Shut the front door.
That’s how you smother a good team, how you make their night miserable, how you bounce back from a loss.
Fact: The Rangers are quickly becoming the team you don’t want to play, because they will make you absorb a beating, fight for every inch and for every puck, and will give you every reason to give up and get to the lockerroom … and with many icepacks when you do.
Next team to be tested: Canadiens tonight.
1) Is it possible, still, after these last two games, that people don’t appreciate Brian Boyle? My goodness, how? Never mind that he finally scored a goal. Guy was a beast all night long, starting when he ran over Phil Kessel, who didn’t bother competing. Seriously, can you really understand what these Rangers are about, and not think Boyle’s been terrific? And his buddy/roomie Brandon Prust was a predator, too. Seems he might be getting healthy lately.
2) Because of what the Rangers have become this last season and a half, this bounce-back game was exactly what we should have expected after the loss to Ottawa — in which they really weren’t that bad — left them annoyed and ticked off. And because John Tortorella pushed some more of the right buttons and challenged his top two lines, they sure responded.
3) So when they came out flinging Leaves and setting a tone, we should not have been surprised. And then when they forechecked the Leaves into oblivion in the second, we shouldn’t have been surprised.
4) Ryan Callahan, of course, leads the way. He phaneufed Dion Phaneuf in the first period and I have no doubt that he had double-digit hits (aside: They should just dismantle the stat-keeping in the NHL if that four hits with which Callahan was credited are deemed “official.”) He had three one one shift in the first. But that’s what a captain does after a loss, and that’s what a leader does when his line is called out by the coach. Though, really, Callahan pretty much does this every night.
5) Remember early in the season when it seemed the Rangers never had the puck enough? Boy, that sure has changed, hasn’t it? Even in the game they lost the other night they had it more than the gifted Senators.
6) This new PP alignment lately, with four guys above the circles …. That really can’t be the plan, can it? Because if you have Gretzky, Kurri, Lemieux, Jagr and Coffey, that still isn’t going to work. It’s not.
7) How about Stepan-wolf? Derek Stepan really does have a chance to be an elite playmaker because he’s so calm in tight quarters, as he showed both on his goal and especially his assist. But it’s a fine line, isn’t it? Sometimes he makes that one extra pass — as he did in a big spot in the Winter Classic, remember? — and really, he probably over-passed on the 1-0 goal that went Stepan to Wojtek Wolski to Stepan to Mike Rupp. Not many players could make that second pass though.
8) How about Martin Biron, best second goalie in the league? Played a fantastic game, and again his puck-handling led to a Rangers goal. The guy has three assists! Good for him. Of course, it helps when you’re winging it up ice to a guy like Carl Hagelin.
9) I was underwhelmed by Wojtek Wolski again, even though he did make the middle play on the Rupp goal. And now that Ruslan Fedotenko (back) and Brandon Dubinsky (shoulder) are banged up, it looks like he’s going to get at least one more shot.
10) He’s not even here anymore and Sean Avery continues to make news (and noise). The team insists that there was no spitting incident, as reported by some nit-twit’s tweet nonsense, picked up by some web sites as fact (is anybody else really scared of what news is going to look like when the newspapers and real reporters become extinct?) Anyway, Avery was back in the Giant Fish, er, Mammal (whatever) lineup last night and, according to those who were there, took a dumb slashing penalty and later got himself a misconduct for mouthing off to an official. Is he trying to force the Rangers’ hand. Or is it a case of Avery being Avery? Or does Ken Gernander hate him, too? (sarcasm).
11) Nice job by MSG 2 to go right off the air the second the game was over.
12) Forgive the star selections. Could have given out a lot more than three (four). And we’re not even talking about the D-pairs, especially Dan (Block Ness Monster) Girardi and Ryan McMonster, who were scary good.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Brian Boyle.
2) Ryan Callahan.
3) Martin Biron/Derek Stepan (and there could have been a lot more).
Boyle: Getty Images.
Biron, Callahan, Stepan: AP photos.