Following the Christmas break, the Rangers start a five-game road trip with a visit at classic Patrick rival Washington tonight. Interestingly enough, Alain Vigneault has decided to give Cam Talbot a third straight start. New York Post’s Larry Brooks had this tweet on Henrik Lundqvist.
Even I’m a little surprised that Talbot is in over Lundqvist. I would’ve thought Vigneault would go back to Hank following the holiday. He’s had enough time off to mentally refresh. It’s been his most challenging season to date. However, you have to believe he’ll turn it around soon. He’s too good not to.
By going with Talbot again, Vigneault is leaving himself open to criticism. While I admire his daring move, it isn’t best long-term. However, maybe he’s saying let’s ride the hot hand. Talbot allowed
one goal two goals and won twice to get the Rangers back to 18-18-2. He seems to be unflappable and has the perfect mindset for a backup. The team responds by playing better in front of him. How else can you explain Cam allowing two or less in nine of 10 starts?
What if Cam plays well and the team wins again? Either way, we’ll see Lundqvist Sunday at Tampa. Unless hell has frozen over. Interesting to note the last Ranger visit at St. Pete, Hank was lit up for four goals replaced by Talbot. The Martin St. Louis show. The Rangers lost 5-0.
Vigneault’s done this before. Even with Roberto Luongo signed long-term, he wasn’t afraid to play Cory Schneider. Schneider of course was a former first round pick who was the heir apparent before the Canucks reversed course and dealt him to the Devils at last year’s draft in exchange for a first round pick (Bo Horvat). Talbot was more of an uncertainty entering the season. He’d spend the past three seasons in Hartford fine tuning his skills after being signed out of Alabama-Huntsville. Full credit to the Ranger organization for being right.
Aside from the goalie story, Brooks reported that it’s not out of the question that Marc Staal could return on the trip. Out since Dec. 11 with a concussion, he’s missed the last eight games. However, he’s been practicing and inching closer to a return. Certainly a good sign for the club. What that means for Mike Del Zotto who knows. As usual, he’s stepped it up in Staal’s absence. Increased minutes has always translated for the much maligned defenseman. I’d love to see him stay but he’s probably on the way out.
Ryan Callahan also skated. But he’s further away on the injured reserve with an MCL sprain. It’s been a tough year for the captain who also missed time with a broken thumb. Nobody plays with more heart. His tenacious style might not be cut out over the long haul. In the final year of his contract, the 28-year old is beloved in this town. The injuries probably hurt his Olympic chances. In a Team USA Preview I did for Olympic Hockey News, I opted not to select him. It’s probably better for the Rangers if he doesn’t get picked. They need a healthier Captain Cally.