Will rest be a big advantage for the Rangers?

10 Comments

The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings have both wrestled with fatigue during this postseason. The difference is that the Rangers got their biggest headaches out of the way early and should be well-rested on Wednesday.

The question is: how big will that advantage be?

“We just have to reset again. We do it so well,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said. “We did it during the regular season. We did it before the Olympics. We did it after the Olympics. We did it before the playoffs started.  We did it after Game 7 of the first round. We just have to do it again.”

Maxing out

The Rangers played in 20 out of 21 possible games while the Kings played all 21 through the first three rounds. Los Angeles must play on Wednesday after winning the most emotional series of Dustin Brown’s career on Sunday.

To give you a point of comparison, the Kings and Rangers played 41 postseason games through three rounds while last year’s finalists Boston Bruins (16) and Blackhawks (17) required 33 games to get to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. (Remarkably, Los Angeles cleared three rounds in 14 games in the 2012 title run.)

Immediate concerns

So each team has played a lot in this postseason, but one team is coming in with more rest nonetheless. So far, each team managed quick turnarounds quite well.

The Rangers began their second-round series on a Friday after closing out Philadelphia in a Game 7 that Wednesday, yet they won both contests. Maybe New York wore down later on in the series against Pittsburgh, yet they showed some nice resiliency all things considered. This current break is their most luxurious of the playoffs.

The Kings’ transitions look like this:

Round 1 to 2: Game 7 at San Jose (Wednesday, April 30) to Game 1 at Anaheim (Saturday, May 3)
Round 2 to 3: Game 7 at Anaheim (Friday, May 16) to Game 1 at Chicago (Sunday, May 18)
Round 3 to 4: Game 7 at Chicago (June 1) to Game 1 at home (June 4)

The saving grace of those early rounds was limited travel, with things really getting tough in the Western Conference finals. Really, the Kings handled these situations remarkably well; Sutter only believed that the Kings looked tired for a brief chunk of Game 1 against Chicago, for instance.

It still seems reasonable to wonder if it will all catch up to them now, though.

Specific impacts

Neither team runs too many players “into the ground,” which probably factors into their abilities to fight through fatigue.

Ryan McDonagh draws a lot of attention, yet Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are reliable enough to spread the wealth. That probably explains why no Rangers skater averages more than McDonagh’s 24:49 minutes per night.

The biggest beneficiary of the Rangers’ break is likely to be Henrik Lundqvist. With a long Olympic run plus his usual regular season workload (63 games), such a layoff could be very valuable to the 32-year-old netminder.

Los Angeles is deep in its own right, although it’s fair to say that Drew Doughty carries a lot of responsibility on defense. He’s logging just under 28 minutes per night (27:51) and while he’s been mostly fantastic, Keith Jones and Mike Milbury expressed the belief that he looked fatigued in Game 7.

With all apologies to Slava Voynov, there are some weaker spots in the Kings defense that could be exposed if Doughty really is running on fumes.

***

The Kings seem spry enough to grind out another tough turnaround, yet there’s always the question of how many times one team can climb that mountain. It’s the Rangers’ job to exploit whatever advantage this presents, though.

PHT Morning Skate: Joel Armia scored an amazing shorthanded goal you’ll have to see to believe

1 Comment

Joel Armia has developed into a very useful player for the Winnipeg Jets, and on Tuesday night, he scored an incredible end-to-end goal that you won’t want to miss. He fought off one New Jersey Devil then got around two others before scoring this beautiful shorthanded goal. (Top)

–The Score breaks down the best “bang for your buck” contracts on each Canadian team. It’s not shocking to see Senators goalie Mike Condon on this list. The second-year netminder has been with three teams this season, but he’s come through in a big way for the Senators, and he only makes $575,000. (The Score)

–The ESPN Hockey writers put together a list of what they think the Vegas Golden Knights roster is going to look like after the expansion draft. Some well-known names like Andrew Cogliano, Jonas Brodin, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Plekanec, Jonathan Marchessault, Carl Hagelin and Jakob Silfverberg all made the list. (ESPN)

–Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog touched on some advice David Poile had for the Golden Knights now that the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Vegas. “You have to do your own thing. We created our ‘Predator Way.’ The Smashville idea and name. In-game entertainment fitting the market. Those things worked.” Friedman also wrote about Ken Hitchcock possibly returning to Dallas, and much more. (Sportsnet)

–Brampton Thunder forward Laura Stacey is the great-granddaughter of hall-of-fame defenseman King Clancy. Recently, Stacey decided she wanted to do a little digging into her great-grandfather’s career, and it really allowed her to get an appreciation for everything he accomplished. “Now I understand how hard he worked, how passionate and determined he was to be the best. Yes, it was a different era, but I can only imagine how hard he had to work to get where he was. As I get older, it makes it more special in that I know more the kind of guy he was.” (Canadian Press)

–The Montreal Canadiens have had some incredible defensemen come through their organization, but last night, Andrei Markov was able to reach an impressive milestone. By picking up an assist in a 4-1 win over Dallas, he tied Guy Lapointe for second in points by a defenseman in franchise history. Larry Robinson’s mark is pretty safe.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

Getty
Leave a comment

The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch when they failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

Getty
3 Comments

There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong regular seasons, even as memories of their Cup win start to fade into the distance. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

1 Comment

Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to defend Craig Anderson following his blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.