # 123 NAS —– THN: # 83 (Not Available)
ISS: # 193 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

The 6-2/190 Pearson is another 2015 draft prospect who has NHL bloodlines as his father Scott Pearson played in 292 NHL games. Pearson is expected to return to Youngstown of the USHL before heading to the University of Maine in 2016. I wouldn’t be adverse to the Rangers taking Pearson prior to the 7th round – even as high as the 4th round.

“He’s a big, strong two-way centerman,” Youngstown coach Anthony Noreen told the Bangor Daily News. “He has elite hockey sense, and he’s great on faceoffs.”

Pearson scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 57 games with Youngstown, but eight of his goals came on the PP.

ISS: “A strong and big winger who skates well and displays aggressive puck pressure. Good offensive positioning. Bottom six defensive shutdown role.”

CS: # Not Rated (Not Available) —– THN: # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: # 178 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

The 6-0/182 Miletic is a future University of Michigan commitment so you know that he is going to learn how to play the game under legendary coach Red Berenson. While he projects out as a two-way forward, his offensive game is still developing. His hockey IQ, skating and compete level do leave room open for developing offensively. If he turned to be Carl Hagelin-lite, he still would be a useful NHL player.

ISS: “A two-way versatile forward who brings strong work ethic and intangibles on both sides of the puck. A depth forward who can PK and provide secondary offense.”

CS: # 82 NAS (Not Available) —– THN # Not Rated (Not Available)
ISS: # 176 (Not Available) —– TSN: # Not Rated (Not Available)

The 6-3/200 blueliner already features NHL size and pretty good skating ability for someone his size. He is the prototypical shutdown, physical d-man teams crave. He uses his size to battle in front to clear the net and to deliver big hits. The left-handed shooting defenseman’s shot is better than his offensive game – scored five goals (with 16 assists) in 72 games with Victoria (WHL).

ISS: “Solid stay at home defender with a strong thick build and responsible instincts and work ethic. Depth defender who will thrive in playoff style hockey.”

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

Fleury – Crosby – Malkin. Check.

Holtby – Ovechkin – Backstrom. Check.

Bishop – Stamkos – Johnson – et al. Next up.

While the eyes of the NHL will be on Ben Bishop, Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson, the eyes of Rangers fans will be on the et al part of the equation as prodigal sons Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman attempt to prove that you can go home again.

Of course, the Blueshirts can match the Lightning “expatriate” for “expatriate” as Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle and Dominic Moore look to spoil their former organization’s run to the Stanley Cup.

In truth, each team’s connection to the other runs a couple of players deeper. On the Rangers side, former Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone appeared in six games with the Blueshirts before being assigned to Hartford and retiring. Defenseman Mike Kostka appeared in 22 games with the Lightning last year, including three in the playoffs.

On Tampa Bay’s side, Jonathan Marchessault was a member of the Rangers Connecticut Wolves AHL affiliate in 2011-12 (76-24-40-64) being signing with Columbus prior to the 2012-13 season.

As Rangers fans have come to learn, it don’t come easy as their team’s path to prosperity is hardly paved with gold. All 12 of the Blueshirts games have been one-goal decisions this season and, if you factor in the last two games of the Stanley Cup Final, that figure is 14 straight. In fact, 19 of the Rangers last 21 playoff games have been decided by one goal.

The Rangers fondness for 2-1 games is something that seems to be shared by other playoff teams. Through the first two rounds, over one quarter of playoff games ended with a 2-1 score.

The Rangers Eastern Conference Final foes handed them three losses in the space of 15 days from November 17-December 1, with Tampa Bay outscoring New York 15-7.

While at first blush the Lightning’s dominance seems to be extremely disconcerting, but a closer look tells a different story. The Rangers followed their December 1 loss to Tampa Bay with a 3-2 loss to Detroit on December 6 – a game that saw the Rangers blow a 2-0 first period lead. The Rangers were just one game over .500 and a deep run into the playoffs was not on too many people’s minds.

However, that loss turned out to be the turning point of the season. Starting with an overtime win over Pittsburgh, the Blueshirts ran off eight consecutive wins before losing at Dallas on December 29. The Rangers followed that loss to the Stars with a five game winning streak that included their three-game sweep of the California teams.

The Rangers went on an unprecedented 42-12-3 run that turned a run-of-the-mill 11-10-4 team into a 53-22-7 team that won the Presidents’ Trophy.

The bottom line is that the current New York Rangers are a much different (and better) team than the Lightning at the beginning of the season. Heck, Tampa Bay can the same thing as Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman elevated their play to an elite level. But the Rangers difference is both one in terms of different personnel (Keith Yandle and James Sheppard) and growth of youngsters who are making a difference in the lineup on a nightly basis (Jesper Fast, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller).

In addition, the Rangers played the first two games against Tampa Bay without Captain Ryan McDonough and Fast was out of the lineup in the first game. Boyle and Tanner Glass missed the third game and while McDonagh did play, it was only his third game back in the lineup.

Of course, all of those regular season accolades go out the window once the playoffs arrive. While the Rangers can set aside their two weeks of hell against the Lightning, they should not forget it or they will be condemned to repeat it.

They need to heed the numbers Tampa Bay’s best offensive players posted during the three games. Stamkos led the Lighting in points with seven (2-5) and former Rangers captain Callahan paced the Lightning with four goals (two on the PP).

The Lightning’s Triplets Line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov combined for five goals and eight assists.

While all of those offensive numbers look good, their pale in comparison to the
6-foot-7 gorilla in the room – goaltender Ben Bishop. The fact that Bishop’s goals against average in the three games was 2.34 is a testament to the Rangers “success” against this season.

Bishop, who is 8-0 against the Rangers, entered the season with only seven goals against in his previous five games. Overall, Bishop’s GAA against the Rangers is 1.49 thanks to a .946 SV % and two shutouts.

As a comparison, Henrik Lundqvist is 17-12-6 with a 2.41 GAA and .914 SV% in 35 career games against the Lightning.

Another stat to consider is that St. Louis had two PPGs against his former teammates, but he played a team worst -6 in the series (as did Dan Girardi).

While the Lightning are a solid defensive team, 12th best during the regular season and 5th best in the playoffs, Tampa Bay’s game is built on their offense which led the NHL during the regular season and is 4th in the playoffs.

While Tampa Bay has size, especially on defense with the likes of Hedman (6-6), Andrej Sustr (6-7) and Braydon Coburn (6-5); and don’t forget Boyle who matches Sustr’s 6-7 frame, the Lightning are not expected to go out of their way to try and intimidate the Rangers through physical play.

Rather, the Lightning will look to pressure the Rangers by using their talent, speed and quickness. In doing so, they might be doing the Blueshirts a big favor.

It is interesting to see how the Rangers style of play and that of their opponents have developed over the years and through the playoffs.

In the Rangers matchups against Pittsburgh and Washington, the Blueshirts faced off against teams with offensive firepower but were more concerned with defending the Rangers speed, blocking shots and being overly physical than they were playing their own game. It was very reminiscent of the John Tortorella Era New York Rangers.

In facing Tampa Bay, the Rangers are facing a team that is similar to the Alain Vigneault New York Rangers. Both teams are built to beat you with their skating and speed. While neither team is overly physical, they are not going to back down from the physical play and both teams make sure to finish their checks.

Both teams watched as their main offensive guns, Stamkos/Callahan and Nash/St. Louis, struggled at the start of the playoffs. Both teams were living on superb efforts from secondary scorers. In the Lightning’s case, The Triplets have registered unreal numbers with 17 goals and 14 assists in 13 playoff games.

Each team has faced their come-to-Jesus meeting in the playoffs, Tampa Bay coming from behind to eliminate Detroit in the first round and the Rangers with their historic comeback against Washington.

In looking at the Rangers-Lightning series, here are five keys to a Rangers victory:

The easiest way to slow down the Lightning’s top two lines is to keep them pinned in their own end. While Hedman is among the NHL elite defenseman and Stralman has elevated his game, the rest of Tampa Bay’s d-men are not big-time puck carriers. The Ranges best strategy might be to dump the puck into Hedman’s corner and look to hit him early and often and tire him out/slow him down before he starts the Lightning rush. Tampa Bay has been known to dress seven d-men and might do so once Callahan proves that he is fully over his appendix removed.

It is a foregone conclusion that teams need their best players to play their best in the playoffs. For the most part, that has been the case for the Rangers but two players in particular must step their game up an extra notch.

Rick Nash has probably played some of the best two-way hockey he has ever played in his career. Far too many times a star offensive player will allow his scoring slump at affect his defensive zone play. That has hardly been the case with Nash. With that said, the Rangers need him to step up his offensive production and start burying some of the chances he is getting. Instead of trying to be cute and get Braden Holtby to pen up his pads, Nash should have hit the slot with a wicked wrister on his Game 7 breakaway.

Nash could probably get away with being a playmaker if the third forward on his line could find his scoring touch. While Derick Brassard is tied with Chris Kreider for the team lead in goals (5), St. Louis has been nothing but a disappointment offensively in the playoffs.

The jump in his step that was his calling card for years in Tampa Bay is practically – so much so that Brooks Orpik managed to catch him from behind. It is possible that his knee is giving him trouble or it is possible that the end is near for St. Louis. After all, it is usually a player’s legs that go first and that is a death knell for a player who made his living on his speed and skating.

The bigger concern is that it seems that his hands and ability to finish have vanished as well. He was unable to bury a couple of close-in chances against Holtby – the kinds of shots that he used to bury in the past.

This is always a major key in every playoff series and will continue to be as long as the Rangers offense continues to struggle and as long as the Rangers continue to play one-goal games in the playoffs. Given the Rangers season-long struggles on the PP, they had success against Tampa Bay scoring three goals on 10 PP chances. Marty St. Louis scored two of them and Dan Boyle added the third.

The Blueshirts are going to need to find ways to increase their offense and improving their PP is the first step. Whether it is on the PP or at even strength, the Rangers are going to have to do some dirty work in front of the net in terms of being more than just a finesse team. They need to add a lot more “jam” to their game as Tortorella would say.

The Lightning was 4-12 with the man advantage against the Rangers in the regular season.

Carl Hagelin pointed out that stopping the Tampa Bay power play will also go a long way in slowing down The Triplets.

“Their Triplet Line there is really clicking,” Hagelin explained to Dan Rosen of “I think it starts with their [power play], and that’s where they get a lot of momentum. We’ve got to focus on just playing well defensively. I think if we do that we’re going to get some chances.”

The Rangers are going to have to find a way to beat Bishop. They should probably study the Habs-Lightning Game 4 tapes to see what Montreal did to drive Bishop to bench 5:08 into the second period after allowing three goals on 14 shots.

Obviously, the Rangers are going to need to get traffic in front of the big guy and hope they can get to any rebounds. They also might want to steal a page from the Pens and Caps playbook and gently “brush” Bishop every now and then during scrums in front. Bishop does have the tendency to lose his composure if the going gets physical in front.

One thing the Rangers might want to do is get Bishop moving laterally. Big goaltenders and are a lot like big pitchers. It is easier for a big goalie (or big pitcher for that matter) to lose focus when their mechanics are off. The easiest way to foul up a 6-foot-7 netminder’s mechanics is to get him moving and forcing him to track down the puck, as opposed to letting the puck come to him. At that point, the smallest correction to their mechanics can become a major production.

It is no surprise at times that the Rangers get pinned in their own zones for long stretches at a time. Despite the company line that the Rangers play a man-to-man defensive coverage, they do not. At best, they play what could be described as a matchup zone.

The Rangers forwards continue to drop down below the tops of the faceoff circles in order to cut off the shooting lanes – which means they are playing a spot (i.e. zone) on the ice. If they were playing man-to-man, two forwards (usually the wingers) would shadow the point men. Since the Rangers don’t do that, opposing forwards know they can pretty much use the point men as an unchecked outlet if they are being pressured down low. If you play close attention to it, you will notice how wide open the opposing point men are. As a result, the Rangers run into problems when they start chasing the puck rather than playing the man.


Teams never really face a “Must-Win” situation until they face elimination. With that said, Saturday afternoon’s Game 1 is a “Really Wanna-Win” situation for the Rangers for two reasons. First off, the Blueshirts want to head down to Tampa Bay with two wins in their pockets.

Secondly, and more importantly, the rangers need to put to rest the questions about the regular season and Bishop’s dominance as soon as possible. The sooner they get that settled, the faster they can get down to concentrating on winning the series.

The mind and the heart are split on this one. My mind is telling me that the Rangers three regular season losses to the Lightning can be explained, but they can’t be overlooked. Both teams have come a long way since their final meeting on December 1. Of course, there is still the little matter of never having beaten Ben Bishop to deal with.

My mind could have been easily persuaded to join the heart if injuries weren’t such a big concern for the Blueshirts. Mats Zuccarello’s status continues to be uncertain, although some rumblings say that The Little Italian Norwegian Kid could see action later in the series.

While Dan Boyle did join his teammates on the ice for their Game 7 celebration and handshake line against the Capitals, you have to figure he is day-to-day and will be a game time decision for Game 1. While Matt Hunwick has done a fine job whenever he has been called upon, the revenge factor makes Boyle’s availability important.

The same can be said for Martin St. Louis. Either he is still dealing with knee issues (or some other injury) or we have witnessed the downfall of a former elite player.

The heart tells me that the Rangers have been overcoming this type of injury adversity from the beginning of the season. So much so that “Next Man Up” could be considered the team’s unofficial rallying cry.

While Ryan Callahan returned to practice, his availability for Game 1 won’t be determined until Saturday. Most fans expect Callahan to play, but how effective will he be and how effective can he be.

Tampa Bay has a lot of offensive ability, especially from their secondary scorers like The Triplets. However, the Rangers have the best corps of defensemen in the playoffs and they managed to contain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the first round and did a pretty darn good job on Alex Ovechkin (a couple of goals not withstanding) and Nicklas Backstrom.

During the last two years of playoff hockey, the Rangers have proven to be a resilient team – at least outside of the Stanley Cup Final. The Madison Square Garden crowd, especially those in the expensive seats, get criticized for being too stoic and corporate – which are things you don’t want from your fandom. However, it is something that you want in your hockey team – and it is something the Rangers have thrived on.

Former Rangers and NHL Dave Farrish has been providing an insight into his former team during the playoffs for and credits the Rangers doing exactly that.

“No matter what the situation was they were very even keeled,” the former Ducks and Maple Leafs assistant coach told Dan Rosen. “They weren’t high when they won or low when they lost. There were very businesslike. Their attitude never changed. You couldn’t tell if they won the game or lost the game by their tone of voice after the game, especially Henrik. I thought that was very impressive, to maintain your balance like that.”

The Rangers resiliency has served them well throughout the regular season and the playoffs. They have overcome injuries, poor seasons from star players and inability of star players to score in the playoffs. They have mastered the ability to live on edge while their fans are living on the ledge with all of the one-goal games. The Rangers bend to the point of breaking, then bend a little more, before bouncing back to right the ship.

Leave it to The King to put the final stamp on my Eastern Conference Final Prediction.

“[The Lightning are] a team we had some problems with during the season,” Henrik Lundqvist explained to Rosen, “but if there’s one thing I learned, playoffs are a different story.”

Much like they always seem to do, the New York Rangers will find a way to overcome the roadblocks placed in front of them. The Blueshirts will return to the Stanley Cup Final after a hard fought seven game series against Tampa Bay.

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

If it is Spring time and the hockey playoffs are blooming, then it must be time for the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals annual playoff series. While that might not be the whole truth, it is pretty darn close as the Battle of Broadway versus the Beltway lines up for the fifth time in the last seven years – and three in the last four playoffs.

The way these two teams are going this playoff matchup is going to have more sequels than the “Rocky” saga.

David Satriano and Dan Rosen of pointed out that Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal are the only Rangers to have played in the previous four playoff matchups. The Capitals have five players: Nicklas Backstrom, Eric Fehr, Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Alexander Ovechkin. Jay Beagle appeared in four playoff games in 2009, but did not play in the Rangers-Capitals series.

The Capitals Game 7 elimination of the New York Islanders robbed New York hockey fans of the first Rangers-Islanders playoff matchup in 21 years – and I say good riddance.

It would be bad enough if the Rangers are eliminated by the Capitals, but could imagine the scene if the Islanders were the team eliminating the Blueshirts? There would be a conga line a mile long stretching from Madison Square Garden to the East River as Rangers fans lined up for a long walk off a very short pier.

In terms of substance, whether they were playing the Capitals of the Islanders, the Rangers would be facing a team that is more physical than Pittsburgh. While the Penguins tried be punishing hitters, they are no match for the Capitals (or even the Islanders for that matter).

You can expect Washington to come out hitting from the opening faceoff of the opening game. While Tom Wilson has drawn the most ink because of his hot on Lubomir Visnovksy, the most physical player they need to worry about is the Capitals best player – Alexander Ovechkin.

Ovie has no problems leading the seek-and-destroy missions that has become the Capitals calling card. In addition to his size, Ovechkin enjoys the superstar designation that allows him to play over the line without the fear of reprisal from the National Hockey League.

The Rangers cannot afford to get caught up trying to answer every hit the Capitals dish out. While they do need to maintain a physical presence, the Rangers are going to win the series by doing what they do best. As physical as the Caps might be, you can’t hit what you can’t catch.

The first obstacle is going to be shaking off the rust as the Rangers get back into playoff mode after being off a week – something the team needed in the long run.

“We played 13 games in 22 days, and a lot of it was against teams that were … trying to get into the playoffs,” Coach Alain Vigneault explained to Avery Stone of USA Today. “I think this (break) is going to be very beneficial for us. We’ve got a couple little bumps and bruises that we’re in the process of healing.”

While the time off won’t be enough to allow Mars Zuccarello to return to the lineup, it did allow Kevin Klein to get in the necessary practice to return to the lineup.
In looking at the Rangers-Capitals series, I see five keys to a Rangers victory.


This key is a multi-layered one. First and foremost, the Rangers have to stay out of the penalty box. While Washington’s power play has been nothing to write home about during the playoffs, the Capitals did own the regular season’s best power play. There is no need to poke the bear with a stick at this point in the season.

Secondly, the Rangers need to remember that skating, speed and solid two-way play is what led them, to the Presidents Trophy during the regular season. They must not be drawn into matching the Capitals hit-for-hit. Take the body when you can and don’t be drawn into any retaliation penalties.


The easiest way to avoid hits is to keep moving – both in terms on constantly being in motion (i.e. skating) and keeping the puck moving. This movement is crucial to the Rangers power play. The Rangers power play is at its best when both pucks and players are moving.

The Blueshirts get themselves into trouble when they start playing a passive (and stationary) box and appear content to move the puck around the perimeter. A team that does not move on its power play makes itself very easy to defend.


The Rangers will make things easier on themselves if they are able to alleviate the pressure (and physical play) the Capitals are dishing out if they are able to get the puck out of the zone.

The ability to break Washington’s forecheck will not only lessen the Caps ability to punish the Rangers defense corps, it will allow the Blueshirts to use their speed advantage in the overall transition game – which is the key to the Rangers offense.

As part of this emphasis on transition, it means the Rangers are going to win the “battle of the blue lines” – both in their zone and at the Capitals blue line.

In their defensive zone, the Rangers are going to have to work extra hard at winning the battle along the boards – especially within five feet of the blue line. If Washington is able to win those battles and keep the 50-50 pucks within the Rangers end, the Capitals are going to be able to use their size to eventually wear down five tired skaters.

At the Capitals blue line, the Rangers can’t afford to turn the puck over at the blue line. If they have no advantage on the attack they need to get the puck deep and work on the Capitals defense corps. The hope is that the Rangers speed lets them win the puck battles or at least force the Caps into taking penalties.


A big key rests on how the referees are going to call this series. If the Rangers speed game is working, they are going to draw a fair share of penalties against the Capitals. If they referees are going to let obstruction go, then it will be a long series.

A long series can get even longer if they Rangers power play is not producing any consistent offense. The Rangers don’t need to score on every man advantage (one out of four would be good), but they do need to able to maintain sustained pressure on a large number of power plays.

The more success the Rangers have on the power play, the less inclined Washington will be too “take liberties” with their physical play. Between having to face an active Rangers power play and watching Ovechkin sit for long periods of time (think Sidney Crosby, Game 1 Period 1), the Capitals will have to curtail their physical play a bit.

In terms of penalty killing, stop Ovechkin! The entire NHL knows that Ovie likes to set up on his off-wing at the top of the left circle and wait to line up one of howitzer-like one-timers.

During the last two regular season games the teams played, the Rangers left the Capitals captain WIDE open for those shots as he netted two PPGs.

While the Rangers don’t want to be caught focusing all of their attention on Ovechkin, it might behoove them to consider a triangle-and-one at times (keep someone on Ovechkin at all times and play a triangle formation) to try and confuse the Capitals.

Better yet, just stay out of the penalty box altogether.


MSG analyst Steve Valiquette pointed out that he thinks Braden Holtby might be wearing down because of the workload he handled this year. Valiquette thought Holtby was staying down on his knees and not regaining proper positioning following his first save – something he did criticize Marc-Andre Fleury for on Carl Hagelin series-winning goal in Game 5.

The numbers do bear Valiquette out. Holtby led the NHL is games played, minutes and saves this year. Including his six playoff games (he missed Game 2 against the Islanders because he was sick), Holtby has played in 79 games so far – surpassing his career high of 55 (last season). He has played nearly 6,000 minutes – nearly doubling the 3,100 minutes he played last season.

That is quite a heavy workload for a goaltender who is not used to it. The Rangers to keep pressure on Holtby as much as possible to see if they can wear him down by sheer quantity, never mind quality. They can up the ante on the quantity by getting bodies to the net and creating a lot of traffic in front of him.


I would feel a lot more confident in picking the Rangers to win if Mats Zuccarello would be in the lineup. While James Sheppard’s size will be a welcomed addition to the lineup, the Blueshirts will miss the Little Italian Norwegian Kid’s ability to open up a game with his vision and determination.

With that said, the Rangers have shown an ability to overcome whatever speed bumps the 2014-2015 season have thrown at them. Whether it was injuries to Henrik Lundqvist, Derek Stepan and Kevin Klein, there was always a Cam Talbot, Kevin Hayes or Matt Hunwick ready to step in and fill the void – the “Next Man Up” theme that WFAN’s Boomer Esiason has always espoused about this season’s New York Rangers.

While the Capitals have the best player on the ice in Alexander Ovechkin, and maybe even the second best player in Nicklas Backstrom, the Rangers have the better team from one to 20.

It is not going to be an easy series. Nothing is ever easy when it comes to the New York Rangers. Who else but the Rangers would make winning a five-game series seem like winning a seven-game series where every game went into overtime?

Let’s face it; the Rangers almost always have to do things the hard way. Their last seven playoff games have been decided by one goal. Nine of their last 10 playoff games have been one-goal games. 12 of their last 14 games are, you guessed it, one-goal games. Of those 14 games, three went to double overtime and three were settled in “regular” overtime.

As they have done in the past, the Rangers will find a way to soldier on and advance to the Eastern Conference Final in, what else, a seven game series victory on home ice – in overtime.

Add to Yahoo Add to Google Furl this Add to Spurl Save to Digg IT! Live Bookmarks! Blogmarks

Next Page »