As for the Rangers, who continue the week of the Ye Olde Patrick section with hats in the park on Tuesday before the Penguins hit Broadway for a double feature on Thursday and Saturday.
1. Here, the Blue Shirts battle it out for third place in the division and try to make it to the top before the playoffs as they scour the world like a team emerging from training camp looking for an identity.
2. When I see Patrick Kane, whose game is as unrecognizable as the uniform he wears, I flash back to late March 2014 giving Marty St. Louis a long face wash at a practice track in Calgary while talking about playing sports. He went scoreless in his first 13 matches as a goalkeeper.
Changing colors after age is not as easy as changing to a new top. But Kane, who was conspicuously down for his first 10 days in the blue, has to stop being so different. Easier for me to say than to do #88, probably, but management didn’t move heaven and earth to bring him here so Ken could just be another guy in the chorus line.
Of course, Kane’s reunion with Artemi Panarin was the way to go at first. Their relationship formed the initial impetus for the Rangers to even conjure up the move. But there may have been a good reason why Streisand and Redford didn’t try to recreate the chemistry they had on “The Way We Were.”
Note: St. Louis scored 1 goal in 19 regular season games with the Blues before changing the narrative in the race to the Cup Final. The goal was recorded shorthand.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko, who for 10 seconds was the big fish lapped by GM Chris Drury, seemed to find his footing playing on the right side of Mika Zibanejad. You wouldn’t want to keep moving the veteran.
But I think the best combination of the Rangers would be Alexis Lafrenière on the left with Zibanejad in the middle and Kane on the right. You’ll have a restless Retriever and Mortgage Controller who looks ready and eager to take on more responsibility on one side, a Master Playmaker on the other and The Shooter in the middle.
I finally get a legitimate look at Panarin on Filip Chytil’s left wing with Tarasenko on the right. Chittell and Panaryn had only six games with their linemates, with 96:07 going five-to-five in ice time, as the Rangers scored seven goals and allowed three.
Then Chris Kreider, Vincent Troshek and Capu Kaku in a straight line forward unit that has the ability to play smashmouth hockey and control the puck under the hash marks to dull the opposition.
These are the top nine I’d like to see this week…and the next…and even the week after that. Stability is needed here. This will need some time to conceive.
4. I’m not sure what exactly is going on with Adam Fox, but the “This is unlike Adam” moments have been happening at an alarming rate. The wrong turns and decisions — familiar to mortals, shocking from him — began at the end of the Blueshirts’ Western Canadian tour, about a week before trusted companion Rian Lindgren fell.
Over the past 11 matches, Fox has scored seven goals and 13 goals into the net. Over the past five years, there has been one for and seven against. Fatigue may be a factor. Perhaps there’s a physical issue affecting the No. 23’s game. Lindgren’s absence has clearly been one of late, even with temporary teammate Niko Mikkola playing his best game as point guard on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
If anyone can be excused for their funk, it’s Fox, whose shoulders were always wide enough to put his team on his back. However, the Rangers can’t afford to keep that going any longer.
5. The distribution of power play time has been fair since Gerard Gallant splits his staff into a pair of equal state branches with a 10 to 40 second gap between IA and 1B spanning seven advantages and five for four, while he rotates starts. It’s all well and good.
But when that means keeping Zibanejad and his caretaker on the bench voluntarily half the time, this is where the flaw in all this strategic fairness is exposed as overthinking.
6. Trocheck in Pittsburgh on Sunday — and for much of the past two weeks — is exactly the player the Rangers faced as a Hurricane in the second round last year, and thus, targeted as a free agent.
There’s invaluable sting in Trocheck, who not only refused to back down on Evgeni Malkin, but upped the ante on one of the dirtiest and historically underrated stars in the league. The worse it got, the more No. 16 seemed to be in his element.
The Rangers are going to need a lot of that from just about everyone in order to survive the Eastern Gauntlet.
7. This is the part where I’d say the Rangers also need more Jacob Trueba in them rather than needing more Jacob Trueba, who is one of the unique physical strengths in the NHL.
8. Jimmy Veese and Barclay Goudreau have been among the Rangers’ most effective forwards for almost the entire season while playing in the lineup.
Now, with the duo teaming up with the speedy and aggravating Tyler Motte, the Blueshirts should have their best fourth playoff streak since 2014, when Brian Boyle and either Derek Dorsett or Daniel Carcillo circled Dom Moore.
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