Rangers Day Preview: Vancouver Canucks – 2/27/22
The New York Rangers will play the second of two straight games against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night. They haven’t played their best hockey in their first two games after the All-Star break – a 2-1 shootout win over the Boston Bruins on Feb. 15 and a 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings from Detroit on February 17. The Rangers improved their game in the next two games – a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 20 and a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Feb. 24. shutout against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 26.
The Canucks are coming off a dominating 7-1 loss to division rival Calgary Flames on Feb. 24. 1 against the Nashville Predators. They remain at the heart of a tight Pacific Division as they are only ten points behind the Flames, who are in first place. With that said, let’s take a look at some scenarios for each team ahead of tonight’s game.
2 Scenarios: Vancouver Canucks (25-22-6)
Miller was a top contributor in February
JT Miller, a potential trade contender at Deadline, has played excellent for the Canucks this month. He has points in six of the eight games his team has played tonight against Rangers. He also has multi-point games in four of his last five games.
During the month of February, he scored five goals and provided eight assists for a total of 13 points in eight games. The 28-year-old has 20 goals and 37 assists in 51 games for Vancouver in 2021-22. After this season, Miller has one more year left on his current contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
There are rumors that the former Ranger would be sent back to New York among his possible destinations. He’s still at the peak of his career and would give the Canucks a lot in return if he was dealt with by March 21. However, the next few weeks will determine whether they decide to be sellers before the deadline given that they are only three points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
Managing Director (GM) Patrik Allvin would like to keep Miller rather than trade him based on recent comments he made: “As for JT – I’ve said this before – I’ve been impressed with the the way he plays, the way he cares. And I think he’s probably since I’ve been here, the most consistent player. I think that’s probably something that we plan on as a team, to sit down together this summer and see which guys are entering the final year of their deals. We want to see where they are and their mindset and what they want to do and if there’s a fit here .
Miller could likely fit into the Canucks’ future given his age and general fit with the team. Vancouver has a good core of players beyond the native of East Palestine, Ohio in Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and Conor Garland. Horvat and Miller are expected to be UFAs at the end of 2022-23, and Boeser will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of this season.
How the Canucks perform over the next few weeks will begin to determine the makeup of the franchise for the next few years. Vancouver has played much better since head coach Bruce Boudreau was named to the role in December. The team also showed they had the potential to qualify for the playoffs.
Could the Maple Leafs acquire Miller before the trade deadline?
According to Elliotte Friedman, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that could suit Miller. “If (Kyle) Dubas is going to be able to use his LTI space, I think that’s going to make things really interesting for him. I’m on the JT Miller train…to Toronto.
Friedman commented further on Sportsnet radio regarding Miller’s match with the Maple Leafs: “I don’t know if the Maple Leafs will be able to do that, but I think it’s definitely a possibility. I think Miller would be perfect for them.
Acquiring Miller would make Toronto an offensive juggernaut with Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander all likely on the same franchise as the Canucks center. Vancouver will have its share of interested suitors for him in the coming weeks. A particular trade offer for him may be too good for Allvin to pass up when considering the future of the franchise besides the present.
2 Scenarios: New York Rangers (33-14-5)
Lafrenière Integrate on the front line
Alexis Lafrenière has done well on the Rangers first line since replacing the injured Kaapo Kakko. Although the former first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by New York isn’t playing his natural left-wing position, he has provided head coach Gerard Gallant with another top-six option. In the long run, the preference is for him to play in the top six given where he was drafted.
Related: Rangers’ Lafrenière deserves to stay on the front line
Gallant recently commented on Lafrenière’s game: “He’s definitely played better hockey in the last 20 games. I really like the way he plays. He’s been competing hard and he wasn’t getting the goals he wanted, but tonight was a big game for him. He’s played better hockey, he’s got more chances, he’s playing a 200-foot game and that’s what we love” (from “Rangers’ Front Line Delivers Revealing Victory Over Capitals”, New York Post02/24/22).
Depending on how Lafreniere continues to progress up the front line with Kakko out of the lineup, Gallant may opt to keep the 20-year-old with Mikka Zibanejad and Chris Kreider for the majority of games. New York has been looking for better production at the right-hand top-six position for most of 2021-22. If the native of St-Eustache, Que., can continue to create offensive chances and produce first-line goals and assists, general manager Chris Drury might not feel as much urgency to acquire another winger. right before the deadline.
Morgan Barron replaces Filip Chytil
Morgan Barron, who filled a reserve role for Rangers this year, had another opportunity to contribute to the squad as Filip Chytil was unavailable to play in the win over the Capitals. The 23-year-old center was on the third line with Greg McKegg and Julien Gauthier. Gallant commented on the performance of the line and Barron in particular after the Feb. 24 match: “They created chances, no doubt they had two or three good chances. I thought he actually scored the short side there, but he played well. He skated well and had a few good bumps” (of ‘Rangers’ Morgan Barron comes in big in place of sick Filip Chytil, New York Post02/24/22).
Barron hasn’t had much time with the Rangers on a regular basis this season as he has played more often for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). Gallant added what the Halifax, NS native can bring to the Rangers: “He played in some games and we liked what he did. He was a called and sent down and up guy. A young player who I think can skate well, he’s been training a lot for us lately. So keep doing what he was doing when he was playing, he did a really good job when he played those games. He’s a big guy who can skate really well and we want to see him. Although he hasn’t contributed much offensively, the second-year forward is an option to get into the bottom six when needed.
The Rangers continue to keep pace with the Carolina Hurricanes, Penguins and Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. It remains to be seen if they will make a big acquisition before the deadline, like trading for Miller. Trading for a good forward like the former Ranger would make it clear they intend to win the Stanley Cup in the next two seasons. Gallant has made quite a difference for the organization this year by making it a contender to win the Metro in 2021-22.
Matt covers the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils and has previously contributed content on the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. For interview and podcast requests, follow Matt on Twitter which appears at the end of his articles.