The Rangers returned from their long layoff and won three of four. It’s what they need to do keep their playoff dreams alive and prolong a third straight deadline selloff from the front office. The Rangers still have nine games left before the deadline to showcase their available players while at the same time try to prove they can make a miraculous run to the playoffs.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Rangers as usual.
1. The only person who was happier for Henrik Lundqivst than Lundqvist following his 1-0 shutout on Saturday in Detroit was me. More than two years since his last shutout, a feat that used to be accomplished weekly it felt like, Lundqvist once again posted a zero. The Rangers’ defense was never anything special when it featured Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle or Kevin Klein as Lundqvist routinely made that group and many others appear much better than they actually were from a scoreboard standpoint. But I’m sure Lundqvist longs for the days when he had some of those names given the current state of the Rangers’ defense and what he, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, need to do each game to prevent lopsided results.
2. To see Lundqvist get pulled against Dallas in the game immediately following his shutout was disheartening and rather unfair, but the reason for the goals didn’t matter to many Rangers fans, just that there were goals. The franchise legend was turned on as the reason and not the unnecessary penalties, slot deflections, odd-man rushes and defensive-zone turnovers, which set up the goals. The loss was hardly Number 30’s fault.
3. The three-goalie situation has now been going on for a month. Here’s how it’s gone since Shesterkin’s debut:
Sometimes the next game’s starting goalie has been based on the previous game’s performance, sometimes it has been based on being already scheduled and sometimes it’s been based on past performance against the next game’s opponent. It’s been hard to predict who will start from game to game, but I’m going to make a prediction for the games between now and next week’s Thoughts.
Friday vs. Buffalo: Georgiev
Sunday vs. Los Angeles: Shesterkin
Tuesday at Winnipeg: Lundqvist
4. Toronto was seen as the favorite to land Georgiev in a pre-deadline deal and then Los Angeles had to step in and trade them Jack Campbell. After ruining Lundqvist’s chance at the elusive Cup, it might be the Kings who once again ruin his legacy. With Toronto no longer in need of a goalie, the odds on Georgiev getting traded this season take a hit and it makes it more likely Lundqvist is somehow talked into waiving his no-trade clause or is bought out in the offseason. I hate the Kings.
5. Georgiev getting moved is still the most likeliest outcome of the three-goalie issue, but with each passing day and especially with Toronto no longer a suitor, it’s not as likely as it was just a few days ago. The cold, rainy winter days coupled with all of these Lundqvist trade and buyout rumors are depressing. I understand the Rangers’ love for Georgiev and their reluctance to trade him for anything less than their seemingly over-the-top demands, but it’s still the right move. I also understand Lundqvist’s age and his salary and cap hit for 2020-21. I also recognize what he has done for the organization for nearly 15 years and I will never not feel indebted to him as a Rangers fan. An offseason buyout would be even worse.
6. On the topic of buyouts, how many buyouts are the Rangers doing to need to do? They bought out Brad Richards and Dan Girardi and Kevin Shattenkirk, and should have bought out Staal. (Maybe start rethinking the organization’s handling of contracts and when extensions should be made?) If the Rangers do decide to extend Chris Kreider, there’s a good chance I will be writing about the Rangers needing to buy him out in a few years as well. I get that Kreider makes the Rangers better right now and next season as well and the season after that, but they’re not even a playoff team this season and next season they won’t be close to contending and might still not be ready in 2021-22. Realistically, the Rangers are three years at best from possibly being one of the elite teams in the league and by then Kreider will be 31-32 and getting paid to do things he did on the other side of 30. Given the weak expected rental class for this deadline, let some team overpay for his services for two months and use the return to actually help the team win in three and four years from now.
7. Given Artemi Panarin’s recent drop in even-strength production, I gladly welcomed Ryan Strome being removed from his line. It didn’t last long though as David Quinn put the two back together during Wednesday’s win over Toronto. One day I will get my dream of a Panarin-Mika Zibanejad-Kaapo Kakko line. One day.
8. I was a fan of the trade for Jacob Trouba and still am, but I completely understand why he is a potential trade asset. He’s signed long-term at a solid number and he’s now a luxury for the Rangers. Given the abundnace of young defense and the eventual need to pay that young defense, Trouba isn’t needed the way he was when they traded for him. I will still happily have him as a Ranger, but I now almost expect him to be traded before his no-trade kicks in this offseason. When it comes to trading young defensemen with long-term deals, how about Brady Skjei? There has to be a landing spot for Skjei is his $5.25M cap hit through 2023-24. After Georgiev (because it helps Lundqvist remain a Ranger) and Kreider (because extending would be a mistake for when the team is ready to contend), I most want Skjei to be traded.
9. The best day of the season will be the day the day Greg McKegg, Brendan Smith and Micheal Haley no longer play. We’re getting closer to that day. With the deadline approaching and the Rangers’ playoff odds on the brink, it’s only a matter of time until the Rangers start to implement more young players into the NHL lineup and stop wasting valuable regular-season minutes and icetime on three players who should have never been a part of this season’s roster.
10. The Rangers came out of their 10-day layoff needing to win 75 percent of their remaining 34 games, and they have done that so far, going 3-1 against Detroit, Dallas and Toronto. They are now on pace for 88 points, and the second wild card is on pace for 99 points. That’s a lot of points to make up and every projection I have seen gives the Rangers a single-digit percentage of reaching the playoffs. The Rangers are going to need a 21-6-3 finish to play an 83rd game.