Time: 7:00pm ET
Place: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket, 1270 AM
Ten games to go and this one feels similar to a game just 12 days ago on March 7th when the Red Wings came into a game with the New York Rangers on an eight-game losing streak. Behind a good game from their top line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha, along with yet another good game from Jimmy Howard against his boyhood team, the Red Wings pulled out the 3-2(SO) victory in that one. Fast forward to today. After than game the Wings went on a four-game losing streak before Jonathan Bernier and Athanasiou staked them to a 2-1 victory over the other New York team, the Islanders, on Sunday.
Not much has changed for the Rangers since the last meeting. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider are still carrying the offensive load with Jimmy Vesey helping at times. Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, Tony DeAngelo and Neal Poink still lead a blue line that is not the fleetest of foot but understands positioning well in front of their future Hall of Fame goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers have some talent but they kind of remind me of where the Red Wings were a few seasons ago when it was painfully obvious they were heading for some pretty lean years.
With the Red Wings there are really three main storylines to follow tonight. The first is the race to 30 goals between Dylan Larkin (27) and Andreas Athanasiou (26). It is very possible both will get there by the season’s end but on a team in need of a bit of fun to lighten up the mood at the end of a pretty dismal season, a friendly competition to be the first Red Wings since the 2008-09 season to score 30 goals could be fun. Second, we have the continued story of Jimmy Howard, the New York Rangers and his insane against them. I know Bernier played extremely well last game and normally I would say he absolutely should start tonight. But when you have a goalie with a career .948 save percentage and a sub two goals against average in 15 career games against one team it is almost impossible not to play them every time against that team. Third but certainly not least you have Taro Hirose, the second of the two college free agents signed by the Red Wings a week ago, looking to make his NHL debut tonight. Of the two signed (Hirose and Ryan Kuffner), Taro may be the more interesting one. Beyond the fact he played his college hockey down the road a bit at Michigan State, he has a bit more playmaker in him than Kuffner (who is also expected to play tonight) and that is something the Red Wings certainly can use more of going forward. In fact, Coach Blashill compared to Hirose to someone very familiar to Red Wings fans in Gustav Nyquist, stating that while he may not be really fast or strong on the ice he is very smart with the puck and understands how to maneuver around the ice to find open spots and create chances.
On the surface this is just the 72 game in another forgettable season for the Red Wings of late. But look a little closer and there are some fun things that make this game, and the nine after it, worth watching. So sit back tonight, enjoy and LGRW!