The New York Rangers host the Florida Panthers tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers enter tonight’s game tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for second in the Metropolitan Division with a 40-24-8 record. The team struggled in their last two games and are looking to get back on track tonight. Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia Flyers are on hot streaks and threaten the Rangers’ playoff status greatly. The Panthers lead the Atlantic Division with a record of 40-23-9.
The unspoken points competition between Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard is in full swing this season. With only 10 regular season games remaining, including tonight’s bout, this dynamic duo lead the team in points. Brassard’s 52 points include a team high 25 goals. Zuccarello’s team high 53 points include 31 assists. Keith Yandle has a team high 35 assists for a total of 40 points which is third highest on the team. “Zucc” and “Brass” boast shot percentages of 14.9% and 15.7% respectively though J.T. Miller leads the team with a 16.7% accuracy rating. The ice time leaders, respectively, are Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Kevin Klein each with 20 minutes or more per game. Derek Stepan‘s 164 shots on goal lead the team and edge Rick Nash‘s 163. Brassard is the power play points mogul on the team with a total of 19 on the season. Away from the puck this team throws hits and Tanner Glass leads the way with 188. Miller falls behind with 165 and Chris Kreider is the third musketeer with 160 hits. Girardi follows with a respectable 149 hits, but the unsung duo are Viktor Stalberg and Oscar Lindberg with 127 hits each. Say what you will about Girardi’s recent troubles on the ice, but don’t discount his 179 blocked shots. He’s come up pretty big for his team when goal tending hasn’t been at its best. By comparison, Klein has 129 blocks while McDonagh has 126. Among players with more than 20 draws to their credit, Dom Moore wins 56% of his draws. Since joining the Rangers, Eric Staal has a 52.2% record and Brassard has a 51% average from 1177 draws this season. That’s over 200 more face-offs than any of his teammates. The only injury plaguing the team is Dylan McIlrath, though he skated this morning.
Henrik Lundqvist will backstop the boys tonight and he needs to be out for blood. He allowed four goals in each of his last three games. His .922 save percentage and his 2.42 goals against average are essentially equal to his career stats, Lundqvist hasn’t posted a win since 27 February. That’s five straight losses for “The King”.
“Old Man River”, Jaromir Jagr, leads his team in age, points, and goals. With 24 goals for 55 points in 69 games, Jagr shows no signs of slowing his productivity. The Panthers have youth and experience which translates to six players with 45 points or more this season. The same five players combine for 30 power play goals this season. Aleksander Barkov is the team’s face-off horse with 975 total though only 48.5% result in wins. Jussi Jokinnen is looking good for the Panthers with a team high 38 assists for 53 points on the season. Derek MacKenzie doesn’t hesitate to make his presence known. Look for him to clash with Tanner Glass in a battle for hits if he is well enough to play. MacKenzie has a team high of 143 hits followed closely by Erik Gudbranson with 141 hits. Both players have day-to-day statuses due to injury. The Panthers have other players who don’t shy away from physical play, though not many who are willing to get in front of the puck. Dmitry Kulikov received credit for 106 blocks coming into tonight’s game. Alex Petrovic is no stranger to the sin bin; he’s got 90 penalty minutes this season. You will hear the name Aaron Ekblad mentioned frequently. He’s strong on and off the puck and has a good balance between his offense and defense abilities. Equally balanced is Barkov with 23 goals and 23 assists. Vincent Trocheck scores, assists, and does all the little things to get himself on the board his 22 goals for 49 points and 120 hits are proof of that.
Al Montoya gets the nod tonight. His 2.04 goals against average and .925 save percentage are solid numbers. He’s only faced 503 shots in 21 games this season. He is a solid backup who posted a 4-1 victory over Montreal in his last outing.
What to expect:
Expect a fast paced game. The Panthers posses the puck and cycle well. They have a very solid all around type of game and will make the Rangers pay for any mistakes. If the Rangers want to win they have to play a full 60 minutes tonight and cannot sit back on a lead. They have to put the puck on net and get bodies in front of Montoya. If he sees the puck he will stop it.