1) So now it’s 50 wins, and all they need is to go 2-2 to tie the ‘93-94 team’s franchise record of 52. That’s secondary. Their magic number on Pittsburgh is three. That’s any combination of points the Rangers get or Pittsburgh fails to get that equals three. Simpler: If the Rangers go 1-3, Pitt must go 4-0. Or, if the Rangers go 0-2 and Pitt 2-0 until Thursday and the Rangers win that game, in regulation, OT or breakaway contest, it’s over. There is also a magic number with Philly—one. The Filthy crud could still mathematically catch the Rangers if the Flys win all five of their remaining games and the Rangers go 0-4. That’s the only possibility. Philly hosts Ottawa today at 1.
2) I know it’s been three in a row against non-playoff teams, though I completely agree with the players and the coach who said that those games can be difficult against a team that has nothing to lose, nothing to play for, no pressure at all.
3) That said … if you’re looking for direction headed into the postseason, the Rangers are getting stingy again, Henrik Lundqvist is playing terrific in goal again, they’re getting PPGs all of a sudden, and secondary scoring all of a sudden, and offense from their defense all of a sudden. Plus, you have to like that the high battle level has come back into their game, the bite, the fight for loose pucks, the aggressiveness on the puck and in pursuit of it. The top players are all playing at or near the top of their games. It’s starting to look like mid-season again. Which, you know, was pretty good.
4) I liked that Lundqvist was mad at himself for allowing the one goal. He was really, really solid in this one. I think it’s really smart to ride him now. Maybe Martin Biron gets one of the last two if everything’s clinched. And I thought Marc Staal, off that dreadful performance in Minny, had back-to-back solid, physical, engaged performances.
5) If you’re still not convinced that you like Brian Boyle … well, maybe you never will … but if you like him a little, or just want to like him a lot more, scroll down and listen to him talk in the post-game interviews thread, when I asked him what it meant when office Steven McDonald talked about the admirable way the Rangers play during last night’s award ceremony. I first saw officer McDonald in 1988, when Phil Esposito’s regime founded the award, and his son was just a toddler. So nice to see him all grown up, a cop himself now. Also listen to Boyle talk about playing in New York, about Ryan Callahan, about how he’d be happy to sit on the bench when the power play is clicking without him … all that team-first stuff that makes him so valauble. Plus he’s been a beast physically.
6) I was trying to find a photo of the ceremony and thinking how much fun it would be to have a caption contest of The Captain, Mark Messier posing with The Captain, Ryan Callahan. So if you got one, throw it in the comments below.
7) Officer McDonald sometimes says some outrageous fan-stuff in these ceremonies. This time what he said was perfect. “Play like champions and we’ll see you in June.” And you could see the pride in John Tortorella’s face as McDonald spoke.
8) Before the game, I saw John Rostawanik. He’s the son of the late Old Coach, one of the great Boneheads who passed on last year. John Jr. is one of the coaches at Suffern High, which just won the New York State Division 1 ice hockey championship in Utica a couple of weeks ago. John Jr. is certain that his dad redirected a couple of close calls Suffern’s way in the championship game. Congrats to the Mounties, to head coach Rob Schelling and his brother Rich and the entire staff and players.
9) Again, it was Montreal, OK? But the PP scored twice, and it scored because it’s moving the puck, and because the players are moving their feet. It seems they’re playing more off the half boards now, and it seems that Brad Richards, Michael Del Zotto, Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan are playing as well as they have all season, individually and collectively. Derek Stepan’s looked good there lately, too. In case you missed it, the Rangers are 24-1-4 when they score a PPG. Though it’s crazy that they’ve only scored in 29 of 78 games.
11) Carl Hagelin used his wheels more in this game than he has lately.
12) I thought the new Brandon Dubinsky-Boyle-Callahan line looked pretty good. But I wonder if that weakens the third line. Or is it more important to have two strong lines? I just think that Boyle with Prust, or whomever, as a checking line, gives them more overall balance and makes it more likely that the ice time for the top two lines isn’t crazy minutes. But what do I know? This is the time to experiment, right?
13) I also think Thursday’s game at Pitt could be uglier than Tuesday’s game at Philly if it’s all settled by then.
14) Ira Podell of the AP told me yesterday was the anniversary of the Canadiens’ first Stanley Cup in 1916. I think that was Chris Chelios’ rookie year.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Michael Del Zotto.
2) Henrik Lundqvist.
3) Brad Richards.
Vibz’s Three Rangers Stars:
1) Marian Gaborik.
2) Michael Del Zotto.
3) Ryan McDonagh.
Honorable mentions: Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards.
AP photos, above.
Here’s my column from The Journal News and LoHud.com today … on the Gomez for No Gomez trade.