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.

After lopsided loss, Julien says it’s ‘not about the young D’

Claude Julien

The Boston Bruins’ young, makeshift defense failed to come through Thursday night as the B’s were thumped, 6-2, on home ice by the Winnipeg Jets.

Without injured veterans Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the defensive pairings were as follows:

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid
Joe MorrowKevan Miller
Matt IrwinZach Trotman

And let’s just say, turnovers were a factor:

That was Irwin getting checked off the puck there.

“I had the puck behind the net, and I went to one side of the net, and then I just didn’t use the net to my advantage,” he explained afterwards, per CSN New England. “He got his stick in there, obviously stripped me of the puck, and we all know what happened after that. I take full blame for that one.”

But head coach Claude Julien wasn’t willing to blame inexperience for the poor outing.

“It’s not about youth. It’s not about the young D,” said Julien. “It’s about our game without the puck. I think we might have gotten a little excited here about our offense and forgot about the other part of our game.”

And to be fair, even Boston’s more accomplished d-men had their challenging moments.

Here’s Krug failing to get position on Nicolas Petan in front of the Bruins’ net:

All in all, it was a tough night.

“We’ll correct those [mistakes] tomorrow in practice,” said Irwin. “We’re a confident group in here. We liked our offense. We liked the chances we were getting. All those mistakes, D-zone, are something that we’re going to work on and get better every day.”

The Bruins host their rivals from Montreal on Saturday.

Greene named 11th captain in Devils history

Dion Phaneuf; Andy Greene
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Andy Greene has been named Bryce Salvador’s successor as New Jersey’s team captain.

Greene, an undrafted free agent that’s spent his entire nine-year career with the Devils organization, becomes the 11th captain in the franchise’s history and third American to wear the “C” (Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner were the others).

A former standout at Miami of Ohio, Greene — who served as an alternate captain in each of the last two seasons — has developed into a steady, durable blueliner that hasn’t missed a game in three years. He’s also locked into the Devils long term, having signed a five-year, $25 million extension with the club last summer.

That deal kicks in this season, and runs through 2020.

As for the rest of the leadership group, four players will serve as alternate captains this season: Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, and Adam Henrique.

Elias and Zajac both wore an “A” in New Jersey last year, while Cammalleri and Henrique are first-timers.