The Rangers begin a five-game homestand; the longest of the season that kicks off Sunday afternoon against the Vancouver Canucks (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
Friday night, the Blueshirts completed their first back-to-back games of the season and ended up on the losing end in both games. Just like Thursday night in New Jersey, the Rangers lost 5-2 again in Washington. Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin were on the scoresheet for the Rangers. Mika Zibanejad got assists on both goals to bring his point total to ten points in five games.
Special teams have played a huge role early into the season and the Blueshirts players know they must do a better job in that department.
“We’ve got to find a way to stay out of the box,” said Chris Kreider. The Rangers gave up eleven power plays in the back-to-back set. Despite being tied for the fewest amount of games played, the Rangers rank 17th for the amount of time they’ve spent on the penalty kill. The Rangers average 7.2 penalty minutes per game to start the season.
“We found a way to be in the game,” said Henrik Lundqvist. “I thought we battled really hard, and that’s something to take away from this game.”
Lundqvist made 29 saves on 33 shots but those numbers don’t tell the story. Lundqvist had his best game of the season making many quality saves including saving a penalty shot and a breakaway. Lundqvist also made some sprawling saves to keep the game close. It’s fair to say that the score could have got out of hand without the brilliant play of Lundqvist.
Sunday afternoon, the Rangers start a homestand where they will look to snap a three-game losing streak. On Saturday afternoon, the Canucks were shutout by MacKenzie Blackwood and the New Jersey Devils. Now the Canucks have under 24 hours to get ready for the Rangers. The young Canucks are led by a trio of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and newly named captain Bo Horvat. The Canucks also signed veteran defender Tyler Myers in free agency. Myers has three assists on the season and plays top minutes in Vancouver. The Canucks enter the game averaging the fourth-fewest goals against. Former Ranger forward, J.T. Miller who was acquired in an offseason trade, leads the Canucks in scoring with 8 points.
With Thatcher Demko getting the start in New Jersey, Jacob Markstrom will likely get the start for the Canucks. Markstrom was granted a week of absence after being allowed to attend to family matters. This would be Markstrom’s first start in over a week.
The Rangers won’t announce their starting goalie until either head coach David Quinn’s pregame press briefing or until warmups. If Lundqvist gets the nod, he has had Vancouver’s number recently. In his last eleven starts against the Canucks, Lundqvist is 9-2 with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. Alex Georgiev has never faced the Canucks in his career.
In their last meeting in March, the Canucks won 4-1, but the big story was the Rangers receiving two match penalties. Kreider and Brendan Lemieux were each assessed a game misconduct. Both will be extra careful when they play the Canucks on Sunday.
With five games over the next ten days at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts schedule will keep them busy.