John Tortorella before last night’s game:
I think we’ve got a good group that’s struggling a bit with some of the details of our game. But it’s Game 60 and we’re talking about these struggles. I’m pretty happy that it’s taken this long to maybe talk about this stuff here. I know the leadership of the team is there. I don’t have a worry at all as far as how they handle this type of situation.”
1) The small things: Missing the net during a 4-on-4 OT can be fatal, and Andrej Sekera did just that. Give some credit to Henrik Lundqvist for taking away most of the net. But Sekera’s miss sent the Rangers the other way, with numbers, with just one D-man back. And it turned out, after Ryan McDonagh’s great play and pass, that it was Patrick Kaleta back, on his knees, as Callahan went around him, which probably made a lot of people in and around the NHL happy. How about that Kaleta, tough guy picking Carl Hagelin out of a scrum earlier in the game?
2) I thought, though they started a lot better than they did against Chicago and the Islanders, early in the game the Rangers were still a little off. They allowed some odd-man rushes, allowed a few guys to pop open in front of Lundqvist, got pinned in their own end a bit. But they battled much, much harder, made life difficult for Buffalo, and overall defended pretty well in what you figured would be a low-scoring game (especially after that 0-0 meeting last time they played).
3) I’m not going to go on and on about the staged fight. I think they’re silly. But Brandon Prust sure got the crowd jacked, and maybe his teammates, too, when he fought Paul Gaustad at :08. And the Rangers are 8-1 when he fights in the first minute. Loved John Tortorella’s quote about it. Listen to the audio in the post-game interviews thread.
4) Carl Hagelin was really good, Ryan Callahan was, as usual, really good. And the last two games, especially last night, Brad Richards has been very, very good.
5) Marc Staal and Stu Bickel are getting more ice. Maybe because the Rangers were playing back to backs? That’s smart, if that’s it. They had some rough shifts but overall were pretty solid. And Staal, despite that odd, 4-on-4 Buffalo goal on which he actually made two good plays, took another stride forward.
6) Tortorella said he’s going to continue to give Staal power-play time to help him get going. And you know what, last year I thought the power play was at its best when Staal was on it. Not because he’s a prototypical point man. He’s a good passer with a decent shot. But I like his anticipation at when to go deep and how to get open. Again, too much play above the circles for the PP. Staal got down low, and hit a crossbar late in the game on the PP that almost won it.
7) Though, as I mentioned, I thought Richards was excellent, what was he thinking on that delayed penalty late in the third? The Rangers had a 6-on-5 with Lundqvist pulled, and I understand the theory of giving up the puck and getting the power-play organized with time winding down. But he fired it over the net from the defensive side of the red line, which forced the PP to start in the defensive zone. Awful thought process, unless I’m missing something.
8) Artem Anisimov, again, made some remarkable defensive plays. Gaborik, again, was flying. This time Derek Stepan took a bit of a step back.
9) Ryan McDonagh=McMonster. One word for Columbus: No.
10) As we go into this trade deadline homestretch, I can’t figure at all if the Rangers will or won’t get Rick Nash, or what the right price would be. I do know that a lot of rumors have Tim Erixon in them, and he was hurt last night in Connecticut’s game. Not seriously, though, from what I hear.
11) But for a team of second- and third-line grinders, the Rangers sure scored a couple of pretty goals, didn’t they? How about the play of Michael Del Zotto (who’s fine, reportedly, after bashing his hip into the post). He and Stepan didn’t get back on that weird 1-0 goal. But he made some really strong plays, too, and he strafed one of the Sabres into the net just before making the move and the pass that sprung Gaborik for the 2-2 goal in the third. One more word for Columbus: No.
12) Where are all the gloom-and-doomers today?
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Ryan Callahan.
2) Ryan McDonagh.
3) Marian Gaborik.
Callahan and Hagelin: AP photos.
Prust: Getty Images.