It is clear as day that the Rangers are in fact out of the playoff hunt. Yes many of us knew that when it was the trade deadline and they traded nearly half their team. Some do not want to come to grips with the fact the Rangers may be a borderline playoff team for the next three years but that is ok. The Rangers since facing the reality that they will not be in the playoffs for the first time in 12-years have certainly been playing better. They are 4-4-2 in their last ten games and since their skid, they have won 5 of their last 7 games.
Rangers top guys, Hayes, Spooner clicking.
As a whole the Rangers are playing much better, possibly due to no pressure anymore, guys playing to make a statement next year or just wanting to be a spoiler hockey team the Rangers have been on the right road to close things out for the regular season. The production of Kevin Hayes has been amazing, Hayes has really surged into a top goal scorer for this team and cracked 20-goals on the year, the first time in his four-year career thus far. Also to mention, Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov have been great additions to this Rangers team, in the last two weeks of play these have combined for 13 points, Spooner tallying 10 and Nanmestnikov tallying 3 points.
The future of the Rangers backend. It’s pretty bright.
The Rangers also are showing some bright spots out of young defenseman like Neal Pionk and John Gilmour who since coming to the team have played a major role, as well stepping into top four defenseman minutes. Gilmour has slotted around 19 minutes per game, and has added 2 goals, 2 assists. While Pionk has been the brightest spot on the blue line aside from Brady Skjei, Pionk has slotted upwards of almost 20 minutes since coming to the team as well has tallied, 6 assists on the year. Cannot forget about the future of the Rangers crease, Alexander Georgiev who since coming to the team has started in five games and in those five games he has allowed 3 or fewer goals four out of the five. On the season he is posting 2 wins, 2.73 goals against and .930 save percentage. The future seems to be looking bright here for the Big Apple.
Little about the Penguins top guns. They’re good.
Onto, the juggernaut and Stanley Cup favorites yet again, the Penguins. The Penguins have done the opposite of what the Rangers have done since the All-Star break they have been on fire and have shot all the way up in the rankings to now second in the Metro by one point. The Penguins play of Evgeni Malkin has certainly been the reason why they are this good lately, Malkin has won player of the month, player of the week twice and has tallied 9 goals and 15 assists in the last month of play. Now, throw in the best player in hockey Sidney Crosby, who has 14 points in the last month of play, on top of one of the best shooters in hockey, Phil Kessel with 4 goals, 9 assists in the last month of play. Yeah, it is pretty impossible to beat this team.
No Murray, No Problem.
The Penguins come into this game with Matt Murray still sidelined, although that won’t matter due to Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith holding down the fort quite well, plus having guys like I mentioned above in front of you, whoever is in this crease gets some solid support. The Penguins are 6-4-0 in their last ten games, coming off a win Sunday night vs Dallas, the Penguins are well rested and will be ready to come out flying tonight. They are 14-18-3 this season and in the last month of play, they’ve played five home games winning three of them. Even during a stretch of only four games in a month out of the 17 games they have played they have won 12 of those games. The Penguins have certainly pushed themselves into the conversation of possibly being three-peat Stanley Cup winners.
Penguins vs Rangers…
The Penguins and Rangers have faced off three times already this year and this will mark their final meeting. The Penguins currently hold the season series 2-1, winning in overtime once at the beginning of the year, dropping their second meeting at home and then beating the Rangers 5-2 two months ago. The history is rich between these two teams but with the Rangers being non-contenders this game is not so interesting to many. The Penguins are certainly the favorites here tonight but who knows with how the Rangers have been playing as of late, maybe they come out flying from the start, wanting to play some spoiler hockey vs the Penguins.