This is as well as the Rangers have played in any three-game stretch this season, includng the seven-game winning streak … all against good Eastern teams. And I still don’t think they’ve nearly hit their stride, even at 10-2 in the last 12 and 7-0 in the last seven at home.
I thought the Penguins took it to them at times, and it was pretty clear which team had more skill. But the Rangers’ top players played better than the Pens’ top players, and their bottom guys didn’t play like bottom guys.
1) I said this during the game, and have said it many times the last two years: They’re better with an edge. They just are. So hats off to Sean Avery, who is indeed proving that he is better than some of the guys they kept over him when they made their cuts. A lot better. I’ll take a plate of crow.
2) That double-minor call on the first fracas is tough. It’s obviously Advantage: Penguins to be 4-on-4 against any team. That said, the minors allowed the players to exit the box during play and simultaneously and engage again. Good for Avery there.
3) Prust did that with Simmonds Sunday. Reminds me of one of my fave Jeff Beukeboom stories. In Florida, Bill Lindsay (a Matt Cooke type back then) elbowed, I think it was, Kevin Lowe. Knocked him silly. Lindsay got a penalty, a minor for elbowing. Near the end of the PP, Beuk went over and stood right outside the penalty box door, waiting for Lindsay to get out, and beat the crap out of him as soon as he hit the ice. Hahaha.
4) And good for Lundqvist, too, sticking up for himself against that Dick Vitale guy. He went after Skid Crosby last year, too. Vitale did elbow him in the mask before Lundqvist’s punch. I don’t think that should have been a power play for Dicky V’s team.
5) The Garden was loud. From the start. And spontaneously. More so than I can remember in a long time.
6) I don’t know if their play will flatten out at all, but right now, Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell sure look like what the Rangers needed, some lower-line guys who can skate and create and do a lot of things well. Kind of reminds me of when Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh showed up last year? They both are also better than some of the guys who began the season here. And could be the ticket to Hartford for some of those guys.
7) Michael Del Zotto had a Del Zaster of a shift when he set up Malkin, who was robbed by Lundqvist, and then whiffed on a shot in the other end. But before his shift ended, Del Zotto made the home run pass high off the glass that ended up in the Hagelin-to-Mitchell goal. And while Del Zotto struggled, the PP scored twice in a one-goal win. So, you know, there are two sides to this kid’s story.
8) This might have been Brad Richards’ best two-way game if he hadn’t just had a better one on Sunday vs. Philly. So far, so good with the $60 Million Man. And I don’t think this is as good as it gets with him, either. And Marian Gaborik was just dominant, more than Skid Crosby.
9) While the PP won the game, the first 1:22 of 5 on 3 was awful. So cute. Like they were trying to be the Harlem Globetrotters.
10) I was wondering on that piece of carcillo Cooke’s disallowed goal, if it might count because it went in off of Sauer. I think, once upon a time, it would have. But here’s the rule:
80.3 Disallowed Goal – When an attacking player causes the puck to enter the opponent’s goal by contacting the puck above the height of the crossbar, either directly or deflected off any player or official, the goal shall not be allowed. The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick. If the puck makes contact with the stick below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed.
11) At 4-3, with 7:19 left, the Rangers on the ice were gassed, sticks on knees, bent over after an icing, and John Tortorella had already used his timeout. Lundqvist stalled by fixing a buckle. Then he made a remarkable play, lunging forward and poking the puck away from Malkin right in front, and in behind a wiped-out Del Zotto, as the Rangers could barely move. Might have been the play of the game. And then Malkin took a dumb slashing penalty to bail them out.
12) The ice looked awful. Advantage: Rangers.
13) And how about Brian Boyle going 11-4 on draws, Richards 13-3, and Brandon Dubinsky 11-5? The team was 40-17. Are these really the Rangers?
14) Saw three old-time Rangers last night: Tony Granato, Tie Domi and Anders Hedberg. Good stuff.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Brad Richards.
2) Marian Gaborik.
3) Henrik Lundqvist.
AP photos, above.