USA TODAY Sports
The New York Rangers look to sweep their trip to western Canada when they take on the Flames in Calgary on Tuesday night. It was a great start to the trip on Saturday as the Rangers exploded early on against the Vancouver Canucks en route to a 5-1 victory. Monday night’s contest in Edmonton wasn’t as easy, but New York did what they needed to in order to get the two points. Dan Girardi’s first period shot deflected in off an Oilers defenseman to give the Rangers a 1-0 first period lead and the two teams played a snoozer the rest of the way as Carl Hagelin iced the win with an empty net goal in the 2-0 victory. There wasn’t much offense generated from either club in this one but when Henrik Lundqvist needed to make a save he was able to. It would be easy to attribute the lackluster performance for New York to the fact that it was the second night of a back-to-back, but the loss of Derick Brassard might be just as big of a factory. Brassard is yet another in the growing list of NHL players that has been diagnosed with the mumps and he will miss Tuesday’s game in Calgary after sitting out on Sunday night as well. Brassard has been an extremely important piece for the Rangers this season and his play making ability and the way he can carry the puck into the offensive zone is something that was missing for this hockey club against the Oilers. The good news for New York is that Ryan McDonagh and Lundqvist are starting to look like the players that we’ve come to know in the past, and when you factor in that the slow start the team has gotten off to hasn’t left them in a crippling position, big things could be ahead for New York. With a home-and-home match up against the Carolina Hurricanes coming up this weekend, a victory against the Flames could be what this club needs to put together their first hefty winning streak of the season.
The bloom appears to be falling off the rose in Calgary as the much anticipated difficult stretch for the Flames has begun. This is a club that far exceeded expectations to start the season despite all the analytics saying that the Flames shouldn’t be playing as well as they were. Sunday night’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks became the fifth straight for the Flames. One common theme we’ve seen during the losing streak is that the Flames are having trouble scoring right now. When you factor in that the defense and goaltending is still suspect, and there’s still a lot of young forwards that are learning to play in their own zone, it’s easy to understand that Calgary is going to give up some goals this season. Currently the Flames are 16th in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.62, but it’s hard to see them sustaining even that level. Jiri Hudler continued his strong play and his 12th goal of the season gave the Flames a 1-0 lead early in the second period, but the lack of offense came back to bite them in this one. Chicago would tie the game just over four minutes later and the Blackhawks would score the game winner in the third period to send Calgary to the 2-1 defeat. Calgary’s power play has been good this season but they went 0-for-3 with the man advantage in this one. Jonas Hiller stopped 26 of 28 shots but his record dropped to 9-9-1 this season.
This isn’t going to be an easy one for either club but the Flames have to be desperate after that awful road trip. New York didn’t look impressive in Edmonton and they’re the better team overall but this is going to be another tough one for them with Brassard out of the lineup.