1) 40-15-6, 86 points with a quarter of a season left. You kiddin’ me?
2) Henrik Lundqvist. Seven straight seasons of 30 wins. Forty-three career shutouts. Eight this season; 10-2-0 with a 1.24 goals against average, .952 save percentage and four shutouts in his last 12 games. A record of 22-6-5 with a 1.72 GAA, .936 save percentage and five shutouts in 33 games against Martin Brodeur. I’m reciting numbers because I don’t have words to describe what this guy is doing this season. If he doesn’t get the Vezina (voted by the GMs, guys like Scott Howson and Paul Holmgren and Garth Snow), they should blow up the trophy, and I hope my PHWA colleagues who vote on the Hart will do the right thing. Not saying he will or won’t win it over Evgeni Malkin, but it ought to be close enough to count the votes, if that trophy really does go to the player deemed most valuable to his team.
3) There sure was a battle for every square foot of ice last night, and now the Rangers can play that game, too. They gave the Devils almost nothing. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi (and Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle) ate up Ilya Kovalchuk and future Ranger Zach Parise. This is why the Rangers, IMO, will be a frightening opponent in the playoffs. They will fight you every second. Not always perfect. But a fight that not every player on the other team really wants to fight.
4) Speaking of fights, the other kind, it would have been kind of interesting if massive John Scott had arrived in time for this game. Don’t know if he would have played, but I imagine his mega presence might have been felt. But … isn’t it remarkable how Officer Joe Boulton won’t fight Mike Rupp, and how David Clarkson won’t fight Brandon Prust? And how no matter how often John Tortorella tells Prust not to fight guys like Boulton because he’s too valuable, Prust still does (and last night he got hurt, though he came back). Did you hear Tortorella’s quote in the post-game interviews about his team not being intimidated by anybody, with or without Scott?
5) Clarkson, the Devils’ sideshow Sean Avery now, was a clown all night, and maybe if the refs didn’t protect him from Rupp and Prust, he wouldn’t have been such a clown. But it really wasn’t funny when he took a long charge, left his feet and propelled himself like a missile at Dubinsky’s head. But, of course, the NHL Department of Player Safety has deemed hits to the head perfectly legal now. $2,500 fine. Couch change.
6) Funny, that even while the Rangers went into a little funk the last few weeks, the lines kind of solidified and stayed together, and I think they’ve really found something with Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan. Hagelin and Callahan have been magnificent lately, and the kid is all eyes and ears, sponging up all the knowledge he can get from the “C” and the “A.”
7) There was a play in the second period where the Rangers were pinned behind their net for a bit, and finally Patrik Elias came out with the puck. But as he tried to make the turn toward the front at the right post, Michael Del Zotto simply and solidly planted his shoulder in Elias’ chest, separating him from the puck. And it showed A) how far Del Zotto has come as a defensive player and B) how the Rangers no longer fish for the puck or look for the poke check. I think that has as much to do with their defensive success as their system.
8) Martin Biron survived the trade deadline. I don’t mean he survived, as in didn’t get traded. I mean, he survived as in didn’t get hurt. Remember what happened last year. Andrew Gross reminded me that last year Glen Sather said he wouldn’t let his goalies practice at the deadlines any more. He was joking, of course.
9) Pretty good day for the president/GM, too. He didn’t budge. He didn’t bend. I thought—and I’m sure they thought—that Rick Nash was the type of player they haven’t had, and they’ve needed. And they weren’t worried about the salary cap issues. But they didn’t bow to Scott Howson’s demands.
10) There’s not a chance I would have done Nash in any deal that included any of the Rangers’ top four D-men or Derek Stepan, and probably wouldn’t have done Chris Kreider, even though I’ve only heard scouts praise him and seen them drool over his skating and size. I thought Nash was the type of piece they really have lacked and still need. I think Sather was 100 percent right to say “No.” He also was a cut-up in his press conference.
11) You know what has ruined trade deadline day (and poor TSN’s day-long TV show) as much as the salary cap? The shootout. Yes, the Bettman Bonus Point for Losers. It has kept all these mediocre-to-lousy teams within shouting distance of the playoffs. So there’s a shortage of sellers and a glut of buyers. I’m sure you noticed that Philly, Washington, Pittsburgh and New Jersey did less than the Rangers did yesterday.
12) You know, I think Kovalchuk is a legit top-10 superstar in the NHL (way, way better than Nash), and even though they blanketed him, he was dangerous all night. He’s the one I think the Rangers let get away. They wouldn’t have been able to do Brad Richards, but can you picture him on this roster?
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Ryan McDonagh.
2) Carl Hagelin.
3) Henrik Lundqvist.
AP photos, above.
(I may not be able to see the Carolina game live Thursday. Wondering if anybody’s interested in doing a guest review of that game. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to volunteer).