“Times, they are a changin'”-Bob Dylan
Tonight is Game 34 of 82 for the Rangers. They’ll host the ultra talented Maple Leafs at The Garden. It’s the first of three meetings this season. They’ll also play in Toronto on December 28. The third game is next year.
It feels like forever since the Rangers played on Monday. A frustrating 5-2 loss to the Predators, who at least kicked the crap out of the Islanders the next day. That doesn’t matter. The loss to Nashville was a disappointment because they had a huge edge in play and shots, but didn’t take advantage of their opportunities. Nashville made the most of theirs and added a pair of empty netters.
In that game, Alexandar Georgiev took the defeat despite not really giving up any bad goals. He’d still probably want the first one back due to it going five-hole. Even if the puck deflected off Brady Skjei, it’s one he’s stopped before. The other two were complete breakdowns. Roman Josi used Adam Fox as a screen on a rush and Mattias Ekholm converted a breakaway with a good shot off the far post. It happens.
With a few days off, David Quinn decided to go back to Georgiev for tonight, citing his career numbers against Toronto. He won the last two last season by standing on his head. That the coach would use that recent history speaks to where the goaltending situation is on Broadway.
Normally, Henrik Lundqvist would get the not following some time off. Especially with a two-game losing streak (0-1-1). But he will sit out again which means he’ll likely get the next start on Sunday. The Blueshirts have three games in four days with a back-to-back Sunday and Monday.
The numbers have been mentioned in other publications. I’m not going to repeat them. Georgiev has been more consistent than Lundqvist up to this point. In fact, Larry Brooks cited their statistics side by side in a New York Post column that appeared earlier today. Since Feb. 6, Georgiev is 17-10-5 with a 2.72 GAA and. 920 save percentage. Lundqvist is 9-16-5 with a 3.20 and. 903.
That’s a significant difference. It’s not time to declare Georgie the number one goalie yet. He’s still only 23 and in Year Two. As critical as I’ve been on Lundqvist, he has a proven track record. It’s just that as he climbs the all-time wins list where he still sits fifth ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury, he’s not as consistent. Even in an otherwise brilliant game in Anaheim, he gave up two tough goals that really hurt the team in a 4-3 shootout loss.
So, is the end near for the 37-year old future Hall Of Famer, who’s been the franchise’s best goalie ever? It’s hard to say. I’ve seen plenty of banter about asking him to waive his no trade clause to take a shot at winning a Cup elsewhere. There are a few Western Conference candidates that come to mind. However, he was approached by management about this scenario once and turned it down.
I don’t see the organization buying out the final year of his contract. The $8.5 million cap hit was always going to look bad near the conclusion of his deal. Former architect Glen Sather paid him on merit without considering the long-term future.
Things change. Now, the Broadway Blueshirts are a few years removed from their last serious playoff run. They’ve been rebuilding for a while. It’s netted some positive results with the additions of Kaapo Kakko, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Jacob Trouba, Brendan Lemieux, Tony DeAngelo and Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin. First round picks Lias Andersson and Vitali Kravtsov are in Hartford.
With a bright future that includes K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Joey Keane, Tyler Wall and Morgan Barron in the system, there are sure to be more changes coming. Unfortunately, that could include Chris Kreider who could be traded soon. He can test the market next summer.
General Manager Jeff Gorton and Team President John Davidson will have tough decisions on key restricted free agents DeAngelo, Lemieux and Ryan Strome. It’ll not be easy.
As for tonight, it should be interesting to see if the Rangers can rebound against a dangerous team like the Leafs, who feature Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie and William Nylander. They have the firepower to do damage.
It would be wise if the Rangers don’t get into a run and gun match against the Leafs. A track meet would favor the deeper scoring Leafs. New York has leaned heavily on Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. They can use some help from a supporting cast that still includes Kreider along with ice cold Pavel Buchnevich, who gets his chance to play with Panarin.
Nobody is scoring aside from the Bread Man, Zibanejad and the defense. That must change. Quinn continues to mix up his lines in a desperate attempt to find the right combos. At least from the start, Zibanejad centers Kreider and Jesper Fast. Kakko will start on the third line.
It’s Georgiev versus Frederik Andersen in net.