I have mixed feelings on this game. On one hand, the Rangers played a dominant final thirty minutes to the game tonight. They controlled the puck, they potted 4 goals, and they manhandled one of the best home teams in the NHL. On the other hand, they played a stupid, lazy, undisciplined, foolish game for the first 30 minutes that put them in the situation where they HAD to play that kind of a dominating game to finish it off.
So, how does one examine this game? I think you take the game with a grain of salt. You pretty much take it for what it was, the Rangers played a mediocre team, they came out flat, and they rallied to win it. It’s nice, but it’s annoying too. The Rangers are built on being able to play 60 minutes of hockey to win hockey games. Particularly against good teams, this is vitally important. The Rangers have had the benefit of a relatively soft schedule here, the past 2 games have been easy, and the next game against the Habs should be a very winnable game too. But the Rangers are going to need to play better, much better if they want to go far into the playoffs.
I know that’s not what people want to hear this late in the season, particularly coming off of a pretty good stretch here of late, but it’s true. This team is not playing their best hockey right now. They need to get better. Luckily, their magic number to clinch is only 7 points now. Any combination of 7 points won by the Rangers, or lost by the Pens, and the Rangers get 1st in the East. Keep it going boys.
I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I just love the Minnesota Wild jerseys. Green isn’t my favorite color, but those jerseys, they are just…sweet.
Anyways, this was such a strange day for the Rangers. Looking at the Penguins schedule you had to figure tonight was their easiest game of the remaining season, and go figure the Pens lose to the Isles, and the Rangers just barely squeak by the Wild.
The funny thing is, the only thing that the Rangers struggled at tonight, was the thing they can generally be counted on to be great at, killing penalties. The Rangers are an outstanding PK team, tonight they weren’t. It’s rare, but it happens. The thing is, if you just take out the Rangers PK time, they were really good tonight. Minnesota plays hard, but the Rangers were able to withstand their surges by keeping the quality chances down (though they did bend a few times and Henrik was there) and they were able to pot 3 even strength goals to secure a big 2 points.
Why are the 2 points so big? Couple it with the Penguins loss tonight and the Rangers not only control their own destiny, but can actually afford to lose to the Pens in their head to head matchup and STILL control their own destiny, furthermore the Rangers can no longer lose the ROW tiebreaker to Pittsburgh, meaning the Pens will need to overtake the Rangers in points to secure #1, not just tie them (technically the Pens can tie the Rangers in ROW wins, but for that to happen, the Rangers would need to lose out and the Pens to win out, and if they did, they would overtake the Rangers in points anyway). What does all that mean? Basically, the Rangers need 9 more points to secure the top spot in the East no matter what Pittsburgh does. 9 out of a remaining 12 points and the Rangers secure the East. It’s a very doable total with the games the Rangers have left. They play Winnipeg, who is good at home, but still a very beatable team, Montreal, but at home, thankfully, Boston, who we have owned, Pittsburgh, who has owned us, Philly, who we have owned, and the Caps who are a possible first round matchup.
That’s a doable schedule right there. Only game that you’d have to say the Rangers would have trouble in is against the Pens. All the other games, while not being cakewalks, are definitely games the Rangers could, and should win.
I gotta tell you, I think the Rangers probably played a worse game tonight than they did against Buffalo. Luckily, it wasn’t Ryan Miller between the pipes for the Leafs, and the Rangers were able to just barely gut out a win they probably didn’t deserve.
Look, we gotta admit something here. The Rangers are playing pretty poor hockey as of late. Nothing like the team we’ve seen for 95% of this season. They are still playing hard, but, they are also playing DUMB. DUMB hockey, when you don’t have the talent to make up for it, leads to mediocre results. The Rangers haven’t been winning much of late, alternating a few wins here with a loss or 2 there. It’s not good enough. If the Rangers want to actually win a round or 2, they are going to have to get their heads out of their asses and start getting back to what made them successful. So, what was that?
1)Hitting. This is where the Rangers set themselves apart. When this hit hard and often, they push the opposition into forcing plays or doing things too quickly for fear of getting hit. When the Rangers aren’t playing this game, they are what they are, a mediocre talented team with a great goalie who, believe it or not, is human, and sometimes goes into slumps (he picked a bad time for this one), which leads us to..
2)Goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist has to be better. A LOT better. A WHOLE LOT BETTER. There isn’t much else to say. Henrik has seemingly given up 3 or more goals every time you see him out there. It’s not like he’s giving up softies either, he’s just not making great save after great save like we’re used to seeing. The Rangers need to play better, for sure, but Henrik used to be what put us apart from everyone else. Right now, he’s ice cold, and that’s brought this team back down to earth.
3)Patience. The Rangers have been trying to force way too many things in the offensive zone. That’s fine and dandy when you have Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz, Staal, Letang, etc putting pucks in the net seemingly at will. But when you have Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and a bunch of 3rd line type players, you have to be patient. Don’t force plays, let the plays come to you. Play the cycle game, wear out the opposition, block pucks, play defense, and score when you can. Winning a game 2-1 is just as good as winning it 5-4. Rangers used to win games with regularity when they scored 3, right now they are playing such poor defense that they are losing these kinds of games.
Fix those 3 things, and the Rangers will be a helluva lot better with regards to securing first place, than they are now.
Luckily though, the Rangers were able to put up 2 big points on the board. Big because Pittsburgh, amazingly, actually lost a game…in regulation :-O
I know, apparently they are having a holiday in Ottawa thanks to this accomplishment.
So, usually, a win where the Rangers play like crap doesn’t sit well with me because of the way I am wired. It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. But, this one time, I’m going to ignore that, and take the 2 points. Sure, we played like crap, but, you know what, screw the Pens, I want first place.
I always seem to mess up calling the Sabres (Sabers?) the wrong name, so screw it, I’ll just call them Buffalo. So, after spending a nice bit of time complementing John Mitchell, he goes and has himself a disaster of a game, essentially scoring both of Buffalos first 2 goals for them by himself. First he kicks a puck in, a really pretty kick mind you, and then he has just a horrendous turnover leading to Buffalo scoring their second goal. 2 shifts, 2 goals scored, both thanks to Mitchell…for the other team.
The Rangers just didn’t play a good game tonight, and when they had their chances, they just couldn’t bury their shots. Give credit to Buffalo for playing such a good defensive game, and give credit for Ryan Miller who made some great saves, got a bit of luck, and some great play by the players around him. The Rangers gave no such help to Henrik Lundqvist, making turnover after turnover, giving pucks away time and time again. It was just an all around clusterfrak.
Unluckily for the Rangers Mats Zucarello-Aasen probably saw his season end tonight by fracturing his wrist on a good shotblock. The kid has been very good in his time here so far this season, but wrist fractures tend to take a while to feel right, and you have to figure the Rangers will be looking long and hard at Chris Kreider should he become available to play in this lineup.
Shame, the kid was showing us something.
Luckily we have a quick turnaround, right back at it tomorrow!
Ryan Callahan had a pretty damn awesome birthday. The guy scored the game winning, overtime goal. He made a diving all-out-effort play to block a shot, and played his usual never say die, all hustle, guts, effort type game.
But Henrik Lundqvist was better.
Let’s face it, Henrik gave up a soft goal against Zetterberg. It was a dipping whiff of a shot that Henrik should have stopped. Usually I would kill our goalie for giving up a craptastic goal like that. Thankfully though, Henrik was spectacular after that. Always in position, making countless superb saves, keeping the Rangers in a game where they just couldn’t buy a goal despite having countless glorious scoring chances themselves. This game was a little too much track-meet for my liking. The Rangers didn’t hit at all, and it showed in time of possession as the Wings were able to control the play a lot more than the injury depleted team should have been able to. Still though, the Rangers got 2 gigantic points tonight, winning against a team that they haven’t beaten since seemingly the NHL came into existence.
Give a lot of credit to the play of Marc Staal. The former all-star defenseman seemingly turned scapegoat anytime something goes wrong, played an outstanding game on the ice. He was easily the best defenseman on the Rangers, and probably the best defenseman on the ice for either team. He broke up a key 2 on 1 chance for the Wings, and played a lot more like the Staal of last year, easily stripping pucks from forwards and transitioning the plays up to the forwards with ease. The Rangers will need Staal to play more like this as the season goes on, we all know Torts likes to shorten the bench as the games get more important. We will be a lot better off if THIS Staal can play 25-30 minutes a night. Especially paired with Del Zotto who brings a lot of offensive game to this team, as he assisted on the game winning goal, and had a few great setups that weren’t buried. Del Zotto and Staal has a nice ring to it, dontcha think?
I was debating if I should even bother with a writeup right now. For any of you who live down south like myself, you’ll know the pollen counts have been through the roof. I’m sneezing every 4 or 5 seconds for the past hour or so, so it’s really tough to string together coherent thoughts when you’re battling mother nature like most of us down here are.
This was a fun game tonight. I had a good feeling going into it, and I was rewarded by yet another stellar effort by the boys in blue, but this time rewarded with a win, and some lucky bounces of our own. It’s always nice to see Uncle Daddy have a craptastic game here in MSG so our fans can serenade him with the Maaarrrtttyyy chants. I love that. It seriously brings joy to my life to see that man fail. Does that make me a sociopath? Meh, whatever.
Of course, it’s tough not to be a little worried about Henrik Lundqvist, again giving up some soft goals. Well, maybe not soft per-say, but goals Henrik Lundqvist, when he is on top of his game, never has a problem with. On top of the the way pucks are coming off of him makes you think the guy is really fighting it right now. Henrik picked a bad time of year to go into a funk.
I’ve been a doubter of Mats Zucarello-Aasen for a long while, but the kid is slowly proving me wrong. He seems to have improved his skating rather substantially since the last time we’ve seen him, and on top of that, he’s learned how to play the boards a little better. Granted, he’s no Carl Hagelin, but he’s doing a good job against players quite a bit larger than himself. Good for the hobbit, I hope he keeps it up.
A big time un-sung hero of this season has been John Mitchell. I know the guy doesn’t get a lot of credit, seeing as how he’s not putting up good numbers. But for a 4th line guy, he’s got some good hands, some good size, and a great work ethic. I really like him, a lot.
OK, I gotta get to bed, this sneezing is driving me crazy, maybe it’ll stop if I lie down.
Semyon Varlamov was good. Really good. Like about as good Henrik Lundqvist has been at any time this season good. That’s 2 straight games the Rangers have ran into red-hot goaltending and it cost them some points. Tonight in particular the Rangers outplayed the Avalanche by a considerable margin, only to wind up on the wrong score of the final score of the game. The Rangers now know what it’s like for most teams to face Henrik Lundqvist on a night in and night out basis.
You know what guys, it happens. It’s going to happen to every team. This was a game the Rangers should have won. They deserved to win. They didn’t just play well, they played the right way. The worked hard, they generated a ton of scoring chances, and they defended extremely well. Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t to blame, both of the goals scored on him were the result of good plays by Colorado. They got timely scoring, spectacular goaltending, and they won. That’s how the Rangers made the playoffs LAST season. It’s a formula that can work in short bursts, but in the long run, it’s rare that a team can weather that kind of storm for long periods of time. The Rangers just were in that zone where nothing would go in for them. They outshot, outchanced, out hit, out everythinged the Avs. Don’t be angry with this loss, be happy with it. 49 times out of 50 the Rangers get 2 points out of this game. 99 times out of 100 they get at least a point in it. Tonight, zip. Within the context of where the Rangers are right now, it’s a devastating loss, but when you look at it by itself, it’s really not a big deal. I know nobody wants to hear that, but that’s just the cold hard truth. If the Rangers are playing the right way, and tonight they really did, then they win a lot more games than they lose. Tonight, just wasn’t their night.
Let’s see. The Rangers were without Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto, Henrik Lundqvist, and Michael Sauer. The Penguins had won 9 in a row, and are just getting back the best player in the game, Sidney Crosby, and one of the best defenseman in the game, Kris Letang. Seriously, that’s about as crazy an underdog story as you’re going to find. Sometimes, the underdog just loses.
Oddly enough though, I don’t feel this game was as 1 sided as the score indicates. First, we put a puck into our own net. Then, with us trailing 3-2 Marian Gaborik is tripped right in front of the ref and no call is made. I’m sorry, I don’t care if you get the puck or not, that’s a trip, plain and simple. A few seconds later, the puck ends up in the back of our net. The score, had those 2 things not gone against us, could have been easily 2-2 at that point, instead, it’s 4-2. Later it becomes 5-2, and the Rangers have 3 ridiculously easy scoring chances and can’t put the puck home. Mitchell must be asking the hockey gods what he did to displease them, he should have had 2 goals tonight, easy. Not to mention Mats Zucarello-Aasen. So, yeah, you can look at the final score, see it’s a 5-2 loss, and say, wow, the Pens dominated us. That’s just plain and simple not true. Rangers, for the most part, hung right in there. They didn’t play all that badly, especially when you consider the players we didn’t have, and the jolt the Penguins had riding into this one, and the pretty……questionable reffing to boot (Fedotenko takes a flying elbow to the head…no call…what the hell?).
So yeah, we lost. But to me,t his one isn’t really a big time loss. I’d be willing to wager a healthy Rangers team beats the Pens tonight, despite the way the score looks.
I think it’s important to remember the Rangers are the 4th youngest team in the NHL. They have a rookie playing on the first line LW, they have a kid with half a season of experience coming into this year playing on the top defensive pair, and they have another handful of player swith 3 years of NHL experience or less.
And, they’ll, in all likelyhood become even younger next year when likely 2 or 3 of Kreider, Erixon, or JT Miller make the team and guys like Fedotenko, and others go the way of the dinosaur.
This team hasn’t learned to win in the playoffs yet. They haven’t learned how to sustain winning even for a full season. This is basically year 1 of the Rangers, from rebuilding, to becoming winners. Most of us picked them in the 4-6 range coming into this season, they will in all likelyhood finish with one of the 2 best records in the East, and if they played in any other division in the east would have run away with the conference.
Pittsburgh, by the way, is actually the 6th oldest team in the NHL if anyone cares. Theyve won a cup, they have that experience. Don’t be too focused on this loss.
Next year, if the Rangers can get Nash or Parise, will really be the year where I think they go from being a good team, to being a Great team.
The big fear of putting Richards and Gaborik together is this…the Rangers lose offense from multiple lines and have become extremely top heavy. The Rangers were carried by the top line in each of the past 2 games. Not just carried, they pretty much did everything for the Rangers. The top line was in complete beast mode from the drop of the puck. Generating almost all the offense for the Rangers, not just on the board, but the actual chances for the team.
On the flip side, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky, etc have pretty much fallen off the face of the planet which is what I have been really worried about happening if the Rangers did stack the top line. This forces the Rangers into a few scenarios. First, they can play that top line 25-27 minutes a night, which could make them tired out by the time the playoffs are on. Or they could try to play the other lines to draws and have the top line outscore the other teams top line. Either option is not really appealing. Basically, the Rangers are going to need to get way more out of their bottom 9 than they have of late. Getting healthy will help, as Ryan Callahan has been sorely missed. His speed, agitation, hitting, and never say die attitude is huge, as long as he has the jump. He didn’t have it when he came back, so hopefully he will wait till he is 100% (or close to it) before jumping back into the lineup. Rangers can’t be shortsighted here. The game against Pittsburgh is important, but the playoffs are moreso. Don’t rush the captain.
Pretty cool that the Rangers were able to win, pretty definitively, against one of the best 2nd half teams in the NHL, without their captain, without 2 of their top 5 defenseman (including their #1 offensive defenseman) and without their all-world goalie.
Speaking of goaltending. Nobody has been harder on Martin Biron than me the past few months. I want to give him some MAJOR kudos for his effort tonight. This is really the first time this calendar year where I can say, definitively, Biron outplayed the opposing goalie. He was square, and more than that, he felt comfortable out there. I think Biron is the kind of goalie where, you can almost sense how comfortable he is in net just by watching him play. From the moment the puck drop, I felt like the guy had “it”. He was focused, he was sharp, and he was playing his angles all right. None of the goals were his fault, and he made some big stops when the team needed him to make them. The Rangers did not win in spite of Martin Biron tonight, they won in large part thanks to Martin Biron. Kudos.
Brad Richards was brilliant tonight. There’s really no other way to phrase it. He controlled the game from the drop of the puck. Playing the kind of hockey we all knew he was capable of. I’m not even talking about the goals he scored, it’s more about, how decisive he was out there. With Richards, when he’s not going well, he takes an extra half second or so to make a play, so that the play he wants to make, just isn’t there. Tonight, he didn’t hesitate. When he got the puck, he tried to make a play. He took a shot, he started shifting to the side to draw players in close so he could fire passes to open teammates, he skated with some authority, and he made the players around him better. It didn’t hurt that he’s finally seen some consistent playing time with Marian Gaborik either.
Getting the 2 superstars together is a smart move by the coach, though I’m not sure it’s going to work long term (ie, playoffs). It helps get Richards going while getting the offense jumpstarted. With that said, the Rangers are going to need much more than Richards and Gaborik going to win in the playoffs. They’re going to need Henrik Lundqvist do be much better than he was tonight. You can’t fault him on the 2nd goal, which was a crazy bounce, but the other 2, Henrik usually stops. Maybe I’m holding him to a standard no NHL Goalie is capable of living up to, but either way, I think Henrik needs to be better, and you’d have to believe he thinks as much too.
Why did the power play start to click all of a sudden? To me, it had zero to do with the call up of Mats Zucarello-Aasen, and everything to do with Brian Boyle being parked right in front of the goalie. It’s amazing how much having a big body the goalie can’t look through will help a teams power play. Boyle wasn’t playing on the boards or below the goal, he was parked right in front of the net, and didn’t move till the puck was out of the zone. Good call coach.