Bizarre night topped by Jim Dolan, all smiles and giggles, popping into John Tortorella’s press conference. I think what happened is that Dolan was in Tortorella’s office and the coach asked him if he wanted to do the press conference instead of Torts. And Dolan took the dare and went down the hall and into the room with him, and when he saw the shock of the reporters he decided to go with it for a while.
But it was pretty stunning. What he had to say, not so much. Just the fact that he came out from behind the curtain, and with some personality, was enough. And the best part was when he mentioned the Stanley Cup and Tortorella said, “Easy.”
1) The game might not have been exciting, but it was pretty thorough, pretty hard-fought, and again very impressive for the Rangers to bounce back from two disappointing games in the past week with nearly identical 3-0 shutout wins the next time out (though the win in T.O. was nearly perfect, and this wasn’t).
2) I said this leading up to the game, and others did too, about how similar the two teams are. Nashville’s record wasn’t far off the Rangers’ mark; the Preds had won five in a row and eight of nine; they play the same style of hockey — aggressive forecheck, battle for every inch and every loose puck, rely on superb goaltending, and with very good coaches (who know each other very well, we found out later). Trotz and Torts. Hmmm. Wonder which one’s taller. But seriously, that’s what makes it an especially good win. And it could have been, with the Penguins and the Bruins up next, the aversion of the season’s first crisis.
3) And I swear I had my hand raised at the presser and was just about to ask about the textbook final 10 minutes of the third period, with the lead, and how the Rangers ran the ball and ran out the clock, when John Tortorella mentioned it. Wow. It was shutdown by possession.
4) The Rangers sure got some ugly goals, especially Dan Girardi’s hideous game-winning bumper-pool shot that also earned him the Broadway Sombrero. I couldn’t help but think that Girardi has probably deserved that nasty fedora many times, but that it took a goal like that to get it for him.
5) Here’s the link to my column in The Journal News and LoHud.com today. I did an analysis of the two losses because my deadline was looming with the 7:38 start time. And in it I wrote about how I thought the losses of Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko kind of pointed to a potential weakness — depth up front. Because with Erik Christensen and Sean Avery in Hartford, the Little Italian Kid from Norway also there and having been injured twice, and with Wojtek Wolski and Kris Newbury being -3 in 6:20 of ice time in Montreal, there’s not much behind the top 12. At least until Chris Kreider arrives, or they make a trade that upgrades the skill, helps the power play and gives them more forward depth.
6) The Rangers goalies just roll out these shutouts, don’t they. As well as the Rangers defend these first 44 games, every night the goalies have to still make enormous saves, and Henrik Lundqvist was stellar throughout this one. And Nashville comes at you, and the Rangers let them come at them for a while; plus the Preds have some guys who can flat out fire it.
7) How about that call on Marian Gaborik? I didn’t see it until much later. One of the Predators cut his own teammate with a stick, and the four officials all missed it and called Gaborik for a double minor, which the Rangers killed. The call also eliminated what was a Rangers power play, so there was a plus side to it. I thought Gaborik was strong and looked really good with Carl Hagelin’s burners on the other side of Derek Stepan.
8) I may have mentioned this last week, but now when Hagelin is rocket-boosting after the puck, the Garden crowd kind of starts to roar in anticipation of his after-burners. The Garden fans also have, lately, come to appreciate the blocked shot more, and they seem to see it coming and start buzzing, and then applaud when one of their guys takes one for the team. Pretty cool.
9) My favorite Hagelin moment was when he got involved with a bunch of Preds behind the net. Haggar the Horrible.
10) How about Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman leading the rush during a 4-on-4?
12) My tour of MSG’s concessions continued. Had a food court burger. Pretty good. On a sort of English muffin thing. $8.95. Will do it again.
13) This three stars thing is getting tougher. Maybe I should just make Ryan Callahan and Lundqvist permanent stars, and then name “My Three Other Rangers Stars” because the Captain was darned good again … and got rewarded with the gift goal at the end, the one he would have (and some argue should have) gotten at the Winter Classic.
14) Happy 51st, Captain Messier!
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Henrik Lundqvist.
2) Carl Hagelin.
3) Dan Girardi.
AP photos, above.