Regarding the Rangers, who enter the Big Boy portion of the schedule when the Caps visit the Garden on Thursday.
1. What must those teams across Major League Baseball and the NFL who routinely sign, trade for and keep known domestic violence offenders be thinking about the Rangers’ dismissal of Tony DeAngelo for, issues?
2. There was some disconnect, was there not, in hearing about all the affection that management, the head coach, and his former teammates have for the defenseman while announcing his summary dismissal from the organization?
3. Perhaps it would be in DeAngelo’s best interests to enter an anger management program as a first step toward NHL re-entry and not merely as a PR maneuver. Verbal outbursts such as the one during the opener were, if not commonplace, then not particularly isolated. DeAngelo is going to need to provide a reason and some cover for an organization to take him on at this point. The Rangers did not take this action because of his social media activity, but rest assured that his history on those platforms is the red flag staring every organization in the face. He might be the most radioactive player in (or not in) the NHL since Sean Avery was waived out of the league in 2011-12.
4. And in addition to everything else, the Rangers and Mika Zibanejad are set up for a contract negotiation this summer in advance of the final season of his deal and prospective 2022 unrestricted free agency, and how in the world is management going to approach this if No. 93 does not turn his year around? Six straight games without a point for No. 93, who has one goal and one assist for the first nine games. After shooting a slightly out of whack 19.7 percent last year (and an entirely out of whack 26.4 percent in recording 23 goals on 87 shots over the season’s final 22 games, though Steve Vickers converted at a 29.6 rate while scoring 29 goals in 1979-80), Zibanejad has scored on one of 30 shots thus far. Parts of Monday were a bit better, Zibanejad appeared to have the puck more often, but the Rangers have no chance if they don’t get a reasonable facsimile of the player No. 93 was in 2019-20. The Rangers’ long-term second center situation is problematic enough. Now imagine if they don’t have a long-term first center. Or maybe better off that you don’t.
5. The Blueshirts are not hurting for organizational depth on defense, but so much of it is rooted in prospects unavailable to the varsity. So while the team waits for Nils Lundkvist, Matt Robertson, Zac Jones, Braden Schneider, et al., there is the matter of at least temporarily replacing three of the seven defensemen on the opening roster. DeAngelo is one. Jack Johnson, sidelined with a groin issue, is two. Brendan Smith, who suffered an upper-body injury when he took the brunt of a first-period open-ice check on Brandon Tanev on Monday, is three. If neither Johnson nor Smith can play Thursday when the Caps visit the Garden, Libor Hajek would presumably get the call to join Anthony Bitetto on the third pair. If another defenseman goes down, though, who would be next? Tarmo Reunanen, maybe? And maybe, big picture, it would serve the Rangers just as well to get extended looks at Hajek and Reunanen. According to our best information, the Blueshirts are not in the hunt for St. Louis’ apparently expendable 24-year-old lefty Vince Dunn.
6. So after going 3-4-2 while playing their first nine games against the Penguins, Sabres, Islanders and Devils, four teams who with the Rangers comprise the lower section of the [corporate name deleted] Eastern division, the Blueshirts will play 10 of their 11 remaining games in February against the upper crust. There will be four against the Bruins and three against both the Flyers and Caps, with one tossed in against the Islanders. Boston, Philadelphia and Washington are a combined 19-4-6 overall that includes a 13-2-4 record against the lower section.
7. Alexis Lafreniere’s effectiveness has dipped a bit in the last two games. He wasn’t involved or around the puck as often as usual through 40 minutes of Monday’s contest that featured almost no open ice. Hence, No. 13 got only three shifts worth 2:17 in the third and finished with a career low of 9:00 of ice time.
8. Ryan Strome, who was among the NHL leaders for forwards taking minor penalties last season, has corrected the issue. Strome, who took 24 penalties while drawing only seven, has been charged with only one minor so far while drawing two, according to Evolving-Hockey. Pavel Buchnevich leads the team in positive differential, drawing five minors while taking none. Brendan Lemieux, plus-11 last year (18/29), is plus-two (3/5). Artemi Panarin, Filip Chytil and Ryan Lindgren are also plus-two. Chris Kreider, minus-two last year (14/16) is the leader on the wrong side of the chart, with a minus-four (0/4).
9. Kreider, though, is second on the team in hits, his 21 trailing Jacob Trouba’s 33, per the same website. Phil DiGiuseppe is third with 20. Lindgren has absorbed the most hits with 21, while Lafreniere is next at 19.