This was a very sloppy game tonight through the first 2 periods. It’s very un-Ranger like for the Rangers to just try to go toe-to-toe offensively with a team and hope their guns can put in more than they give up. Tonight, they did just that….for 2 periods anyway. Henrik Lundqvist was flat out brilliant, but Johan Hedberg was as well. Hedberg had at LEAST 6 game breaking type saves or misses. However, the Rangers did tighten up their game and I felt played a fantastic 3rd period. They gave up a few chances here and there, but for the most part played the Rangers hockey of last season to a T. Get a win, play hard on the puck, hit, forecheck, move around, grind out a win.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt when, for once, you can say that both Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards played phenomenal games. When your big guys are playing well, it makes everything else a hell of a lot easier. Sure, Richards and Gaborik may not have scored, but they had numerous chances, created all sorts of havoc, and looked to finally get their games back on the right track. By the way, I proposed re-uniting this trio WEEKS ago, but, I digress…
There are 2 things that are becoming ever-so-clear to us Ranger fans. First, Michael Del Zotto has the ability to be a top pair defenseman. He’s not always that good, but the last 2 nights he’s been downright incredible. His defensive plays has been superb (ignore the Zajac goal, it happens), and he’s been jumping into the play offensively far more often, and been pro-active rather than re-active, which is what Torts wants. Keep that up MDZ!
The other thing that has slowly become apparent is that Anton Stralman was an absolute gem of a steal by Glen Sather. It’s been a process, but slowly but surely Torts, Schoenfeld and Sullivan have turned Stralman into a legitimate top 4 defenseman, and a borderline ELITE #5 defenseman. I can say this without any hesitation, but when Stralman is out there, I pretty much expect him to have a good shift, when he doesn’t I’m shocked. Stralman has been incredible, we’re really lucky to have him.
Rangers now need to make sure they bury the Panthers on Thursday, turn this into a legitimate winning streak…we need to start gaining some ground so we can avoid playing Pittsburgh, Montreal, or Boston in the first round if at all possible.