Much time has passed and many changes have been made since the last time the Vancouver Canucks faced the New York Rangers. It was a thrilling affair back on November 2nd at Rogers Arena that featured a remarkable 3rd period penalty killing sequence with acrobatic saves from Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko and a wild OT game winner from JT Miller.
Vancouver prevailed 3-2 under head coach Travis Green to improve its record 4-6-and-1.
That young Rangers team the Canucks defeated has steadily matured and gotten better as the season has progressed. The Broadway Blueshirts love playing in the “bright lights, big city” environment, with one of the NHL’s top home records, 17-4-and-3 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are 33-14-and-5 overall for 71 points, good for 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins beat the Rangers Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh 1-0 to hop over them in the standings by a point. They New Yorkers might be a little ornery.
“Very much like Tampa they’ve got stars at every position,” Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said Sunday afternoon. “They could have, arguably, this year’s best goalie (Igor Shesterkin), they have a Norris Trophy defenceman (Adam Fox), they have numerous forwards that are near the top in scoring with (Mika) Zibanejad, to (Chris) Kreider, to (Artemi) Panarin. Every line they throw out at you, you’ve got something to fear, they have toughness and size with (Ryan) Reeves and company, so it’s one of these teams that just don’t have a weakness.”
There you have it. But Boudreau heaped similar praise on a Calgary Flames club that rolled into Vancouver on Thursday on a ten-game winning streak and got whipped 7-1 as the Canucks responded to the challenge. They’ll need a similar step up this evening.
“We’ve gotta go again, we’ve gotta have a really good start,” Miller said. “These guys played yesterday so we want to get out and try to start dictating the play in the first period. We have to make sure we stay disciplined once again and make sure when our power play gets the opportunity we’re creating momentum for the team.”
The man advantage has been much improved for the Canucks recently. The power play went 3-for-7 against the Flames and has clicked 8 times its last 28 chances (28.7%) over its last seven games. The Rangers meanwhile have been more consistent during the course of the season on special teams, ranked 4th in the NHL at 25.9% on the power play and seventh best on the penalty kill at 83.2%.
Miller and his teammates will be jacked up to play at MSG, as are most teams. He’s very familiar with the experience and the energy, having spent the bulk of his first six NHL seasons with the Rangers. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2018 trade deadline. He ‘grew up’ a Ranger under head coach Alain Vignault.
“Lot of great times here, drafted here (1st-round, 15th overall, 2011), started my journey in the NHL here so I’ll always have a special place for this organization and it’s always easy to get up to go play games at the Garden.”