This is the Rangers’ 11th game of the season and the ninth one on home ice. It is a very important game for obvious reasons.
The game marks the second of five consecutive on the road for the Coyotes, who are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Islanders Tuesday night. Arizona is the only team in the NHL to not have a win in regulation going 0-8-1 in their first nine games.
The loss to San Jose was particularly upsetting when you consider the Rangers had entered the contest accumulating four of a possible six points in the previous three games. We saw some of the same early-season struggles from the Rangers that have led to a 2-5-2 record after the first nine games: an early first-period goal against, a goal against Henrik Lundqvist that he would want back, and an egregious turnover at the offensive blueline. That put the Ranger in a 3-0 hole after two periods. Game. Set. Match. Things will not turn around until the Blueshirts stop with the self-inflicted wounds. Getting beat by an opponent is one thing. Beating yourself is an altogether different ball of wax.
The contest marks the return of Derek Stepan, who was sent to Arizona during the offseason in a trade. Stepan played a pretty significant role in recent years on Broadway and was a large part of the recent Ranger success. When you don’t win it all, there will be constant re-evaluation and that led to him being moved to the desert. I am certain that Derek has good memories of his time in the Big Apple. Those of us who had the opportunity to watch him grow and get to know him, have equally special memories.
1. NYR Goaltending
It is a generally accepted that any team will be as good as the goaltending they get. There is an old observation that it is not so much the one that a goalie stops, it is the one he lets in. It will be Ondrej Pavelec’s job tonight to eliminate that goal that he would wish to have back.
2. The Captain
Ryan McDonagh’s game is one that has to be based on power and strength. He seems to be thinking that he can cure all the recent team struggles by complicating his own game. That will not work. I remember an old junior coach telling me to stop thinking and to play to my strengths. Good advice for the Rangers’ captain who needs to be better.
This is the Coyotes’ top line and they account for 62% of Arizona’s offense. Clayton Keller is a dynamic young talent that leads the team in scoring. Putting a lid on any offensive production from this threesome will certainly help the Ranger cause.