1) I don’t get too excited over goals sometimes. Carl Hagelin’s first goal went in off his leg or glove or something. His second goal, if Henrik Lundqvist had allowed one like that, you’d all be saying he stinks. But Hagelin played a wonderfully aggressive game. It was his speed that caused the turnover on the first goal, and his speed that backed off the defense on the second, and he made some really good, smart passes (like the one on which Rick Nash scored late) and played a strong game in the offensive zone, which is where the Rangers needed to solidify their game and stop trading chances with the Lightnings.
2) Speaking of Nash … How about the power move and shot on Hagelin’s first goal? How about the shot on his own goal? How about some of the plays he made in the defensive zone, and some of the plays he made in the neutral zone? Complete player playing a complete game. The goals will come. They will.
3) That track meet early on … the Rangers can now play that game because they have the speed and some finishers, and those two elements change things quite a bit. Sometimes you take what the opponent gives you, and that particular opponent does invite you to play that way. But the Rangers will lose a lot of those games if they play that way, because those games are coin tosses, and let’s face it, though they have outplayed the Lightning twice now (Tampa Bay was 6-1 when they first met, and is now 6-5), they don’t have the stable of forwards the Bolts have. They won’t beat Pittsburgh playing that way. And the Devils and Bruins won’t let them play that way. But they will score enough and win a lot more playing the way they did the last two periods, which is defending first and counter-punching. Defense is what is going to win. They fell short because of goals last year, but they got where they were by defending.
4) That all said, the Rangers’ best player remains their last line of defense, and in the last couple of games, Henrik Lundqvist is now looking like the Vezina Trophy winner again. He hadn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been as good as you expect him to be. Guy was money last night, especially against the Bolts’ studs and their odd-man rushes early.
6) Two comical moments. One, it appeared the Rangers took a too-many-men penalty (which would be the fifth home game in a row they’ve done so, and Darroll Powe even went into the penalty box. For some reason, it wasn’t called. Two, that ridiculously bad line change when Marc Staal fell off the boards and back onto the ice resulting in a 4-on-1 from which the Rangers never recovered and Vincent Lecavalier scored. John Tortorella probably didn’t think it was funny. But one of our commentors, TheDude had the line of the night when he said he “heard the Benny Hill music during that line change.”
7) Ryan Callahan’s shoulder looked good on the steal-and-score, then he got into a scrap in front of the net on the next shift. I know it’s in his DNA, but do you really want him doing that so soon?
8) Dan Girardi sure makes the defense look different, doesn’t he? Everybody slots down to their proper minutes, and Girardi (two assists, and a shot off the post, too) played 22 minutes against the Bolts’ best. Played some with his old partner, Marc Staal, too. Block Ness Monster.
10) That was probably the last time they had good ice. Was pretty bad after the Knickerbockers matinee yesterday.
11) Going back to the defensive style: The Rangers gave up almost nothing the last two periods, against a really dangerous group of forwards. Kinda like last year, when they were a difficult team to play against. As Ryan McDonagh said a few days ago about what’s been missing: “I think playing hard, playing with a kind of mindset of playing hard for each other and trying to beat the guy across from you. I don’t think we have that mindset. I don’t think we’re playing mean enough at times, passionate enough in our own zone. That’s where we’ve always been our best. Last year we were so hard to play against in our own zone.”
12) And McMonster was pretty mean again last night (so was Staal). At least this time when McDonagh cleared out his man, clean and hard, he didn’t get called for one of those pansification penalties.
13) I thought the new additions—J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider and Darroll Powe—were again contributing factors. Miller, I thought, made a couple of mistakes, but also created some chances for himself and drew a couple of penalties in battles.
14) Arron Asham. I am speechless. Good for him.
The real Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Ryan Callahan.
AFrey94’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist – vintage Lundqvist performance. Wish he could have gotten the shutout but #1 star from me will have to do.
2. Carl Hagelin – two goals and used his speed effectively throughout. Seems like he’s (hopefully) turned a corner from his rough start.
3. Rick Nash – an offensive force as always. The way he uses his body to shield the puck and make plays reminds me a lot of Jagr.
Your poll vote for the Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin (30.56 %).
2. Henrik Lundqvist (23.92 %).
3. Rick Nash (17.28 %).
Photos by Getty Images.