New York Rangers are a hard team to figure out this season

ByJoe McDonald ESPN logo
Thursday, January 5, 2017

What do you need to know about last night's big stories? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best. This is where we say, "Morning, Joe."

Confusing Rangers: The New York Rangers have this Jekyll-and-Hyde persona, which makes you wonder exactly what type of team this is and how it will end the season. After one of their worst losses of the season to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, the Rangers responded with an impressive 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist started both games and it was important for him to get back in there so quickly; he finished with 30 saves in the win, his 17th of the season. Puck possession needs to improve and that begins in the faceoff dot for New York. Like so many teams, the Rangers could use help on defense and not leave it all on the shoulders of Lundqvist and fellow netminder Antti Raanta.

Jacked for world juniors: You talk to any NHLer who played in the world junior championship and, to a man, they will all agree it was one of the high points of their respective careers. Players are honored to represent their country during the under-20 tournament. It's such an honor, NHL teams will often allow roster players to leave the team and play for their country. And it's a great tournament. It might not draw the attention of fans outside the hockey world, but die-hard fans pay close attention. Team USA and Team Canada each won their semifinal games and now the two hockey powers will face off in the gold medal game Thursday night at Bell Centre in Montreal. Seven games are on the NHL schedule Thursday night, but the world juniors will be on every television in every NHL locker room. Make sure to tune in because it won't disappoint. It won't be long before you see many of these players in the NHL.

Schmidt will be missed: Boston Bruins Hall of Fame player, captain, coach and general manager Milt Schmidt passed away Thursday. He was 98. I was fortunate to visit with Milt at his home in December 2015 after he officially became the oldest living former NHLer. It was an incredible afternoon. We talked hockey and life. Before our visit, which fellow Bruins HOFer John Bucyk was kind enough to arrange, I made sure to be prepared because I knew Schmidt was a sharp man with a remarkable memory. He began his pro career with the Providence Reds of the AHL in 1936-37, so I asked him who the goalie of that team was. He quickly answered, correctly, "Paddy Byrne." He is so well respected by everyone in the Bruins' organization. Rest in peace, Milt Schmidt.

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