1) Let’s start with the kid. Or the kids. Please don’t go overboard with this 19-year-old, who isn’t going to score a goal a game, or two a game. But, geez, right off the bat J.T. Miller looks like he belongs, like he has the body and the ability and the puck skills to stick, seems like he has the confidence, and the belief that he belongs. He’s going to have to keep scoring or have to show that he can play in all areas when he’s not scoring in order to stay, and I know that John Tortorella will be cautious there. But I think he might make it impossible for them to do anything but keep him here. A goal on your first shift at Madison Square Garden, and then another with your mom, your grandmother and your girlfriend in the building. How cool can it get?
2) Let’s face it, this lineup had some holes and needed some depth before Miller and a healthy Chris Kreider and even Darroll Powe showed up. I really believe that when newcomers contribute like this, it’s a huge boost … and even Tortorella spoke about how Carl Hagelin’s arrival “changed” the team last season.
3) Which brings us to Kreider, because with the addition of Rick Nash, as we’ve said, it was going to be really, really important for him to play well and produce. If he plays the way he can play, uses his size and speed and shot, and isn’t terrible without the puck, then the Rangers don’t miss the guys they lost over the off-season. He and Hagelin have to fill those holes, have to play top nine minutes, and one of them, at least, has to play top six. Kreider, I thought, looked really good last night.
4) And let’s not forget Powe, who is what he is, but is better than Mike Rupp by a lot, was really strong on the PK a couple of times, has some energy, and — wearing No. 8 — makes you think, “boy, Prust is skating better … oh, wait, right.”
5) More than all of that, over the long haul, how critical is it for the Rangers to have Ryan Callahan back?
6) This was not a perfect game or anything close. The too-many-men penalty, as Tortorella said, was mind-boggling. I thought Anton Stralman handled the bigger role very well, but he and Michael Del Zotto brain locked on the too-many-men call (the Rangers’ fourth in the last four home games). Stralman also backed in on the John Tavares goal. But overall, he played just fine in Dan Girardi’s spot.
8) How about the play Ryan McDonagh made on what probably would have been a 2-on-none by Brad Boyes and Tavares against most other defensemen? McDonagh beat them both to the loose puck and turned it into a non-break of any kind. Then he made the touchdown pass to Miller for the 3-1 goal (at the end of the power play). Yeah, he took some penalties. Guy was a McMonster again. By the way, that roughing call=pansification. I also saw that my colleague Kevin Allen said McD was the seventh best U.S. defenseman for Olympic consideration next winter. Um, if McDonagh isn’t in the top six, I’ll take a bite out of a USA Today.
9) I really think this benching is going to be good for Brian Boyle, who has been mostly terrible, and who I know can be much better. He won’t get back into the lineup next game, and I’m not sure who comes out for him to get back in. Maybe it takes an injury, or for somebody else to slump. I think when he gets in you will see a better Boyle.
10) That first PP, with Brad Richards and Stralman on the points, again there were three Rangers by the blue line. Yup, that will work.
12) This Tim Thomas fiasco. It’s a paper transaction. He’s never going to play, and the Islanders don’t have to pay him a nickel. But he comes off the Bruins’ salary cap and onto the Islanders’ cap. What do the Islanders get out of this for doing Boston a huge favor? Something, for sure. Maybe future considerations. Or maybe they’re planning to move a salary and then will need to get back up to the floor, so Thomas’ non-existent money accomplishes that. The Isles give Boston a conditional second-rounder if he plays. But he won’t. So eventually, somewhere somehow, the B’s will probably give the Islanders something in return. So much for all the rules about circumventing the salary cap. What a joke.
13) Also, we haven’t really discussed this much, but the new CBA gave Brendan Shanahan some new bite. We all know how Shanahan leaps through flaming hoops to avoid suspending players. Well, at least now Shanahan can hit them in the wallet. Brandon Dubinsky was the first example. Instead of the maximum fine being $2,500, as it was in the old CBA, the new deal gives the NHL disciplinarian the ability to fine a player half a day’s pay up to $10,000 for a first-time offender, $15,000 for a second-timer. That’s not as much as a suspension, but it isn’t couch change, either. Dubinsky got tagged for 10 Gs.
14) In what kind of world does Brandon Dubinsky make more than $20,000 a day? Just think about how long it takes you and me to make $20,000. Almost a whole week for me.
15) Last and most important, be smart, be safe in this freakin’ storm.
Gravy’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. J dot T dot Miller – 2 goals and has been a shot in the arm.
2. Henrik Lundqvist – some key saves when the they had one-goal leads.
3. Ryan McDonut – solid D and picked up a goal and assist.
Honorable mention: Marc Staal – 2 assists and threw his body around and Anton Strahlman – because Manny said so.
The real Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. J.T. Miller.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Marc Staal.
Honorable mention: Anton Stralman, Ryan Callahan.
Your poll vote Three Rangers Stars:
1. J.T. Miller (33.33 %).
2. Henrik Lundqvist (22.54 %).
3. Ryan McDonagh (17.46 %).
(A lot of agreement on the three stars this time).
Photos by Getty Images.