The New York Rangers, after finishing well outside of the playoff picture last season, decided to re-tool and get heavier and meaner in the off-season. So far, it’s helping. While signing former Blue Ryan Reaves is not why they’re holding down third place in the Metro, a bit more confidence on the ice isn’t a bad thing.
In the quest to add some grit, the Rangers added Sammy Blais in a deal with the Blues that can only be described as a fleecing. In return for Blais, the Blues were sent Pavel Buchnevich. Buch wound up on a line with fellow Russian Vladimir Tarasenko, and has flourished. So far, in 46 games played, Buchnevich has 19 goals and 27 assists, tied with Tarasenko for second in points and three behind team leader Jordan Kyrou.
Sammy Blais last played a game on November 13th. He left that game early after a collision with P.K. Subban which tore Blais’ ACL. Unfortunately, the Blues won’t be able to play their tribute video to Blais until next season, because this one is done for him.
The Rangers have benefited from goaltender Igor Shesterkin’s continued rise. In 34 games played this season, Shesterkin has gone 25-6-3 with a miniscule 1.95 GAA and a league best .941 save percentage. If the Blues will be seeing him tonight in net remains to be seen, but if they do, the team needs to be prepared to see their recent scoring onslaught tamped down. It’s one thing to take four in a row from Toronto, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Chicago. It’s another to deal with the Rangers’ impenetrable goaltender.
The Blues have been rolling, which is a definite benefit from a relatively unchallenging February schedule. They’re firmly (for now) ensconced in second place in the Central Division, five points up on the Minnesota Wild and 14 points behind the steamroller that is the Colorado Avalanche.