Marian Gaborik

Game of the Week preview: Rangers try to avoid repeating nightmare finish

You’ll have to excuse Rangers fans if they’re starting to look a little more pale and they’re not eating normally they way the did earlier this year. They’ve got a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach and it’s one they’re a bit too familiar with. In case you’d forgotten, and if you’re a Rangers fan you’re punching your computer screen upon reading this, the Rangers lost out on a playoff spot on the last game of the season last year, losing to Philadelphia in a shootout. With the win, the Flyers made the playoffs and the Rangers were out. Philly, of course, went on to the Stanley Cup final where they lost to Chicago.

Rangers fans and perhaps some players as well thought “that could have been us” when seeing the Flyers roar through the Eastern Conference playoffs on the way to a shot at the Stanley Cup. With that sort of motivation you’d think the Rangers would be doing everything in their abilities to make sure they don’t miss out on the party again.

Things had been looking positive for the Rangers on that quest to make the postseason until recently. The Rangers have lost three of their last four games and as we’ve seen elsewhere in playoff races any cold streak like that hurts. For the Rangers it’s knocked them down into a points tie with the Sabres, but the Rangers hang on to the eighth spot thanks to tiebreakers going in Buffalo’s favor.

When tomorrow’s game drops the puck in Philadelphia, the Rangers could see the Sabres ahead of them by one or two points and the Hurricanes hot on their heels trailing them by one or two points. Three teams vying for two spots in the playoffs makes playing the regular season feel like the playoffs because every game from here on out is huge. To the Rangers credit, they’re still very confident in themselves. Andrew Gross of Rangers Rants has this to add from coach John Tortorella.

Though coach John Tortorella certainly expressed things he did not like about Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Islanders and Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Buffalo, he also told his team he and his coaching staff believed in the players and had their backs during the team meeting. And the players certainly believe, with four regular season games remaining, that controlling their destiny is key.

“We’re not in the 13th or 14th spot,” Tortorella said. “We’re right in the middle of it. We’ll respond the right way. I have full faith in them.”

Confidence is a big thing to have, and for the Rangers that all starts with Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has been other-worldly this season with 11 shutouts and standing out as a potential Vezina Trophy finalist. When the offense has gone through the motions and the injuries to their top players like Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik, and Ryan Callahan it’s been Lundqvist that’s held it all together for the Rangers.

It’s a familiar juxtaposition considering that last season’s playoff chances went by the wayside thanks to the Flyers beating Lundqvist in the shootout and this year it’ll all fall on his shoulders again to keep the team locked in place for the playoffs. As King Henrik goes, so do the Rangers. We’re sure he’d love to see the Rangers drop another seven spot on Philly tomorrow to send the message that they won’t be going away quietly.

Then again, if you’re thinking things will be that easy for New York, you haven’t been watching them much this season. After the game against Philly, the Rangers wrap the season with games at home against Boston, Atlanta, and New Jersey. Boston still is fighting for a better seeding atop the East while Atlanta and New Jersey (especially) will be looking to spoil their plans. If the Rangers playoff hopes come down to that game against the Devils, Rangers fans might want to find a safe place to hide out for the night lest the nightmares of last year come roaring back all over again.

Yeo was ‘disappointed’ to see Hoppy the rabbit holding a ‘YEO MUST GO’ sign

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Thing have gone from bad to weird in Minnesota, where embattled Wild coach Mike Yeo was “disappointed” to see Zenon Konopka’s rabbit holding a sign that read, “YEO MUST GO.”

Hey, we told you things had gotten weird.

Konopka, a former Wild player, took to Twitter last night after Minnesota’s latest loss.

Here’s what Konopka tweeted:

And what did Yeo think about that?

“I really don’t care what he says,” he told the Star Tribune, apparently adding with a laugh, “I will say I was very disappointed to see Hoppy holding that sign.”

Now, according to the newspaper’s Michael Russo, “Konopka and Yeo had a lot of issues behind the scenes and that’s why [Konopka] ended up on waivers two Januarys ago.”

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of Wild fans agree with Hoppy, er, Konopka, and it doesn’t change the fact that the Wild could really, really use a win tomorrow at home to Washington.

Video: Anisimov, Niskanen, McDavid star in Goals of the Week

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Nice work from Artem Anisimov and Matt Niskanen this week, but Connor McDavid‘s tally is on a different level.

You can pretty much bank on McDavid being in Goals of the Year, too. Just saying.

Oilers demote Nilsson, recall AHL standout Brossoit

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Laurent Brossoit is getting another crack at the NHL.

On Wednesday, the Oilers announced they demoted Anders Nilsson — who, earlier this year, was carrying the starting gig in Edmonton — and recalled Brossoit from AHL Bakersfield.

Brossoit, 22, is an interesting story. Taken in the sixth round of the 2011 draft (164th overall), he’s really made strides over the last year. He made his big-league debut at the end of last season and performed extremely well, making 49 saves on 51 shots in a loss to San Jose.

This year, Brossoit was named an AHL All-Star. He’s posted a 14-8-3 record for the Condors thus far, with a 2.70 GAA and .921 save percentage.

As for Nilsson, his demotion comes after losing the starting gig to Cam Talbot. Nilsson has also struggled to find the good form shown in November, when he made 10 starts and posted a .915 save percentage.

In his last outing, the lanky Swede allowed three goals on 10 shots in an embarrassing 8-1 loss to the Isles.

Should the Bruins be sellers at the deadline?

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Not surprisingly, last night’s 9-2 loss to Milan Lucic and the Kings garnered no shortage of opinions on the state of the Boston Bruins.

For example, here’s CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty:

…the Bruins no longer have the kind of roster that can hold up in a ground-and-pound battle against the best of the West. Their 5-9-3 record against the Western Conference this season is clearly indicative of that. Julien pointed that out on Tuesday after watching his team get shellacked by the Kings and the point is valid: it’s probably time for the Bruins organization, the fans, the media and those around the league to wrap their minds around the concept that this season’s Bruins team can’t be held to the standard of past B’s teams.

They’re younger and quicker in some spots, but they’re also nowhere near as good.

And here’s ESPN’s Scott Burnside:

Yes, Boston owns a wild card spot as of Wednesday morning, but is anyone confident this is a team that can stay there, or make a dent if they get in?

WEEI’s DJ Bean had some thoughts:

Ultimately, the Bruins won’t need to worry about their record against good Western Conference teams because they sure as heck won’t be meeting them in the playoffs this season. Still, games like Tuesday against the Kings and the pre-break finale against the Ducks provide a nice reminder that despite hanging around in the East, the Bruins’ days of dominant play are well behind them. Given that they haven’t developed many young players and their core is only aging, that next wave of greatness could be pretty far away. 

And so too did NESN’s Jack Edwards, who opined during last night’s broadcast, “There has been a talent drain in Boston.”

Edwards was referring (again) to the once-vaunted Bruins defense that has struggled to replace Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Further complicating matters, at 38, Zdeno Chara is the third-oldest defenseman in the league.

Now, granted, it was only one game. Sometimes, a team just lays an egg. The Bruins are still in a good spot to make the playoffs.

That being said, even if they hadn’t lost so badly last night, the pressing question for the B’s would still be what GM Don Sweeney plans to do ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Take winger Loui Eriksson, a 30-year-old pending unrestricted free agent who’s enjoying a fine season with 16 goals and 24 assists. He could net the Bruins a nice return.

True, losing Eriksson for picks and/or prospects would make the Bruins weaker in the short term. But with that defense, the reality is that the short term may not be salvageable anyway.

Related: Kevan Miller is not the problem for Bruins, but he does illustrate the problem