I had a chance to get some questions answered by Mike Murphy (Dig Deep) over at Blueshirt Banter. Read on to find out what's going on with Rick Nash, and how the Panthers can win tonight's tilt.
In preparation for tonight's matchup, I had an opportunity to quiz Blueshirt Banter all-star Mike "Dig Deep" Murphy five questions.
Kevin Kraczkowski (LBC): Henrik Lundqvist is the number one guy, but Cam Talbot (5-1-0, .949, 1.32) looks fantastic. Where did he pop out from?
Mike Murphy (BSB): Talbot, 26, was an undrafted free agent that the Rangers signed back in 2010. He played his college hockey at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (yes, you read that right). Talbot has been solid during the past three seasons in the AHL but, for whatever reason, he started this season 4-0-1 with the Hartford Wolfpack and after very shaky play by Martin Biron the Rangers called him up. Talbot has taken this opportunity and is certainly making the most of it as displayed by his record and his stats. The Rangers have an outstanding goaltending coach in Benoit Allaire who must be credited with not only helping Henrik Lundqvist in becoming Henrik Lundqvist but also in bringing out the very best in Talbot. Rangers’ fans are very excited about Talbot and what they could have with him. Having two outstanding goalies is a problem you really want to have… unless you’re the Vancouver Canucks.
Kevin: Rick Nash is still just 29-years-old. Are his best days already behind him?
Mike: I don’t think it is fair to say that his best days are really and truly behind him but there’s no denying that he is no longer in the "prime" of his career based on how most NHL players regress. The biggest concern for Nash is staying healthy which has been an issue for him since he became a Ranger. Will he ever consistently dominate games and be the best player on the ice almost every night in the way he was during his first few years of hockey in Ohio? I don’t think so, but he can still be an offensive force and is still very much a star power forward in the league. Nash has less responsibility with the Rangers than he did with the Blue Jackets and it seems that he might be enjoying not having the burden of a letter on his chest.
Kevin: The Rangers seem to make their money with defense. Who's the standout on the blue line?
Mike: By now everyone knows who Ryan McDonagh is and just how good he’s become (thanks Bob Gainey!) and he is really and truly the stud of the Rangers blue line. McDonagh has always been an exceptional skater and a defender but it looks like he is starting to add a little bit more offense to his game. Just a quarter of the way into the season McDonagh already has five goals (including a gift from Jonathan Quick) and seven assists. McDonagh has been excellent and it is starting to look like he might be skating for USA in the Sochi Olympics. On a team that has two former All-Star defensemen (Marc Staal and Dan Girardi) Ryan McDoangh, at just 24 years of age, is without a doubt the best defenseman on the team.
Kevin: New York started out 3-7, but have turned it on and won nine of their last 13 contests to climb above .500. Are the pieces in place to bring the hardware back to NYC?
Mike: No. From what we’ve seen from the team so far I sincerely doubt they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run. I might upset Rangers fans in saying this, but I can’t see this team getting past the real contenders of the East like Pittsburgh and Boston. Right now the team should be focused on simply making the playoffs and trying to take advantage of the crappy teams in the Metropolitan Division. If the Rangers do make the playoffs and they stay healthy they can beat anyone with Lundqvist in net but the team really needs to find offensive depth and to have consistent contribution from their big forwards… and so far that simply hasn’t been happening this season.
Kevin: Hypothetical question. The Panthers defeat the Rangers tonight: what went wrong for New York?
Mike: So… I am supposed to come up with excuses for the Rangers here? No worries, I have become very good at this. Firstly, I would blame the team suffering the wear and tear of the road trip they are on. Secondly, I’d blame Michael Del Zotto because lately he seems to be responsible for everything that is wrong with the team. Thirdly, I’d blame the Rangers power play (it is wildly inconsistent) and Henrik Lundqvist. A reckless and ruthless faction of the Rangers’ fanbase has started to suggest that the Rangers play better when Lundqvist is sitting on the bench. They are silly people and we don’t like to talk about them very much. Fourthly, I’d like to blame Lion-O from the Thundercats.
LBC would like to thank Mike for his complete and well-informed answers. For more Rangers, check out Blueshirt Banter
, and check back here throughout the day (and the season) for all of your Panthers news.