Saturday, October 19, 2013

N.Y. Rangers vs. N.J. Devils; Battle Of The Hudson - Game One



Brick City, New Jersey
NEW YORK RANGERS: With Callahan And Nash Sidelined, This Is Brad Richard's And Derek Stepan's Team Now.

We can't even start to truly find out how heavily a new system, adjusting to a new coach, and opening on the west coast weighed on the Rangers.  While a return back east garnered a well played all-around victory over the Capitals, not having Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan moving forward fails to lend any clarity to the Rangers early plight.  Carl Hagelin has yet to hit the ice as well.

Ryan Callahan continues to catch one bad break after another.  He missed camp stemming from off-season shoulder surgery, took a puck to the mouth against the Kings, and then suffered a broken thumb against the Caps, all the while, still literally doing everything for the Blueshirts.

Next on the forward lines are J.T. Miller and Taylor Pyatt.  Feel free to contribute at any time boys.

The Rangers are currently headlined by some good news, but mostly bad news.  In the early going, Alain Vigneault apparently has improved the power play.  The Rangers rank 13th overall - uncharted territory under Tortorella.  After five games, they have scored on the power play in three games, and have been shut down twice, and are 4 for 20 overall.  The now injured Ryan Callahan had two goals, Brad Richards and Marc Staal each have one.  On the other side of the coin, the Blueshirts rank 21st on the penalty kill, something they did exceedingly well under Torts.

If it's not one thing, it's another with this team.  Brad Richards is so far playing with marked improvement, however, Marc Staal's game is suffering after starting out strongly in the first two games of the season.  Coach Vigneault took away Staal's tradition partner against the Caps, and will most likely pair Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh on the top line again tonight against the Devils.

Entering tonight's game, the Rangers are likely to only dress five skaters who've scored a goal this season.  At least Brad Richards has four of them.  Otherwise, they rank 28th in the league in scoring, with still no sign of Chris Kreider.  Derek Stepan has yet to score a goal, but still leads the team with five assists.  So, his game seems to be coming along after holding out and missing camp.  The Rangers are battling attrition as well as the competition, so the time has come upon Stepan to take a larger leadership role and help stabilize the team.

Defensively, they rank a putrid 29th, however, enter tonight's game on the heels of a shutout victory over Washington.  Their goals against average is still inflated due to a 9-2 drubbing suffered against the Sharks, followed by a 6-0 wipeout against the Ducks.  Outside of the those two games, the Rangers have scored ten goals, and allowed ten goals.

The Rangers aren't home yet, but playing in Jersey is the next best thing - maybe not.  We'll find out later tonight.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Situation Getting Hot For Coach DeBoer And His Faltering Demons.

Maybe the new Devils owners can do something to prevent the next Brian Gionta, Zach Parise, David Clarkson or Ilya Kovalchuk from leaving town, although Kovalchuk's exit was unique, if not odd,  because he left a large sum of money on the table.  But these are certainly the most recent and frustrating departures that have slowly brought down the Devils.  This was a team that just two seasons ago played for a Stanley Cup, and is now in full blown transition.  Today, the Devils remain the lone team in Hockey not to have won a game this season.

The "old guard" is still led by the team's all-time scoring leader Patrick Elias.  While Travis Zajac, Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene and Dainius Zubrus are the remaining elders of the clan.  The group of players complimenting them is where I start to question (sacrilege, I know)) Lou Lamoriello's  direction from this point forward.

They are currently led in points by thirty-six year old defenseman Marek Zidlicky.  That already smells like trouble.   Forty-one year old Jaromir Jagr is presently averaging 17:03 minutes in October, but what about February?  Although Michael Ryder has two goals, he's thirty-three years old - not that old by any stretch.  He scored sixteen goals in forty-six games last season, which seemed promising, but can he be a 30-goal scorer for the Devils like he was for the Habs and Dallas?

Goals will certainly come at a premium this season.  So far in seven games, the Devils have scored thirteen times for a 1.8 goal per game average, and are a woeful 2 for 22 on the power play for a rate of 9.1% efficiency.

But so far scoring isn't New Jersey's biggest problem - it's their defense that looks extremely un-devilish this season.  Adam Larsson and Peter Harold can't seem to do anything right.  Having allowed twenty-six goals to date, or 3.7 per game, the Devils are uncharacteristically ranked 26th this season in goals against.  The have allowed the second most in the Eastern Conference, and rank third worst behind Edmonton and Florida in the entire NHL.

While the Devils are still in search of their first victory, goalie Martin Brodeur is still stuck on #669.  Devils fans no doubt would like for both to achieve a victory against the Rangers tonight at The Rock.


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