First place in the East. Five straight wins. Top two or three in team defense. Fewest losses in the whole freakin’ National Hockey League. And your New York Rangers really haven’t nearly hit their stride or been nearly 100 percent healthy yet. ‘Nuff said.
1) Seven goals allowed in the five-game winning streak. Fabulous goaltending, fabulous defensive play—well, not fabulous for all of the game last night, but for a lot of it. Oh, and seven goals in five games, that’s the same number for Marian Gaborik over that stretch.
3) You could read Stu Bickel’s lips after his fight with that clown Michael Haley. He said to the officials: “He jumped me.” And he was right and the officials got it right and handed Haley the instigator penalty. Plus Bickel hurt Haley’s hand with his face (which is a mess), and turned around and did quite well considering he was at a terrible disadvantage at the start of the fracas. Bickel lost his four-game point streak. He’ll have to start a new one once his eye reopens.
4) I don’t like to brag, and I don’t like to say “told ya so” too much, and God only knows that I haven’t had the opportunity to be right all that often, and many times I’ve had to say I was wrong. But I was right about Michael Del Zotto. Kid is a player. Both ends. And if the Rangers ever have all their D-men healthy they’re going to have to find a way to keep giving Del Zotto minutes, because they don’t have another D-man on the roster or in the system who does what Del Zaster does.
5) When Anton Stralman crashed into the boards and appeard to be kneed in the back of the head and lay there for a minute, I actually thought, “They can’t afford to lose him. He’s one of their top eight or nine defensemen.”
6) Once again, Henrik Lundqvist leaves me without words. He had to be great during short stretches in this game, and he was better than great in those stretches. You know what I really like about him? He gets it. He gets how good his team might be, and how they haven’t accomplished anything yet, but they’ve shown us and themselves an awful lot.
7) The NHL’s holiday roster freeze unfreezes at midnight tonight, meaning that in short order I think the Rangers are going to make some roster moves, and that one of those is going to cause a lot of controversy to erupt again. I don’t think Sean Avery is ever going to get back into the lineup unless one of the Rangers’ rugged players gets hurt. So I imagine he’s going back to Connecticut. And Erik Christensen might not be far behind, though he could stay if he’s the only extra healthy forward until Wojtek Wolski comes back. But honestly, I don’t see how John Tortorella introduces a soft player into this lineup with the way it is playing, and has played, for most of the season.
8) That sequence when Brian Boyle blocked the two shots, after being hurt by the first one, and then went down to try to block the third, which was blocked by Stralman, says all you need to know about the Rangers, doesn’t it? And I loved that Tortorella pointed out that he hasn’t always been happy with Boyle’s play this year, and that he’s told Boyle so. But that Tortorella also pointed out that when the Rangers needed to change some momentum to start the third, it was Boyle vs. John Tavares that pinned the Isles deep and got it done.
9) I was trying to add up all the goals that Ilya Kovalchuk, Claude Giroux and John Tavares have scored these last four games against Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. But I couldn’t find any.
10) I thought, even as his two wingers, Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, combined for two goals and two assists, it was another struggle for Brad Richards last night. Ditto for Artem Anisimov.
11) Man, the Islanders are getting worse. And, yes, I was the idiot who once praised their young talent, and even once might have said they have better young skilled forwards than the Rangers … and I stress the word “idiot” as I remember writing that. Now even John Tavares looks bad, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo have regressed, and Marty Reasoner might be the worst forward in the NHL. You know what else? There’s a portion of Islanders fans that feel the same way about that clown Haley as the fringe group of Rangers fans feel about Avery … and how about those Avery chants during the fifth straight win last night? Holy mackeral. Just wow.
12) Stunning stat of which I was not aware until MSG posted it last night: The Rangers lead the NHL in fighting majors with 30, or almost one per game!? What in Holy Hell? And that’s after more than a few fights (Dubinsky, Bickel) were called double-minors for roughing … in other words, not fights.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Brian Boyle.
2) Henrik Lundqvist.
3) Michael Del Zotto.
(Ed. Note: tough to not include the kid with two goals).
AP photos, above.