0

WGD #17: Three things to watch for against the Rangers

The Red Wings get their first change of beat this season, playing the New York Rangers on NBCSN on Wednesday Night Rivalry. The NHL’s marquee matchup of the night (in terms of advertisement) is shaping up to be more of a tank bowl, if anything else. These two Original Six teams are among the worst in the NHL. Take a quick look at the underlying statistics and the argument can be made these two teams have been the two worst teams in the league this season.

On a more optimistic note, the Red Wings and Rangers typically have very entertaining games. Under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, who knows how this one plays out.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Patrik Nemeth
PATRIK NEMETH
Filip Hronek
FILIP HRONEK
Dennis Cholowski
DENNIS CHOLOWSKI
Dylan McIlrath
DYLAN MCILRATH
Joe Hicketts
JOE HICKETTS
Madison Bowey
MADISON BOWEY

In a controversial move, Dylan McIlrath is subbing into the lineup after being called up yesterday. Trevor Daley has been moved to injury reserve and Alex Biega is the 7th defenseman. McIlrath, who was originally drafted by the Rangers, was brought up to infuse some toughness into the lineup. Jeff Blashill noted the team hasn’t been physical enough, and while I’m inclined to agree, I don’t think bringing up an AHL level talent is the smartest move.

McIlrath will get some reps on the penalty kill and most likely on the second or third pair. His partner for the full game is still unclear. At 6’5” 236, he is Detroit’s biggest defensemen listed for tonight.

It goes without saying, Danny DeKeyser can’t come back from injury any sooner.

New York Rangers

Mika Zibanejad is out with a neck injury. That’s a huge loss for the Rangers, as Zibanejad has emerged as a top-line center. Called-up as a roster spot replacement in Filip Chytil. The 2017 first rounder is an exciting pivot who has spent parts of the season in the AHL.

In terms of new names, well, there are plenty. GM Jeff Gorton had a handful of splashes this offseason. They drafted Kaapo Kakko second overall in this past June’s draft, Jacob Trouba and Brendan Lemieux were brought over in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets, and Artemi Panarin signed long-term as the big fish in free agency.

Three Thoughts

1.) Howard vs. Lundqvist

Neither Jimmy Howard nor Henrik Lundqvist have been particularly good to start the year. The former currently boasts a .889 save percentage, the latter with a .906 save percentage. But if you’ve seen any Red Wings-Rangers games from the past two or three years, you’ll know these two always steal the show.

In 16 career starts against the Rangers, Howard owns a .948 save percentage. In many of those instances from recent years, Howard has single-handedly kept Detroit in those games. Looking at Lundqvist’s career against Detroit, “The King” has also been spectacular. However, he hasn’t been playing a whole lot as of late, being the backup for the past three games.

2.) McIlrath and Toughness

Its only the first week of November and we’re already seeing names like McIlrath draw into the lineup. Yikes.

The reasoning behind the call up, as previously mentioned, is to add toughness. After Dylan Larkin fought Nashville’s Ryan Ellis on Monday Night, it was clear Blashill was not happy things have already come to that. You certainly do not want to see Larkin drop the gloves, but at the same time, adding McIlrath seems like a knee-jerk reaction to a one off moment.

A lot of the frustration Larkin showed in his scrap with Ellis, presumably, is the result of losing 11 of their last 12 games. Want to avoid Larkin from fighting? Win some games. I don’t think McIlrath is the potential fix to winning more games.

3.) Rangers Poor Depth

The Rangers certainly added some star power, will aforementioned names like Kakko, Panarin, and Trouba. But the primary reason for their early season struggles has been their depth.

Our old friend in Brendan Smith is playing forward on the fourth line, along with Michael Haley and Gregg McKegg. That might be the worst fourth line in the entire NHL. The lack of depth has certainly cost them now that Zibanejad is sidelined, having to play Ryan Strome on the top-line.

That should play in Detroit’s favor. At times their defense has looked overwhelmed by their opponents bottom-9 lines. That will give them some more opportunities to play on offense.