The New York Rangers stole a game in Minnesota last night, as the resilient Rangers erased a 3-1 deficit in the 3rd period. They were able to score a late goal to tie the game up and force overtime. There wasn’t a goal scored in overtime, but Artemi Panarin, by maybe bending the rules scored the winner in a shootout. It sure looked like Panarin pulled the puck back to fool out Alex Stalock in net. The puck always has to be moving forward or to the side on a shootout attempt. If it goes backwards, then the goal shall be called off. That didn’t happen, though, and the Rangers may have gotten away with one there.
The Rangers were able to move to 29-23-4 and 62 points on the season. If this were the Pacific Division we’d be talking about the Rangers in contention for the division. However, they’re stuck in a very good Metropolitan, and all 62 points gets them is next to last. The Devils are the only team that have less points than the Rangers in the division. That said, the Rangers are on the right track and are likely going to be a playoff team within the next two years. This wasn’t expected to be a playoff year for the Rangers. They are certainly heading in a direction that will get them there soon, though.
This wasn’t supposed to be a playoff year for the Blue Jackets either, but they may be going there anyway. The Blue Jackets were in action last night, as they allowed a 2-1 lead to get away from them. It was a tough loss for the Blue Jackets in overtime, but that point they were able to land might end up being important. Columbus owns a healthy record of 30-17-11 and are currently in a tie with the Flyers at 71 points each. The Blue Jackets and Flyers would be going to the playoffs as wildcard teams if the playoffs started today.
With the talent that the Blue Jackets lost in the offseason, there was concern that they weren’t going back to the playoffs this season. John Tortorella has this team playing with house money down the stretch, and just like last season in the first-round versus the Lightning, they have nothing to lose. Elvis Merzlikins has played like a goaltender with nothing to lose this season. The No. 3 goaltender on the depth chart last season behind Sergei Bobrovsky and Joonas Korpisalo, Merzlikins looks like one of the best goaltenders in the league since taking over for the injured Korpisalo. The Blue Jackets have a really good problem to have once Korpisalo returns. Head below for our free Rangers vs. Blue Jackets pick.
N.Y. Rangers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Betting Odds:
Rangers vs. Blue Jackets Prediction:
John Tortorella sent out Matiss Kivlenieks to the crease last night in Buffalo and saved Merzlikins for tonight. Kivlenieks did not have it working on Thursday night, as he allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for a 0.852 save percentage. The defence played well enough to win, but the backup goalie did not carry his own weight in Buffalo. Merzlikins is scheduled to get the nod against the Rangers this evening. It’s his first start since a solid performance against the Lightning. February 2 was the last day that he’s allowed more than 2 goals in an outing. Note that five of his previous ten starts has resulted in a shutout. Merzlikins enters Friday night with a 2.19 GAA and 0.93 save percentage. He’s been leaky on the road, but nearly unbeatable at home.
Merzlikins has posted a razor sharp 1.24 GAA and 0.96 save percentage in 12 games at Nationwide Arena. In 12 games at home, Merzlikins has allowed more than 2 goals only twice. He has sure come a long way since the 7 goals he gave up in his season debut against the Penguins on October 5. The nerves are out of the way and he’s locked in. Thanks to his hot hand, the Blue Jackets are 2nd in the NHL with just 2.43 goals against per game. That number sinks to 2.06 goals per game when they’re at home in Columbus. They lost offensive firepower in the offseason, but when the defence is playing that well, the wins are still going to pile up.
The Blue Jackets sport a solid home record of 18-10-3. Conversely, the Rangers have been mediocre at 13-11-2. Despite the win last night in Minnesota, they were less than 1:30 from getting a loss instead of the win in a shootout. Igor Shesterkin, who is the No. 1 guy for the Rangers in net, may miss tonight because of an ankle injury. If he cannot go, Henrik Lundqvist and his 3.12 GAA and 0.907 save percentage will get the call. After the come from behind win last night, I’m not expecting the Rangers to be thrilled to stay on the road and play a physical Blue Jackets team. The Blue Jackets will be glad to be home after the trip to Buffalo yesterday. The Rangers are trending up, but Merzlikins has been money in the bank at Nationwide Arena.