It was pretty much all good news for the New York Rangers in their 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday. There was one significant exception, though: Martin St. Louis suffered what looked like a lower-body injury.
Footage showed that St. Louis tried to skate the issue off, but it didn’t work out, so he left the game early.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said that he didn’t have a full update after the game, but the good (early) word is that it doesn’t appear serious, as he told the Bergen Record’s Andrew Gross.
Obviously plenty can change regarding the veteran winger’s injury, yet some Rangers fans likely breathed a sigh of relief at this news.
When New York Rangers GM Glen Sather went all-in at the trade deadline, he was probably envisioning something like this.
After beating the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Sunday, the Rangers are clearly the top team in the Eastern Conference at the moment and hold tiebreakers over whichever West team wins tonight’s Nashville Predators – Anaheim Ducks game.
Goaltending’s been a big part of their strong work, even if the guy you’d expect to be driving things (Henrik Lundqvist) hasn’t been healthy enough to go.
Mackenzie Skapski turned heads with his first NHL shutout on Saturday, yet Cam Talbot continues to make an argument that he can be a No. 1 goalie himself. He stopped 38 out of 39 shots for his 17th win of the 2014-15 season, and it’s pretty clear that New York leaned heavily upon him today:
The Rangers now have 95 standings points, which seats them five points ahead against the New York Islanders (who have played three more games than the Rangers). The Blueshirts also have a seven-point lead and one game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, so a division title looks very likely as of this writing.
(The Rangers also have a two-point edge and game in hand on Montreal for the East’s No. 1 spot, so … yeah, it’s a pretty rosy situation right now.)
Is this to say the Rangers are perfect? No, it’s probably fair to wonder if this remarkable run of goaltending might hit a brick wall in the postseason. One could probably strain to find other negatives here and there.
Still, the Rangers are looking like a force in the East right now, and Talbot is a big reason why.
They do, however, have to keep an eye on Martin St. Louis’ injury situation. Read more about that here.
All the latest from the blue paint…
Ottawa sticks with Andrew Hammond
Ottawa is seven points back in the battle for a Wild Card spot with just 15 games remaining in its schedule. Under those desperate circumstances, the Senators are putting their fate in the hands of 27-year-old rookie Andrew Hammond. Given that Hammond hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of his 11 appearances this season, it’s hard to fault Senators coach Dave Cameron for his desire to ride the hot hand.
The Senators will be challenged by the Philadelphia Flyers, which are coming off of a 7-2 victory over Detroit on Saturday. Steve Mason played in that contest, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see former Senators goalie Ray Emery start to provide Mason with a breather.
Panthers at Rangers: Dan Ellis will probably start for Florida while Cam Talbot has been confirmed for New York.
Canes at Blue Jackets: No word yet on Carolina, but there’s a good chance it will be Anton Khudobin after Cam Ward played Saturday. Sergei Bobrovsky will get the nod for Columbus.
Blues at Stars: Jake Allen will start for St. Louis. Nothing’s confirmed for Dallas, but it will likely be Kari Lehtonen.
Bruins at Capitals: Bruins coach Claude Julien wouldn’t reveal Sunday’s starter, but Braden Holtby will probably play for Washington.
Preds at Ducks: Nothing’s confirmed, but it will likely be starters Pekka Rinne and Frederik Andersen between the pipes.
Few probably heard of Mackenzie Skapski before February – many probably remarked “That can’t be a real name” – but he’s done a nice job in his first career NHL starts.
Three weeks after winning in his league debut with the New York Rangers, he stopped all 20 Buffalo Sabres shots for his first career shutout as New York blanked Buffalo 2-0 on Saturday.
Yes, it’s true that the degree of difficulty wasn’t awfully high, considering the low volume of shots and the low regard of the Sabres as an opponent.
Still, after leaning so heavily on Cam Talbot, the Rangers have to feel a little bit better about turning to their oddly named third option when needed.
Again, it’s clear that he’s doing the most with his opportunities so far:
Hey, he’s already getting ragged on by teammates, too:
If there’s a building goaltending narrative in 2014-15, it’s been about netminders unexpectedly redeeming themselves or almost appearing out of the blue.
Devan Dubnyk went from a wayward soul last season to a possible Vezina nominee for the Minnesota Wild. The New York Rangers somehow didn’t miss a beat when Cam Talbot took over for Henrik Lundqvist. The question in Ottawa went from “Who is Andrew Hammond?” to “How do we beat him?”
It’s pretty early to add the man who was the Florida Panthers’ third goalie to the mix, but Dan Ellis certainly made a case that he should be in the argument with another strong performance Saturday.
Ellis stopped all 27 Carolina Hurricanes shots to grab a 2-0 win for Florida. He’s now currently on a three-game winning streak (and is 3-0-1 since taking over) after spending most of his year in the AHL.
Ellis, 34, comes into this situation in a fittingly weird way, as Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in the same odd game.
He doesn’t fit into the story of many others who were virtually unproven – Ellis now has 208 regular season games under his belt – yet the league soured enough on him that he wasn’t offered one of 60 NHL goaltending jobs to start 2014-15.
The Panthers still face a very, very long shot to get into the postseason, especially as Tuukka Rask really builds back into “totally worth $7 million” form.
If nothing else, it’s a cool story that follows an interesting pattern, though.