NHL Lockout: How Canceled Games Affect the NY Rangers
This move affects a total of 82 games, starting from the opener on October 11th.
It is unclear just yet if this is the only cancellation, or if there are more to come.
This move has undeniable consequences on the Rangers and the start of their season. But besides the fact of losing games, and losing chances to watch the team play, this cancellation might have some hidden benefits for the Blueshirts.
Read on to find out why.
Road Trip Slashed
The Rangers were set to start the season on the road. The first eight games were to be played away from Madison Square Garden.
Now, due to the cancellation, five of those games have been canceled. Now, the Rangers have only three away games to start the season.
This is a nice result of the cancellation. Starting the season on the road, especially for the whole month of October, can have a lot of unintended consequences on the team. Besides fatigue, it's just harder to win in opposing buildings.
The Rangers would have started on the West Coast—first in Los Angeles, then in San Jose—before flying back East. There would have been a one-day turnaround between the game against the Sharks, on the 15th, and the game against the Devils, on the 17th.
The Rangers can now avoid all of this. They can avoid a potentially disastrous start of the season. Instead of eight road games, it's now a much more manageable three, and the furthest they have to travel is to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes. Not a bad trade-off.
Henrik Lundqvist is the backbone of the Rangers. They will go as far as they take them.
The cancellation of five games serves as extra rest for the star goaltender. He was undoubtedly taxed in the playoffs—he played in 20 hard-fought games. Now, he has a little bit more of a chance to rest.
Of course, there's a chance he could play in his native Sweden, which would make this argument moot. As of September 21st, he had not made up his mind.
Lundqvist played in 62 games last season, the fewest since his rookie season. It led to a sparkling season, with a 1.97 goals against average and a .930 save percentage, numbers that finished with a Vezina trophy.
The presence of Martin Biron has allowed him to take some time off, and the results speak for themselves. These five cancelled games, while bad for the fans, might help Lundqvist stay fresh and have another top season.
Marian Gaborik is out until at least December with a torn labrum. That's a big blow for a team that has been starved for scoring.
Of course, now that the first five games of the season are cancelled, it's five less games that Gaborik will miss. Instead of potentially missing 22 games through the end of November, he will now miss 17. It doesn't seem like much, but it's pretty big.
In a five game stretch in late December last year, Gaborik scored seven goals and had eight points. Those points were part of a five game winning streak for the Rangers.
The Rangers are a better team when Gaborik is at his best. He was hurt in the playoffs; his performance was affected and the Rangers really struggled to score towards the end.
Michael Sauer was beginning to establish himself as one of the Rangers' best defenseman, before a vicious hit by Dion Phaneuf left him concussed. That was in December, and he did not play the rest of the season.
Rangers coach John Tortorella says that Sauer is still struggling in his recovery: [via USA Today]
"Michael has not responded that well, I'll be quite honest, and I do not think you'll see him at the beginning of the season," Tortorella told fans Sunday at a dog-walking event he set up to raise money for the Westchester Humane Society and area shelters. "That's a big hole for us. Michael played very well for us, and we certainly missed him during the playoff run. I think it's going to be a little bit of time before Michael resumes his career."
That's unfortunate news for Sauer, and unfortunate news for the Rangers. With Sauer, the Rangers have incredible depth at defense. Their defense corp would be:
That's a formidable group, as a Tortorella intimated, it hurt them in the playoffs.
Five games might not be the difference between an injured and healthy Sauer. But it might be the difference between him playing this season and not. Sauer was going to miss the beginning of the season anyway; but now, he might not miss as many games as we would've without the cancellation.
Of course, it is too soon to say how Sauer will continue in his recovery. But if he can have the extra five games, it could see him back a bit sooner.
Chris Kreider burst onto the scene in the playoffs, breaking the NHL record for most goals (five) before playing a regular season game. He looked like a future star.
And now, he'll be playing in the AHL, at least until the lockout is over. While it might seem like a step down for the young sensation, it might not be. If anything, it could be beneficial.
Kreider now has the chance to make some mistakes, without the intense scrutiny and pressure of the New York spotlight. He can focus on honing the weaker parts of his game—defense, awareness, etc.
It can be a crucial development period, and now he'll have almost a month's worth of games to continue to improve his play.
This is a win-win for Kreider and the Rangers. He can make some mistakes, but do so without costing the big club. And when the lockout is over, his game will be polished, and he could become a top scorer.