I convinced myself that the Olympics - and thus lack of NHL hockey - meant that I was going to do a whole bunch of prospect updates instead. What resulted was me doing absolutely nothing because I got swamped with other stuff. So my apologies there, but I'll do my best to give updates on the most recent games while also giving a sense of how the past few weeks have gone for each player.
One Rangers' prospect who has flown a bit under the radar this season is 2012 second-round selection Cristoval "Boo" Nieves. It's easy to understand why this has been the case for the University of Michigan forward. A sophomore, Nieves had only one goal and seven assists in his first 24 games this season. While there's no pretending that Nieves was having an excellent season, this is also a case where the box score doesn't do a player justice. He was playing much better than his point totals indicated and was having absurdly poor luck with his shooting ; the number of posts Nieves was hitting became a running joke amongst Michigan fans.
Regression to normalcy has started to come for Nieves, though. Last night he scored a goal and added two assists in a 4-3 loss to Michigan State. The goal was arguably the best of his collegiate career, as he dangled through the legs of a defenseman before roofing a backhander over the shoulder of one of the better NCAA goaltenders, Jake Hildebrand. While last night was perhaps his best game of the season, it was just a part of a current hot streak for Nieves, who now has at least one point in six of his last seven games, with two goals and eight assists over that span. I previously predicted a renaissance of sorts for Nieves in the second-half of the season and he looks to be finally hitting his stride. Guys like Duclair and Buchnevich have (rightly) received plenty of hype, but I'd put Nieves right there with them.
You can watch the highlights of Nieves' three-point performance here. Keep reading for a whole lot of other prospect news, including a four-point night for J.T. Miller.
Congrats to Henrik Lundqvist for victory no. 300 for to go along with his 49th shutout, which ties Eddie Giacomin for first all time in Rangers history. Also, Lundqvist now with 300 wins sits one behind Mike Richter for first in that category. Easy win by Lundqvist's standards, who had to be good late with the Red Wings pressuring down 3 goals.
Bit of a slow start again for the Rangers which is the norm for a 12:30 game. Boyle and the fourth line got the Rangers on the forecheck from the beginning against a tired Red Wings side and were awarded with a lead which obviously was never surrendered.
According to Andrew Gross at the Bergen Record, Brad Richards had an x-ray on his left index finger after taking an unpenalized slash to the hand by Eric Staal in the third period last night.
Here's Richards on the injury...
"I don’t think that’s going to be an issue," Richards said. "It’s a bit of a stinger while it happens and, hopefully, tomorrow I wake up a little sore and move on."
After the shift, Richards was seen yelling at the ref and wincing in pain on the bench as he observed the damage to his fingers.
...i'm just waiting to hear the words no Rangers fan wants spoken, "Brad Richards is out for the season." And not because the Blueshirts will lose one of their most consistent scorers, but because he would become ineligible to be amnestied this offseason.
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The New York Rangers (34-26-4) defeated the Carolina Hurricanes (27-27-9) by the score of 4-2, tonight. For a box score, go to Yahoo! Sports.
...last week, with the Rangers dominating the Bruins in the first period, Jarome Iginla changed the momentum of the game after starting a scrum with Marc Staal. Well, I guess Chris Kreider was paying attention, because with the Carolina crowd still buzzing after Skinner's third period penalty shot goal seemingly gave the Hurricanes the lead for good, the Rangers forward purposely bumped defenseman Hainsey into Khudobin after the whistle on the very next shift, which either messed with the goaltender's rhythm or fired up the Blueshirts bench as it completely turned the game in the visiting team's favor.
...so much for Zuccarello having to knock off some rust in his first game back from injury as he was the best Rangers player on the ice.
...i love Ryan Callahan, but no way he makes that pass to Stepan on the game winner.
...speaking of Stepan, with the way his season has gone, I was fully expecting him to shoot that wide.
...while I always expect McDonagh to make an impact on the penalty kill, scoring a short-handed goal in back-to-back games was not what I had in mind.
...quick, someone look it up for me, that had to be the Rangers first empty net goal this season, right?
...is there any chance Vigneault can sub Talbot in for Lundqvist on penalty shots?
...not sure what was more embarrassing the refs missing the blatant boarding on Girardi or the Rangers lack of response to it.
...speaking of the refs, here's exclusive video of Vigneault letting them know how he felt about their performance tonight...
...still lots to cleanup on the defensive end, but, led by McDonagh, they did an outstanding job of limiting the scoring chances from Carolina's skill players.
...when John Moore is skating and jumping into the play offensively, he's a nice little weapon.
...1g, 1a with five shots on goal. Now that's a stat line we need to see more often from Nash.
...with only a month left in the season, winning the special teams battle will be critical to whether the Rangers make the playoffs or not as tonight proved.
...second game in a row the Rangers fought back from deficits to either win or collect points. Resiliency jump started the team back in December and hopefully it's doing the same when it matters most.
...i have to give AV and his staff a ton of credit for not allow the players to get frustrated by the terrible officiating and outstanding goaltending. They remained focused. Stayed with their game plan and it paid off.
...having said that, you saw a little urgency from AV as for one of the few times this season, he tinkered with the lines throughout in an attempt to find some offense. No idea what combinations we might see at practice tomorrow, but I liked St. Louis & Zuccarello forming the Hobbit line for a few shifts.
...off tomorrow then the Red Wings are in town Sunday afternoon.
Steve Zipay at Newsday reports that the Rangers have confirmed that Mats Zuccarello will return to the lineup in Carolina tonight for the first time since fracturing his hand during the Olympics.
...with just 19 games remaining, the Rangers need all hands on deck. I know some fans were looking for some line changes in response to the Rangers lack of offense recently, but AV has been pretty consistent with the lines this season, so expect Zuccarello to be back with Brassard & Pouliot while the other lines will remain the same.
...i'm really excited that Zuccarello will be able to work with fellow smurf St. Louis to help take his game to another level.
It's no mystery that one of the main reasons for the Rangers post Olympic struggles has been the defensive breakdowns, which Alain Vigneault addressed yesterday (via Daily News)...
“I know you’re talking about Klein and Stralsy, to some extent,” Vigneault said. “I do think they both can be a little bit better and they have to be a little bit better. I agree with that. A big part of our game is coming up clean, coming up together and making that first initial pass beating that forecheck. That’s when we’re at our best. That’s when we’re getting something on the rush, and then once we’re in the zone, then we can create a little bit more. But to do that you need that good first pass, and those guys have been a little bit off, and they need to be better (Friday against Carolina).”
...upon Klein's arrival in New York, he instantly solidified the Rangers back end, unfortunately, his game has slipped recently as he's starting to lose puck battles and not as sound with the puck.
...as I mentioned in my Maple Leafs game recap, I thought Stralman stepped up his physical game against Toronto, but his egregious giveaway behind the net basically lost them the game.
...if nothing else, my hope is the Diaz acquisition will serve as a wake-up call, because if these two, as well as J. Moore, don't step-up their game soon they're going to be watching from the press box.
Also yesterday, Vigneault admitted that he's concerned about the team's mindset after losing their captain...