Here were the Islanders, skidding to oblivion, unable to score, exhausted from a one-game trip to the Pacific Northwest (Seinfeld reference), and not playing particularly well in this game either, and they were still awfully tough to put away.
1) Having said the above, this game is the Islanders’ Stanley Cup, and this time they lost it.
2) I thought a big, big key to the result was the Rangers dictating the pace from the start, even though they couldn’t dictate it for the whole game.
3) Sean (Almighty) Avery. The Rangers are 6-0 since he was recalled, even if he didn’t play in all six. The funny part of this whole thing is the idea that he’s proving people wrong. When in fact, he’s proving people right. He did not play this way last year, and this is the way he has to play to be in the NHL. When he does, he’s a factor. When he does, he’s an NHL player. And when he does, he’s better than some of those players John Tortorella thought were better than him. But when he doesn’t, then he’s not. And, on cue, Avery got another one of those “Two Minutes for Being Avery” calls. (PS, Mike Mottau has shown that he’s a pretty decent fighter in his own weight class).
4) What a game by the Captain. Still tough and gritty (and sneaky dirty), and with skill. Like Avery, the closer to the edge he gets, the better.
5) Speaking of Ryan Callahan, I don’t get this NHL. Touch a guy’s gloves with your stick, or lift his stick, and you get a penalty. But when Callahan moves in on a break-in and gets grabbed and shoved from behind by Jurcina, right into the goalie and the net, no call. And I’m all for that not being a penalty. But if the pansification stuff is going to be called, then that has to be called too. Ironically, later a much weaker call against Jurcina on Callahan was made.
6) And one more play by Callahan. First period, end of a shift, Rangers ice the puck. Callahan busts his aasen to try to negate the icing. But he can’t get there in time. And in today’s NHL, I wonder if that’s still a good play, making the long sprint in the unlikely event you might get there first and risking being bagged for the D-zone faceoff since the offending team can’t change players on an icing. I know it’s not in Callahan’s DNA to not try. But this might be a case where less effort is more.
7) I thought Brian Boyle had one of his best games of the year, especially early. Great play on the Avery goal. Not saying he is or isn’t one of the best third-line centers in the league. Just saying, I don’t get that some people don’t like what this guy does. Though his failure to get the puck out at the end of an Islanders PP pinned the PK guys for a long, long shift after the PP ended.
8) Some of the Rangers’ top skill guys were really good again … especially Marian Gaborik and Brad (GWG) Richards, along with Callahan, Dubinsky (in spots), Stepan and Anisimov, and Del Zotto. Say what you want about Richards, but most of his points this season have come in big situations.
9) And, of course, the Rangers’ best player had to be great. Henrik Lundqvist made that remarkable save after the header. (though I wonder if the header really is a good idea in traffic, because of the uncertainty of where the rebound goes). There were times when the Rangers needed Lundqvist to save their butts (especially on the Isles’ PPs, and shortly thereafter), and he did. Again.
10) Partly because of Richards’ acquisition, and I know they didn’t score on it last night, but these Rangers are pretty darn good with the 5-on-3.
11) Other than the PP, did John Tavares play?
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Ryan Callahan.
2) Henrik Lundqvist.
3) Brad Richards.
AP photos, above.