What a difference a year makes. A season ago, 87 points meant failure. Today, by contrast, 87 points means the following: One regulation loss in our last 10 games. Tied points-wise with Montreal for sixth. Seven points clear of Carolina. The magic number down to eight. And three days off to enjoy it. Life is good.
1) Why wait? Lundqvist=monster. The guy has started 20 games in a row, he’s gotten his bell rung twice in the last eight days, and yet he’s putting himself back in Vezina contention. Both saves on Peverley—the glove at the far post early and kicking his leg out on the backgrounder late —were things of beauty. The Bruins came in waves the whole third period, and most of the 12 shots that got through were high-quality; he simply shut the door. It may not be his most consistent season, but he’s putting up the best SV% and GAA of his career, and showing everyone how personally he took last year’s near-miss. Oh, and 11 shutouts is pretty ridiculous. On a team full of blue-collar guys, Henrik may be the toughest of the bunch.
2) Speaking of Hank and his head … I’d sure love to know how referee Tim Peel was attempting to explain to Cally the non-call on Bergeron. OK, he was driving hard to the net. OK, he was sliding on his knees at the end of the play. But the forearm shiver right to the mask was as blatant as you could get—his arm even followed through like he was throwing a baseball—and Peel had the best view in the house. There’s nothing incidental about that kind of contact, and it should have been called as such.
3) It’s going to be tough to score more short-handed goals if we keep staying out of the penalty box like this.
4) On Saturday afternoons during spring break weeks, most 20-year-olds are either hungover and/or haven’t gone to bed yet from the previous night. I think we can safely say that Derek Stepan is no ordinary 20-year old. That was some slick deflection … off a faceoff win no less! And that’s a veteran move by Prospal to jump in and help out the rookie on the draw. Didn’t realize how much we missed Vinny this year until he came back.
5) By the way, you have to go back all the way to 2006-2007 to find the last time we had five 20-goal scorers in a season. Who can name the five without looking?
6) Aside from the big blocked shot late in the game, Sean Avery’s biggest contribution was that his fight against Colie’s kid led to a whistle that stopped a Brad Marchand breakaway mid-stride. And from that point on, Dan Girardi—whose pretty awful turnover caused that would-be break-in—played a whale of a game. That guy would step in front of a mack truck if it was headed toward Lundqvist. I’ve taken to calling him the Block-ness Monster.
7) I have no numbers to back this up, but my theory is that afternoon games are harder for homes teams than road teams. Whereas a road team’s schedule is by nature in flux no matter the game’s start time (different cities, timezones, hotels, arenas, etc), guys at home are used to a certain routine with which afternoon games completely interfere. Throw in our road excellence and the fact that Boston was coming off the huge win over the Habs Thursday night, and I think we had the perfect storm going yesterday.
8) It was a little harsh of Torts to jump on Sam’s question about the lack of goal-scoring during the post-game presser (and I think he felt a little guilty about it, too). But I think it’s just as silly to get overly concerned about scoring three goals in the last three games as it is to get overly confident about, say, scoring 17 goals in the three games before that. Each streak is an aberration in its own way. The truth of the matter is that these things even out over the long run. It’s important to get your 1-0 wins, and it’s important to get your 7-0 wins.
9) With two sets of back-to-backs coming up, will we finally see Ocho Cinco? I think Hank is a given for Wednesday in Buffalo, but I’d start Johnson on the Island the next night. That would give Hank an only-one-game-in-eight-day stretch leading up to Philly next Sunday.
10) Don’t look now, boys and girls, but if the stars align, we could clinch a playoff berth as soon as Thursday.
Enjoy your Sunday – Let’s Go Rangers!
AP photo, above