This is some nice little run here by your New York Rangers. OK, they lost to Montreal, and didn’t play their usual grind-it-out game that night. Imagine if they had. Imagine what this would-be five-game winning streak might look like?
So now the Rangers have Western pelts of Vancouver, Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville, Phoenix and the defending Stanley Cup champs from Chicago. And they have beaten Pittsburgh (twice, on the road) and Washington (soundly), and Boston, some of the beasts of the Least.
Say what you want about barometers. That’s eye-opening stuff. And they have a chance to add Philly, the East’s top team—which has a pair of 4-1 victories over the Rangers this season—on Sunday at MSG.
1) I thought that second period was as good a period as the Rangers have played all year, and the way they defended in the third, against all those weapons, was almost as good.
2) Boyle+Prust=Double Monster (that’s for you, Mickey).
3) Seriously, as good as Lundqvist and Staal and Dubinsky and Girardi and Prust and everybody else was, Brian Boyle was the best player in the game. He’s probably the most improved player in the league and certainly one of the most important players to any team. What would the odds have been that those words might ever be spoken, back in September?
4) That stuff with John Tortorella saying they couldn’t win that game 1-0 before the game and then, by the longest of long shots, it actually happening, was ridiculous and hilarious. And Tortorella took a lot of ribbing for it, and handled it great (see last night’s quotes thread).
5) Speaking of which, a lot of the big hockey writers are taking notice and jumping on our Tortorella/Jack Adams Award bandwagon now, and rightly so. Of course, that is one award that is voted upon by the broadcasters, not the writers. On the downside for Torts, he might have ticked off some broadcasters last year—guys who haven’t had the opportunity to have banter with the New Torts this year. On the upside, Tortorella treats a lot of the visiting ‘casters pretty well, and he himself was a broadcaster for a while, so he knows a lot of them. On the flat side, Tortorella probably couldn’t care less if he wins the award. But he absolutely deserves it.
6) Speaking of which, Puck Daddy did his list yesterday of the most disappointing player for each team over the first half. The Rangers’ was Alex Frolov. Ironically, Phoenix’s was Wojtek Wolski. And also on the list were perennial disappointers, Alex Kovalev and Nik Zherdev.
7) Too bad that Marc Staal couldn’t stand up after Alex Burrows tried to neuter him, because I think Staal would have beaten the holy hell out of him instead of trying to break his ankle with his stick and taking that penalty. Staal and Burrows had some pretty good battles all night, but that shot to the protective cup (which really isn’t so protective, is it?) should be a suspendable offense. Staal and Dan Girardi—as we say almost daily now—were fabulous against the Sedins, as were Boyle, Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko.
8) Henrik Lundqvist is back to being the elite-level goalie he usually is, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Rangers have won four of five while scoring a total of nine goals. Credit Lundqvist (and Martin Biron). He (they) will have to be this good down the stretch, because the Rangers will have times when they struggle for goals. And the King will have to be this good in the playoffs.
9) I really like the young (which one isn’t?) defense pair of McDonagh and Gilroy. I still think Michael Del Zotto is a big, big piece of the Rangers future, and has the tools to perhaps be the best of all the young defensemen they have, but it’s going to be difficult for him to replace one of the current six, and it makes no sense for him to be here as a seventh, even though I think the Rangers would love to have him back here soon. So it’s a dilemma for now. Though you know there will always be nicks and bruises, if not worse, on defense.
10) I thought this was Chris Drury’s best game of the season, even with the inadvertent delay penalty (on which, by the way, the linesman closest to the play, said the puck ticked off the glass, and indeed was arguing with the Canucks’ bench even while the referee was over at the penalty box making the call). Drury, Sean Avery and Dale Weise were effective, though with the matching of Boyle against the Sedins, and the need to get the Gaborik and Dubinsky lines on the ice, limited the fourth line’s minutes.
11) A lot of stuff happened on that winning power-play goal. Dubinsky was chased from the faceoff dot. Wolski stepped in and, in effect, lost the draw. Gaborik stepped up and regained the puck, though, and set up Dubinsky for a shot. Gaborik drove to the net and rang the rebound off the post. Wolski drove to the net and banged in the rebound. Good stuff, even if not textbook.
AP Photo, above.