Thursday Night Hockey
The Rivalry - Game Two
Rangers Lead Series 1-0
I - NYR 4; NYI 1
#1 - N.J. Devils 8-2-3
#3 - N.Y. Rangers 7-5-0
#5 - N.Y. Islanders 4-7-1
VALENTINE'S DAY SHOWDOWN
New York Islanders
NEW YORK RANGERS
Madison Square Garden
33rd Street and 8th Avenue
B'klyn/New York Islanders - Lack of Defense Is Getting Offensive. Poor Goal-Tending Is Outright Insulting.
Doesn't anybody here know what defense is all about? Good Grief! Offensively speaking, Brooklyn's foster hockey club is doing many things right this season. But their defense and goal-tending have been so wrong. They are second to the Pens in the Atlantic Division with thirty six goals, and place seventh overall. John Tavares is their triple crown scorer. He leads the Islanders with fifteen points, on seven goals and eight assists. The Isles also own the NHL's 5th rated power play and rank fourth on the penalty kill. Yet, they are last in the Atlantic Division in goals against, and rank 29th worst overall.
This current five game losing streak the Islanders are on started when they dropped the back end of a home-and-home against the Devils. They then lost to the Penguins and the Rangers. You can't find fault with the Islanders offensive effort in their Saturday loss to Buffalo - not after taking forty three shots on goal against Ryan Miller. The Sabres goalie was just unconscious. But Evgeni Nabokov needed to do better. He only faced fifteen shots all game. The Isles limited Buffalo to single digit shots in all three periods. Yet, Nabokov let three pucks get by him in a 3-2 loss. For the season, he is sporting a troublesome .897 Sv% and an .300 goals against average.
Over those four losses, Islanders scoring dropped off. They only scored five goals, including getting shut-out by the Devils. This past Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, Long Island's scoring reignited. The Islanders had five power play opportunities and converted on four occasions. However, Rick DiPietro allowed Carolina four third period goals, and six goals overall, in a game the Isles were leading 3-2 after two periods. That was DePietro's second start of the season, and his second loss. Combined, Rick DiPietro has faced fifty seven shots, and allowed ten goals, for an awful .833% save percentage.
Slumping to a 4-7-1 record, the Islanders currently reside at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, four points behind the Flyers, and six points behind the Rangers.
NEW YORK RANGERS - Tweaking Roster Starting To Pay Off. The Big Blue Glacier Is Starting To Lurch Forward.
One quarter of the regular season is done. Since starting the season 0-2, the Rangers have posted a 7-3 record, and are currently riding a three game winning streak. They scored twelve regulation time goals over that span - a marked improvement upon their season output so far. Entering tonight's game against the Islanders however, they still remain at the bottom of the Atlantic Division in scoring. They are currently 15th in the NHL. Defensively, the Rangers rank 11th in goals against.
Thanks to Carl Hagelin with three goals in the team's last two games, the Rangers are showing signs of a break through. Derek Stepan is starting to score, the Captain scored his third goal in nine games, and they received secondary scoring from Stralman, Asham, and J.T. Miller's first two NHL goals. Unfortunately, Brad Richards, and to a lesser degree Marian Gaborik, continue to circle in holding patterns. Yes, they both have nine points apiece in twelve games played respectively. But those two are required to do so much more, and in a word, they are, not. However, Rick Nash is starting to deliver on the hype, and is turning into everything Rangers fans anticipated he could be. With each passing game, he gets more and more comfortable. Through finding comfort, his skill is starting to prevail. He recently scored only his third goal, but leads the Rangers in assists and points. Marian Gaborik still leads the Rangers with six goals.
Coach Torts isn't the only one who thinks the accumilation of too-many-men on the ice penalties are egregiously ponderous. Well, Coach said they "sucked!" I just say ridiculous. The Rangers are now up to six infractions. That is more than they should have all season. And Lord Stanley knows Tex's Rangers can't live life killing penalties. Defensively, the Rangers rank 11th in goals against this season. That is a considerable drop off from last year's effort. On the penalty kill, they rank 13th at the moment, which also reflects a drop off from last season. The Rangers 4-3 S.O. win over Boston shows how scoring can make mistakes like J.T. Miller's too-many-men infraction go away. Later in the second period, Derek Stepan gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead, and all seemed well again. When the Rangers aren't scoring, a mistake like that kills.
One aspect of the Rangers game that has remained consistent since last season has been the futility of their power play. They currently own the 29th worst unit in the league. As mentioned above, the Islanders recently scored four power play goals against Carolina. They Rangers have four power play goals all season..! Ryan Callahan has two of them. The Islanders by the way, have thirteen power play goals this season.
Last Time They Met: Feb. 7, 2013 - Rangers 3; Islanders 1.
When they last met one week ago, J.T. Miller scored his first ever NHL goal just 1:29 into the game. Twelve and one half minutes later, Marian Gaborik scored his sixth goal of the season. Half way through the second period, John Tavares brought the Islanders to within a goal. At the 18:11 mark, J.T. Miller answered for the Rangers with his second NHL goal of the night, and of his (then) four game career. His power play goal made it a 3-1 game. Just prior to the third period ending, Ryan McDonagh scored, unassisted, to close out a 4-1 victory.
Henrik Lundqvist faced twenty eight shots, and made twenty seven saves, to earn his fourth (of six) win of the season. Evgeni Nabokov faced twenty four shots on goal, and only managed to save twenty one.
For a game, the Rangers and Islanders changed roles on the power play. The Rangers were 1 for 2 with the man advantage. The Islanders floundered, going scoreless in five attempts.
Happy Valentine's Day...Chump!