vs Carolina Hurricanes (Tuesday, January 27, 2009)
The Rangers return from the break to face the Canes, who are second in their division, despite playing nearly .500 hockey (23-20-5).
Carolina went into the All-Star break on a two game winning streak, but had lost five straight prior to that. In January, the Canes are undefeated when giving up less than two goals (5-0), but can’t win when giving up three plus (0-5).
Carolina has scored on the Power Play in seven of their ten games in January, so the Rangers penalty kill (87.6%) will need to be focused in this one.
This seems like one of those games that the Rangers should win, but will let remain too close, and let slip away, but I’m still going to give the edge to the Rangers. Look for Henrik Lundqvist to be sharp, coming off of the All-Star Game.
@ Pittsburgh Penguins (Wednesday, January 28, 2009)
The Rangers are basically facing a mirror image of the Canes, in the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the secong game of this back-to-back. Both teams are under 17 percent on the power play, and under 80 percent on the penalty kill.
One of the only real difference between the two teams is that Pittsburgh gets the majority of their points from two players (Malkin and Crosby with a combined 130 pts), while the Canes take points from whoever can grind them out each night.
The other difference being that the Penguins and Rangers are in the same division, played in the Playoffs last year, and have added four games to their rivalry this year, so there’s the rivalry bit playing into this game. Then again, the last time the Rangers and Penguins played (on NBC), it was about the least emotional game I’ve ever seen.
In the four games played against the Penguins this season, Chris Drury (5) and Scott Gomez (3) lead the team in points, which is good because they are the two forwards who average the most ice time this season. I’ll take the Rangers in the shootout.
@ Boston Bruins (Friday, January 31, 2009)
The Rangers head to Boston Friday to play the number-one team in the East (tied for first overall). The last time these two teams met, the Rangers pulled a victory out of the shootout, in Madison Square Garden. This time, the Bruins have the home-ice advantage, and I think that will make all the difference in this series.
The Bruins are a highly offensive team, forty one more goals than NYR with one less game played, which doesn’t play into the hands of the Rangers’ inconsistent rearguard. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see the Bruins train slowing down here. Their record in January (6-4) isn’t impressive, but I think the All-Star break could rejuvenate their entire team (three players on East All-Stars).
Rangers lose in three periods by my estimation.