The New York Rangers are nearly halfway through the 2017 18 season and are currently in a playoff spot? How the hell did we get here? Here are some thoughts on the team and the league.

Back on October 30th if I told you the Rangers would go 17 5 1 in their next 23 games and find themselves four points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division, you’d say I was nuts. But, here we are…
The best part about all of this is that the Penguins currently rank in 7th place in the division. The goaltending has been shaky and they have absolutely no bottom six depth. It’s a beautiful day.
But please, someone explain to me how the Rangers rank 17th in Yahoo’s power rankings.
I am so sick of hearing all this “trade Michael Grabner” talk. Yes, I understand that he is scoring with an unsustainable shooting of 23.6 percent. Yes https://www.rangersnyfans.com/blank-jersey-c-25.html, I know that six of his 17 goals have been empty netters –which undoubtedly raises his shooting percentage to that overly inflated number. But even if Grabner isn’t scoring at the same clip, his footspeed is dangerous.
The Rangers should re sign Grabner in the offseason. Is he gonna get a pay raise? Definitely. We can talk about what that might look like another time, but I’m all for bringing him back after the season.
I have to admit, I was very annoyed with Alain Vigneault‘s decision to scratch Boo Nieves for David Desharnais. AV proved that a broken clock is right twice a day because Desharnais played very well in Tuesday night’s game against the Ducks. Desharnais has played well recently as he has notched four assists in four games.
I still think the Rangers should make a deal for a third line center. With that said, I feel a lot better about our center depth when he produces.
One guy who has played well that nobody really acknowledges is Paul Carey. His Corsi For percentage is 43.5 percent at even strength according to Hockey Reference. That is pretty bad, yes, but 55 percent of his shifts start in the defensive zone and he is on a poor puck possession team, to begin with.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the Rangers’ fourth line has been their most consistent line outside of KZB. Paul Carey has been the one mainstay on that line who has never moved up or down the lineup. While we can’t give him all the credit for the line’s success, he’s been a big contributor. After all, he’s on pace for 15 goals and 11 assists this year. I think you’d take 26 points from a fourth liner any day of the week.
On to a player who hasn’t impressed me, Rick Nash has been snakebitten for what https://www.rangersnyfans.com/customize-jersey-c-24.html, three years now? You know what we call a player who continues to get great chance after great chance and can’t capitalize? Average.
He’s a fantastic defensive player, but he was brought in to be a big time goal scorer. At this point in his career, Nash is a middle six winger who averages close to 20 goals a season and is trusted to play defensive minutes. That’s fine for a player who isn’t supposed to be one of your top scoring forwards. Unfortunately, that’s not how this roster was built.
If the Rangers are in the playoff race come mid February, unless he’d be included in a package for a goal scorer, there is no Chris Kreider Jersey point in trading him. Use him for the playoff run and let him walk in the offseason unless he’s willing to come back on a 4 million a year contract or less.
Another guy who frustrates the hell out of me is Jimmy Vesey. For a guy with so much hype surrounding him coming into last season, he looks like nothing more than a third line winger to me. I’d love to see the Rangers try to flip him at the deadline whether it be in a package for a top six center or for a draft pick. I may be alone in this boat but so be it.
I will say this though I have felt for a long while like the Rangers have a ton of guys without personalities. This partially because of how bad the NHL markets its players I suspect. Regardless, the trio of Vesey, Kevin Hayes, and Brady Skjei definitely have some personality. If you haven’t watched NBCSN’s “Road to the Winter Classic” yet, I highly recommend it.
I really don’t understand what is going on with Brendan Smith. One game he looks pretty solid overall and the next he takes stupid penalties and has major defensive lapses. The last thing New York needs is another albatross contract tied to a defenseman. Hopefully, he turns it around.
There was a really interesting ESPN hockey article –yes https://www.rangersnyfans.com/pavel-buchnevich-jersey-c-23.html, you read that right– I saw yesterday.A number of players from around the league were asked who the NHL’s most underrated player was. While a lot of players answered Aleksander Barkov, Mark Stone, and even Oliver Ekman Larsson, one anonymous player responded J.T. Miller. I thought that was very telling.
The NHL approved the Islanders’ bid to build a new arena in Belmont Park. It’s gonna be the Islanders third arena in this decade to not be able to sell over 14 ,000 tickets to a game.
As our own Scott Austin pointed out, the Islanders new arena render has a sell out crowd pictured. Look at the team they are playing in it, though.
That’s more realistic…
It’s great for the sport that the Rangers and Devils rivalry means something again. Tonight’s game could create yet another huge four point swing.

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The New York Islanders must fix their goaltending woes if they want to make a Stanley Cup run.

The New York Islanders have been one of the most fun teams to watch in the NHL during the 2017 18 season. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because the Islanders have one of the league’s most potent offenses. As of Dec. 21, only the Tampa Bay Lightning have scored more goals. But it’s also bad because they’ve allowed a lot of goals.

Their defense has to be fixed. The Islanders definitely have the forwards necessary to win a Stanley Cup. However, you don’t win Stanley Cups by allowing a lot of goals. There has been a lot of debate about what the issue is. Is it their blueline? Or is it the goaltending? Let’s take a deeper look.


The easiest way to look at how a team’s defense is doing is expected save percentage. It immediately tells you the kind of shots a team is conceding. Corsica doesn’t have expected save percentage by team, but they do have expected Fenwick save percentage percentage of unblocked shots that aren’t expected to be goals . As of Dec. 21, they have the 13th lowest expected Fenwick save percentage 93.86 percent at even strength. During all situations, remarkably, the Islanders are in the top 10 93.42 percent .

Surprisingly https://www.nyislandersfans.com/blank-jersey-c-27.html, their actual Fenwick save percentage at even strength is also 93.86 percent. However, this is tied for the seventh lowest in the league. Also, the Islanders’ numbers in all situations are the second lowest.

This tells us their defense Joshua Ho-Sang Jersey, while it could certainly be better, isn’t the biggest issue. Maybe the loss of Travis Hamonic has hurt the Islanders more than they expected. But the clear issue here is goaltending.

Goaltending Woes

Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss aren’t a new tandem. They’re used to this, as this is the third season of the duo splitting starts. So it’s not like Halak and/or Greiss are in an unfamiliar situation. The two have virtually split starts down the middle – through 34 games, each has 17 starts. Greiss has 18 appearances and Halak has 19, which tells us the former has been pulled twice and the latter has been pulled once.

Comparing the two, the numbers are downright weird. Halak has clearly been better at even strength. And the team has played a lot better in front of him than Greiss.

However, the numbers are a lot closer in all situations. Here’s the funny part – it isn’t what you think. Usually, when this is an issue, the penalty kill is the issue. But it’s not. It’s actually the power play, where the Islanders have allowed more high danger chances against with Halak.

Halak should be getting most of the starts moving forward. He’s the guy getting the better results. But there is a bit more at play here than just making more saves. Halak’s getting well above average play in front of him and Greiss simply isn’t.

Solutions

If the Islanders want to win a Stanley Cup https://www.nyislandersfans.com/jaroslav-halak-jersey-c-1.html, they’ve got to fix these goaltending issues. There are two ways they can do this.

The Easy Way Out

Should they want the immediate answer, the Islanders should trade for a goalie. This is complicated because they’d have to persuade the other team to take on either Greiss or Halak. We all know what happened the last time the Islanders thought having three active goalies on the roster would work out.

If the Islanders go this route, Petr Mrazek, Chad Johnson, Antti Raanta https://www.nyislandersfans.com/thomas-greiss-jersey-c-2.html, and Aaron Dell are among their options. Michal Neuvirth is one of the best goalies in the NHL when he’s hot. But would adding a goalie fix the underlying issues? Not really. It would be like duct taping something back together. But maybe a bit of duct tape is what the Islanders need.

Diagnose What’s Going On

It’s alarming how much better the Islanders play in front of Halak than they do in front of Greiss. Especially since the former’s going to be a free agent after this season. The best thing for the Islanders long term would be to clean things up in front of Greiss and Halak. Of course, they also have to do better for this to work.

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Since returning from injured reserve https://www.blackhawkschifans.com/jordin-tootoo-jersey-c-11.html, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford has been excellent in net and allowed his teammates to play their own game freely

Over this five game winning streak the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves on, a lot of the buzz has been placed the team’s ability to start finding the net once again. That’s for good reason.

The ‘Hawks have scored 18 goals in the last five games, almost doubling their total of 10 from the five games they lost before this recent stretch. It is easy to circle the increase in goal scoring as the primary reason the team has been successful this last week and a half.
But somewhat quietly, there is one player who has come in every night at the top of his game and been essential to this five game winning streak Corey Crawford.

Crawford has only given up seven goals in the last five games, saving 139 of 146 shots he has faced. But this is a stretch that even the numbers don’t do justice.

While I am not the biggest proponent of the “eye test,” there is no denying that watching Crawford in the five games he has played in since returning from IR has shown the goalie at the top of his game.

As you can see in the video package from Eric Lear of Blackhawks TV, Crawford has had phenomenal positioning, excellent rebound control and made some very tough saves lately.
What’s more https://www.blackhawkschifans.com/jonathan-toews-jersey-c-12.html, this streak of Crawford’s extends past this five game stretch. Crawford is 9 0 2 over his last 11 starts; games in which the ‘Hawks were able to collect a very important 20 out of a possible 22 points. Crawford has a .938 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against average in that stretch.

But looking at the rest of the team assembled in front of Crawford https://www.blackhawkschifans.com/patrick-sharp-jersey-c-13.html, there seems to be a lot more confidence on the ice when Crow is in net. This could be why the ‘Hawks are averaging six more shots a game in the five games since Crawford has returned compared to the three games he was on IR.

Freedom to trust in the goaltender behind them has allowed forwards to breakout faster from the defensive zone and not enter the night with a bigger defensive mindset than usual. Crawford is not only stopping the puck, he is giving the rest of the team the peace of mind to play its game normally.

Crawford now sits at No. 1 in the NHL in save percentage .935 among goalies who have started at least 10 games this season. He is also tied for first in goals against average .211 . By comparison Anton Forsberg Jersey, Scott Darling, who many fans thought the ‘Hawks should have kept instead of Crawford, has a .903 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against average this season in Carolina.

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It s not the first, second or third reason the Penguins traded for 6 foot 7, 255 pound defenseman Jamie Oleksiak earlier this week, but it s a reality all the same.

If games get nasty, Ryan Reaves now has some backup.

When Reaves punched Columbus center Lukas Sedlak to the ice in the first period of Thursday night s game at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins had earned six fighting majors this season. Reaves was responsible for all them. He s tied with Nashville s Cody McLeod for third in the league in fights, trailing Florida s Micheal Haley 9 and Washington s Tom Wilson 7 .

Reaves can handle the workload, of course. He s had as many as 13 fighting majors in a season in the NHL and 17 in the AHL.

Still, he said he wouldn t mind a helping fist every once in a while.

“I guess it s nice [url=https://www.penguinspitfans.com/greg-mckegg-jersey-c-17.html]https://www.penguinspitfans.com/greg-mckegg-jersey-c-17.html[/url],” Reaves said. “I thought I ve handled it decently. If he wants to take a couple, he s more than welcome to.”

Reaves thought of one scenario where he would definitely welcome Oleksiak s participation.

“Those line brawls,” he joked. “I don t need to be taking four guys.”

Oleksiak [url=https://www.penguinspitfans.com/tom-kuhnhackl-jersey-c-19.html]https://www.penguinspitfans.com/tom-kuhnhackl-jersey-c-19.html[/url], who has two fighting majors this season and eight in his NHL career, isn t as enthusiastic a pugilist as Reaves, but he s a willing combatant at times.

“It comes with the size,” Oleksiak said. “Guys try to make a name for themselves. If it happens, I like to think I ll step up to the plate.”

Oleksiak said he and Reaves had a few run ins when both played in the Western Conference, but hostilities never escalated to the point where gloves were dropped.

“He s obviously a pretty tough customer,” Oleksiak said. “You ve got to be smart fighting a guy like that. He s definitely a guy I m glad I m playing with now.”

COLE OUT

Ian Cole was scratched to make room in the lineup for Oleksiak, who started the game on the right side of a defense pair with Matt Hunwick.

It was the fourth healthy scratch of the season for Cole, who has been mentioned in credible trade rumors over the past few weeks. He took a total of six minor penalties in his previous four games.

“At times, he s been very effective for us and at times [url=https://www.penguinspitfans.com/phil-kessel-jersey-c-20.html]Phil Kessel Jersey[/url], he hasn t been as effective,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think you could say that for a lot of our guys in our lineup at this point. That s one of the reasons why our team has had the inconsistency that it s had throughout the first part of this season. We re looking for more consistency from all of our players.”

RETURNING FORWARDS

Winger Patric Hornqvist was in the lineup after missing Monday s game in Colorado with an upper body injury. He said the injury occurred Saturday night in Arizona, and he had no concerns it would have lingering effects.

Dominik Simon returned from a one game absence because of illness and started on the right side of the top line with Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby.

Phil Kessel ran his consecutive games played streak to 646 after missing Wednesday s practice for maintenance.

DANGEROUS JOB

Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky, a frequent antagonist of Crosby, did not play in Thursday s game. He s expected to miss six to eight weeks after Edmonton s Zack Kassian broke his orbital with a left hand in a fight Dec. 12.

Even with Kassian out [url=https://www.penguinspitfans.com/evgeni-malkin-jersey-c-18.html]https://www.penguinspitfans.com/evgeni-malkin-jersey-c-18.html[/url], Reaves said he was briefed about what to expect when the Penguins and Blue Jackets meet.

“I know they try getting under our skin and playing the top guys physical,” Reaves said. “That s something we have to do back to them and push back and set the tempo.”

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