Bottom line is that, when this Rangers team plays the way it knows how to play, and the way it has to play, it is simply one of the best teams in the league.
Do they win some games because of goaltending? Well, duh. Their goalie is their best players, so of course they do.
But does anything bother this team? Does playing against a very rested, very skilled, very fast team the night after playing a tough game and traveling and getting your butt absolutely kicked for the first 10 or 12 minutes even phase them a little? Nope.
1) That first 10-12 minutes, that’s as badly as they’ve been outplayed for a stretch this season, or at least since Vancouver. That first goal by Lovejoy (is that really a hockey player’s name?) was lousy all around, too. But …
2) Henrik Lundqvist was sensational, not only through that domination, but throughout the game. Question: Does he prefer a ski mask, a stocking, or a rubber Nixon mask when he’s pulling a heist like that? And where did he get that glove this year? Ozzie Smith? Brooks Robinson?
3) The timeout by Jack Adams Tortorella. I don’t know what was said—Tortorella said he told them to not mail it in—and I imagine there was some fire, brimstone and a number of F-bombs. But more than blustery noise and threats, this coach knows what works. And I’d be willing to bet that that timeout was more about convincing his players to get back to what works, because it works.
4) Ryan McMonster & Dan Block Ness Monster Girardi=Monsters. Some play by McDonagh, so simple, to put the bad-angle puck from the wall to the net on the first goal. Yet such a rare play. And every time I rave about this kid, I think about Scott Gomez for some reason.
5) How freakin’ good is Ryan Callahan? You know, the Captain is also part of the reason why this team just goes straight ahead and plays the way it plays, no matter what. And how cool that the short-handed game-winner scored by Brandon Dubinsky was almost an exact replica of the Dubinsky-to-Callahan goal in Pitt last year? And that it was an all-around goal by the Core Four (Girardi blocked a shot before that, and Marc Staal, well, his part was to take the penalty). Dubinsky’s all the way back, I think. Tortorella called him “a bull.”
6) Marian Gaborik looks as if he likes the contact now, as if it fires him up? And, yes, Marc-Andre Fleury fouled up the 3-1 goal, but the foul-up was created by Gaborik’s speed and pressure. Also a good last 50 minutes (we’re not going to talk about the first 10) for the GAS line.
7) Realignment goes down! It’s temporary, and it went down to the NHLPA for all the wrong reasons. But at least next season we won’t have to put up with the idiocy of that plan. If there is a next season. More on that another day.
8) Give me a break about that piece of clarke, Matt Cooke. He ended one career. Maybe others. What if McDonagh had suffered a concussion last year with that ultimate cheap shot? Cooke was completely lucky that he didn’t. Bleep him. He has purposely gone out and caused injuries. I’m not buying this feel-good story. He’s a piece of carcillo. I hope somebody beats the clarke out of him. (I’m an unforgiving son of a bryzgalov, ain’t I?). I was wishing that Brandon Prust had pulled him from that pileup late in the game and knocked the hartnell out of him.
9) Brian Boyle is becoming the new “It’s Just Pain” poster boy. But in this game, once the Rangers got their game together, the third and fourth lines and third D-pair all contributed big-time. They really did. Could have been a lot more than three stars tonight.
10) Man, that Kunitz had a lousy night all around.
11) Just to sum it up once again: Best record in the National freakin’ Hockey League, 9-1 against Patrick Division teams, unbeaten (in regulation) in both the first and second of their six back-to-back sets this season.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Henrik Lundqvist.
2) Ryan Callahan.
3) Ryan McDonagh.
AP photos, above.