NY Knicks Viewer Appreciation Night – Enter For a Chance to Win

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Rangers Morning Skate Report (11/17)

In case you missed it, our John Giannone and Dave Maloney previewed tonight’s Rangers-Blue Jackets game in Columbus.

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Goals and Goalies (So Far) This Season

Each week, I’ll bring you random numbers from around the NHL.

0

The number of 0-0 games going into overtime this season before Thursday night: The Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New Jersey Devils became the first game to accomplish that.

Steve Cangialosi and Ken Daneyko look at how Frederik Andersen was able to keep the Devils at bay in New Jersey's 1-0 OT loss in Toronto.

Last season, 10 games went into overtime 0-0. The Rangers and Flyers were each involved in four.

3

Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild is the third goaltender (since 1967-68) to post 3 consecutive shutouts multiple times in his career. The other two? Brian Elliot (three times) and Roberto Luongo (twice). (via @EliasSports)

12

How many goals that were scored when the New Jersey Devils defeated the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, making it the third highest goal total in a game this season. The Lightning beat the Panthers 8-5 on October 30, while the Leafs defeated the Rangers 8-5 on October 7.

The highest goal total in one game in NHL history happened in January 1920. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto St. Pat’s, 14-7 (maybe the era had something to do with that). The Habs also hold the record for most goals scored by one team in a game, potting 16 two months later in March 1920 against the Quebec Bulldogs, en route to a 16-3 victory.

5

How many assists Islanders rookie standout Mathew Barzal tallied in a 6-4 victory against the Avalanche. A story about Barzal from Elliotte Friedman’s “31 things” column, a weekly must-read for hockey fans.

Barzal is a confident lad. There is a story about him that made me want to talk to him. During one of his draft interviews, a team asked him, “Why should we pick you?” Word is he answered something along the lines of, “Don’t, and we’ll see how it works out.”

[Fischler: How High Is Barzal’s Ceiling?]

7

How many consecutive games Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk had at least one point, from October 28 to Wednesday. The New Rochelle native is currently second in points and goals among defensemen in the NHL.

2

Jimmy Vesey scored two goals in 29 seconds against the Boston Bruins on November 9. Days later, 2, was also the number of teeth lodged in his lip … ouch. #hockeyguy

Jimmy Vesey talks about how painful it was to get kicked in the mouth by a skate and losing his two front teeth in the game against the Oilers.

The fastest two goals scored in NHL history was 2 seconds, a mark most recently seen in January 2016 in a game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild.

4

Roberto Luongo’s place in history among all-time wins by a goaltender. He surpassed Curtis Joseph after a November 10 victory.

Luongo (457) is now within striking distance of Ed Belfour at #3 (484). Patrick Roy (551) and Martin Brodeur (691) round out the top-4.

Brodeur is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2018, his first year of eligibility. Patrick Roy was inducted in 2006, Belfour in 2011. There is no doubt that the Olympic Gold Medalist Luongo, even if the Stanley Cup has evaded him in his career thus far, will one day himself get the call (realistically, he should qualify for his tweets alone).

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Rangers Must Forget Chicago; Return To Winning Ways

The Rangers are in Columbus tonight to face the Blue Jackets for the third of four meetings of the regular season.

Each team has managed a win on home ice and the Blueshirts look to break that trend with a victory at Nationwide Arena. Both teams have played 19 games and Columbus holds the third spot in the uber-competitive Metro Division with 23 points, while the Rangers sit a point below the Mason-Dixon wild-card playoff line with 20 points.

[Watch Rangers-Blue Jackets Tonight on MSG+ & Download Free on MSG GO]

In Chicago on Wednesday, a sudden storm surge lasting all of one minute and forty-five seconds of playing time, late in the second period to early in the third, turned a 1-0 Rangers lead into a 3-1 Rangers deficit.

The hits would keep on coming and the Rangers found themselves on the losing end of a 6-3 count.

Bouncing pucks, lost defensive zone coverage, and failure to protect Henrik Lundqvist and his crease would see the Rangers lose for the first time in their last seven games. This loss reaffirmed that their play in the defensive zone will ultimately determine the outcome of a vast majority of Ranger games.

At the quarter pole, the recent string of better play has lifted the Rangers back into the competitive race that is the Eastern Conference. I can only paraphrase Lundqvist’s recent sentiments that, while this streak has allowed the team to breathe a little bit easier, the work is by no stretch of the imagination over. They are, as we speak, not a playoff team. At this point, Tampa Bay looks to be the cream of the crop. Beyond that, excluding perhaps Buffalo and maybe Florida, there are 13 teams that may have various issues but all have legitimate playoff aspirations.

The Blueshirts, one of the 13, need to stay involved.

3 KEYS TO RANGERS-BLUE JACKETS

1. In Front of Hank

The lack of coverage around and on top of Henrik cost the Rangers dearly in the last outing against the Blackhawks. Better positioning, and paying attention to where the danger lies, needs to be better given that Columbus likes to generate chances in those contested areas of the ice.

2. Brendan Smith

Smith’s return to the lineup should provide a little more grit especially in the Rangers end of the ice. The veteran, a healthy scratch for the past six games who will be paired with Mark Staal, must be patient and not try to reinvent his game every time he touches the puck.

3. Bobrovsky-Lunqvist

The Blue Jackets have struggled to score of late, but have managed to win their last two outings in overtime due to spectacular play for netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Henrik will be called upon to match his opponent and certainly has the pedigree to do such. Should be a great matchup.

[Watch Rangers-Blue Jackets Tonight on MSG+ & Download Free on MSG GO]

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Rangers Quarter Mark Observations

Some thoughts as the Rangers near the one-quarter mark of their season:

1. Henrik Lundqvist will get his eighth consecutive start in goal against Columbus Friday two nights after his and the team’s six-game winning streak ended in Chicago.

One thing coach Alain Vigneault didn’t do before this season was place a limit on the number of starts for his 35-year-old goaltender. We all know that Lundqvist wants to play pretty much every game and that when he gets on a roll, he wants to keep playing … even if he realizes and understands that he needs to keep some fuel in the tank for the postseason.

But one of the benefits of the NHL’s decision to not go to the Olympics this winter is that the regular season schedule eases up. Remember, last season the schedule was condensed due to the World Cup of Hockey.

So this season, the Rangers will play only 11 sets of back-to-back games (compared to 16 last season). Lundqvist likes the challenge of playing both games in back-to-backs. Having done it 79 times in his career, he has an impressive 51-21-7 record, a 2.02 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and nine shutouts in the second games.

[Watch Rangers-Blue Jackets Tonight on MSG+ & Download Free on MSG GO]

The misnamed “bye week” (thank you, NFL, for that) remains in the NHL’s regular season, giving all teams a breather – the Rangers will have two breaks, of five and six days between games in January.

2. Defenseman Brendan Smith will return to the lineup after being scratched for six games in a row. His difficult start got him a turn on the sidelines, but then it became complicated by the Rangers’ six-game winning streak without him.

Vigneault rarely changes lineups after victories, and he has said he felt Steven Kampfer played well enough to deserve to remain in the lineup during the streak, so Smith continued to sit, the longest inactive streak of his career.

But the bottom line is this: The Rangers need Smith to be the player he has always been, and the player he was late last season after being acquired from Detroit, and especially in the playoffs. The bottom line is they signed him for four years and $17.4 million for a reason. And the Rangers are a better team with Smith, playing the way he needs to play, not only in the lineup but in a top-four role.

3. Something’s amiss when San Jose’s Timo Meier is fined $2,403.67 for viciously and intentionally butt-ending Michael Del Zotto in the mouth, when Buffalo’s Marco Scandella is fined $5,000 for a baseball-swing slash to the legs of Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist … and when the Rangers’ Kevin Hayes is fined $5,000 for squirting water at an opponent in Tampa Bay.

4. As always in Rangers-land, but especially in a “rebuild-on-the-fly” season, in the words of GM Jeff Gorton, speculation runs wild about whether the Rangers will/should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Certainly, Gorton has a plan and certainly given the rebuild, to whatever degree, he will explore all options.

Given the parity in the Eastern Conference, and especially in the Metropolitan Division, though, it would be patently absurd to assume any team will be out of the race or that any team will be comfortably in the playoffs by the February 26 trade deadline. Thus, there won’t be any obvious “buy or sell” teams.

As they approach the end of the first quarter of the 82-game season, before Friday’s games, seven points separated first place (Devils, Pittsburgh) from eighth place (Carolina) in the Metro, and it would be a tad surprising, to say the least, if New Jersey continued its 114-point pace.

The Rangers, despite their 1-5-2/3-7-2 start, are five points out of first and three points out of third place (the automatic playoff berth, before wild cards).

[Watch Rangers-Blue Jackets Tonight on MSG+ & Download Free on MSG GO]

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Shepard Making the Most of His Chance

If the New York Giants hope to turn things around during the second half of the season, they will need to get the same production from wide receiver Sterling Shepard they got this past Sunday.

Shepard, despite an injury that kept him out of several games earlier this season, is building on last season’s rookie campaign. A strong player in the slot, Shepard has good speed and elusiveness that couples well with solid route running ability. Given the Giants’ injuries at wide receiver, he is now undoubtedly the team’s best and most explosive playmaker.

For a team that has struggled in nearly every facet this year, Shepard’s consistency when on the field is a bright spot.

Shepard was the best Giant on the field in Sunday’s game against the 49ers. He had 11 catches for 142 yards as the Giants fell to the then-winless 49ers.

“Sterling had a monster game. I mean, and I say that just from the standpoint of you look at the production that he had. You look at the competitiveness that he showed, the catches he made. There’s some things he did in the run game,” Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said on Thursday.

Ben McAdoo addresses the media and discusses a very transparent Giants environment, facing adversity, and his attitude for the remainder of the season.

“Really responded well and it’s just a young player, but someone that’s called upon that’s played some football quite a bit for us in the past and someone that can be a leader for us and is assuming that role. Has also done a great job with the other receivers. The other guys in the room and some of those new faces and he’s a guy that I was particularly proud of. His attitude. His competitiveness through that game. Even when it wasn’t looking great and there was a disappointment as there has been throughout the year, obviously, he responded well and his attitude was attack, attack regardless of the situation and we’re real pleased with that.”

Without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, both sidelined due to season-ending injuries, the Giants need to rely more on Shepard and rookie first-round pick Evan Engram, a tight end. Both have responded, but Shepard is emerging as a star.

He now has consecutive strong efforts as he returns back from injury, the week before the 49ers loss he had five catches for 70 yards in a home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Giants may be 1-8, but in Shepard, they have an exciting young wide receiver with huge upside.

“He just did a good job of getting open on a couple of plays,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “We moved him around, so it was a combination of a lot of things, but he did a good job of beating his one on one match-ups and made a couple of great catches down the field.”

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Balanced Devils Attack Allowing Hall to Flourish

Taylor Hall continues to rack up the points. What’s been driving his good play recently? Ken Daneyko provides an explanation.

MSGNetworks.com: Taylor Hall had another terrific game in Chicago, posting a goal and two assists in the win [Sunday night]. With the added firepower the team has this season, is there less pressure on him to produce and, in the process, allowing him to play better without that pressure?

Ken Daneyko: Well, I think there’s less pressure for a lot of guys on the team. Every team wants to have balance and your top guys can’t produce for 82 games straight. There are going to be nights where it’s just not working for them and a lot of scorers are just really streaky.

Taylor has been real consistent this year and he wants to be a go-to guy. He certainly has been in the past. I think, undoubtedly, there’s less pressure on the top guys and they’re just allowed to play their game. It’s certainly nice that he’s got a lot of support around him.

[Watch Devils-Leafs Thursday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

I still preface that it’s still early in the season, but you can tell that this Devils team has a lot of character right now which was evident in the comeback in Chicago. And it’s not just Taylor Hall that’s giving you something. It’s veterans like Kyle Palmieri, who is such a key guy. He’s such a heartbeat type of a guy for this team. When he’s in the lineup, the team has such a different dynamic because of his work, his offensive ability and the way he plays the game.

All these leaders, and the guys that have been around this team for a while, are leading the charge. They’ve got a great supporting cast right now and that’s a recipe for success.

MSGNetworks.com: We know that guys like Hall and Palmieri are extremely important to the Devils’ offense. Surprisingly, it’s Brian Gibbons leading the team in goals scored this season with eight. What have you seen from Gibbons that has allowed him to be such a scoring threat?

Ken Daneyko: It’s simple: he’s making the most of his opportunity. He’s had to work for everything he’s got and he’s had to pay his dues in the minors before getting this chance. He’s had some stints in the National Hockey League as a veteran guy and he wasn’t a guarantee to make the team.

All he did was work hard and the coaching staff saw that he can add an element to the team. Obviously, [general manager] Ray [Shero] and [coach] John [Hynes] had a good rapport with him from their time in Pittsburgh. They felt like he was a guy who can help the team and he’s got a lot of skill. Sometimes it’s just getting the right opportunity at the right time. The other part is making the most of it and he certainly has. He’s got the coach’s confidence.

His career high was five goals in 41 games for Pittsburgh during the 2013-14 season, but you’d imagine he wouldn’t get much of an opportunity behind guys like Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. In New Jersey, he’s taking advantage of everything. At the start of the season, would you have expected eight goals from him? Probably not. But that’s why the team is so much more improved, getting contributions from guys like Gibbons and others. He works his tail off and there’s no substitute for hard work.

[Watch Devils-Leafs Thursday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

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Ranker: Nico Hischier’s Greatest NHL Firsts

The New Jersey Devils landed the No. 1 draft pick for the first time in team history this past summer.

The outcome? Nico Hischier.

Hopefully, this hockey phenom will have many firsts and break a laundry list of records.

In the meantime, rank his firsts through the first few months of his young NHL career!

Immensely talented and blessed with tons of skill, the Devils hope that No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier can realize his potential in New Jersey.

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Hardaway, Knicks “Wanted” This Game

KNICKS 106, JAZZ 101

1. I hated this game for the first 41 minutes and 18 seconds. I don’t care what Wallyball tweeted before we went on the air for the Post Game show, there was not a soul among us who were content with good vibes.

[Watch Knicks-Raptors Friday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

This was the proverbial trap game. This was the hangover. After an emotional Battle Royale on Monday night with LeBron and the Cavs, there was just no juice in the building for Knicks-Jazz. From the very first play of the game — a scripted alley-oop for local kid Donovan Mitchell — this just felt like a trudge through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel on the weekend (by the way, do we really still have another year of that mess? I swear, sometimes I think it might be faster to swim across the East River than to drive).

This may not have been the Cavs or even an Eastern Conference opponent. But this was a critical win.

Why?

Al Trautwig, Wally Szczerbiak and Alan Hahn break down how Tim Hardaway Jr. came up big in the fourth quarter in the Knicks' 106-101 win over the Jazz.

Consider that a loss would have put the Knicks back at .500 at 7-7. The next game is Friday at Toronto against a very good Raptors (9-5) team. The Knicks have only won once in the last six visits to the Six. After that comes the Clippers (5-8) at The Garden on Monday and another meeting with the Raptors, at MSG, on Thanksgiving Eve.

Here’s where the schedule gets tricky. The Knicks fly Thanksgiving night to Atlanta and play the Hawks (3-12) on Black Friday. They’ll fly a just-under three hour trip to Houston to play James Harden and the Rockets (11-4), in a ridiculously inconsiderate road back-to-back against a Houston team that will have been home all week. Oh, and that will be the third game in four nights, with the free day being Thanksgiving.

Point is, the schedule was warning you not to lose this game. Fortunately, the Knicks made just enough plays in the fourth quarter to ensure they didn’t.

2. The ‘Timmy Shimmy’ is a thing. Tim Hardaway Jr. breaks it out after a big shot and he made some big ones in scoring 14 of his team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter. He drilled a three-pointer with 32.5 seconds left to finally put the game away after a wild scramble for a loose ball won by Doug McDermott. And, that shot took a lot of guts when you consider Hardaway Jr. missed badly on a heat-check dagger attempt with 1:47 left, and the Knicks up six.

Tim Hardaway Jr. hits his third three-pointer of the game to all but seal the Knicks comeback win over the Jazz.

You gotta want it,” he told Rebecca Haarlow in his walk-off interview. “You gotta want it, man.”

It’s great to see Hardaway Jr. talking and playing with that much confidence right now. At the start of the regular season, he looked weighed down by his own expectations (and maybe his wallet) after returning to New York as a free agent. Over the first four games of the season, he averaged under 10 points a game and was shooting 26.5% from the field.

In the 10 games since? 21 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists per game and shooting 45.6% from the field.

And suddenly no one is talking about that contract anymore.

3. Jeff Hornacek is sticking with a nine-man rotation on most nights, but his combinations can vary from game-to-game. Wednesday night in the fourth quarter, he stayed with a defensive group that finally put a stop to Utah’s easy offense and three-point barrage.

That group was Frank Ntilikina and Courtney Lee in the backcourt with Doug McDermott, Lance Thomas, and Kyle O’Quinn up front. They are versatile enough to switch on all pick-and-roll situations, and it’s a smart group that communicates those switches well. That strategy definitely changed the game in the second half.

Frank Ntilikina reflects on playing late in the game against the Jazz and coming up big with key buckets in the fourth quarter.

Midway through the quarter, Hornacek brought Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis back into the game and went with a lineup he’s starting to favor in closing games: Ntilikina-Hardaway-Lee-McDermott-Porzingis. While it’s true KP said he prefers to play the four, Hornacek admits he likes him better at center late in games because it pulls most of the defense out of the paint. KP didn’t have a great night but still managed 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 36 minutes.

[Watch Knicks-Raptors Friday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

Oh, and what we’re already taking for granted just 14 games into the season is the fact that the Knicks are winning the majority of their games with a 19-year-old point guard playing most or all of the fourth quarter minutes.

No, Ntilikina isn’t exactly orchestrating an offense in these situations (he failed to record an assist for the first time this season), but he is a factor in late-game defense. He had a steal in the fourth quarter against the Jazz and was a +10 in 12 minutes. He defended fellow rookie Donovan Mitchell, who went for 17 points in the first half and finished with 19. In the fourth quarter, Mitchell was 1 for 5 and a -9 in 9:56.

In 94 minutes on the court in the fourth quarter this season, Ntilikina is a +36.

There is still quite a bit for the rookie to learn, mainly on offense (i.e.: how to attack the basket, look for your shot, don’t pick up your dribble, tighten up that handle). But these are valuable experiences and they’re not coming at the expense of winning.

4. There was some concern regarding Courtney Lee’s hamstring late in the game. He was seen shaking his leg and holding the back of his leg in the final minute, though he continually waved to the bench that he did not want to come out of the game.

Lee has been an important part of the leadership foundation of this group and is also getting it done at both ends of the floor. He had 19 points and made 3 of 5 from downtown in the game to go along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists in a game-high 39:25. But, with a game looming Friday against DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors, there was some concern about Lee’s hamstring after the game.

“It looked like he tweaked his hammy,” Hornacek said.

Jeff Hornacek describes what the Knicks did much better in the second half compared to the first in their comeback victory over the Jazz.

But Rebecca Haarlow texted us during the Post Game Show that she talked with Lee and he told her he was bumped in the back on a play late in the game. Rebecca tells us he was not concerned about an injury.

After the game, he told reporters he took a “knee to the butt bone” and had some cramping. Lee insisted he would be ready to play in Toronto.

5. This game ended a brief three-game homestand, but there are still two more home games to come next week to complete a stretch of 10 home dates over a span of 12 games. By Thanksgiving, the Knicks will have played 12 of their 41 home games. That’s just about 30% of their home schedule completed with five months still left in the season. So very soon — have you seen January? — we’re going to be doing a lot of road games.

[Watch Knicks-Raptors Friday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

But, do you think the schedule actually worked in the Knicks’ favor early on here? With a young team, there is a comfort to playing at home and a positive energy has certainly developed between the players and the crowd. The Knicks are 7-3 at home and three of those seven wins are in the form of double-digit comebacks that might have had the benefit and momentum of the home crowd.

So let’s remember that from late December through early February, when the Knicks are on the road for 16 out of 20 games.

Actually, I’m looking forward to it. You know why? Because in our carpool arrangement, Wallyball drives for road games.

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It’s All About Team Depth For Devils

In the latest Dano on the Devils, Ken Daneyko recaps a fruitful weekend for the Devils, including a wild tilt in Chicago.

MSGNetworks.com: To quote your partner Steve Cangialosi, [Monday’s] 7-5 win in Chicago was a confidence-building win for the Devils. Was this a statement of intent from them, considering the situation: the second half of back-to-back games, down three goals against a strong team like the Blackhawks?

Ken Daneyko: It’s certainly an improvement and step in the right direction from what we’ve seen in the past. The Devils might not have had the capability to come back from three goals down in recent years. This team has the confidence and belief that it can.

You don’t always want to fall behind like that, but during a long year, it’s going to happen. The Devils have been able to come from behind on a few occasions already this season. This comeback against the Blackhawks was probably the most impressive this season – on the road, coming back from three down in a place like Chicago. I know the Blackhawks have had their ups and downs this season, but they always have that presence and that winning DNA. When you head into a place like Chicago, you know it’s not easy to pick up a win.

It’s all a part of a process of believing in your team and yourself. The Devils had to put some wins together to avoid going into a prolonged swoon – they were 0-2-2 before this weekend. Like I’ve said many times, this is a different team, a different group and they have a different mindset. This is definitely a more skilled team and what’s most impressive to me is that it’s not just the big guys like Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri coming up with the points, it’s all over the lineup.

They’re getting scoring from all four lines, which is key and it makes them that more dangerous. In the past, if it wasn’t coming from Hall, Palmieri or Adam Henrique, it’d be pretty tough to come back. It’s because of that balance that’s allowing them to have more confidence and it’s good to see everybody contributing.

MSGNetworks.com: The balanced attack includes a guy like Miles Wood, who recorded his first career hat trick Sunday night. After being a healthy scratch in the season-opener, he’s really come into his own late. What type of progression have you seen from him this season?

Ken Daneyko: Miles being a healthy scratch early on this season just shows the depth of the hockey team. Jimmy Hayes, who had a huge assist on Saturday, was a healthy scratch against the Blackhawks. It doesn’t mean Hayes didn’t play well — he did — it’s just that the Devils have a lot more options. You need everyone on your roster, not just the guys that play on any given night. You have different elements and different factors on this roster and when the time is right, coach John Hynes is going to use those different options.

As for Miles, what I see from him is a lot of improvement. He continues to work on his game and we know he has blazing speed. He brings passion and energy, and that’s an element you need. You can’t have the same type of players on your team. He continues to work on his hands, and having his mind and the feet working together at the same time. He’s thinking the game a lot better and that’s what you like to see, a guy continually improve.

He’s come a long way in the last year in improving other areas of his game that he needed to work on, things like his finishing around the net. That’s exactly what we’ve seen from him.

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