1) Amazing how good you look when the puck goes in. Also amazing how much different this Rangers team is when most of its pieces are on the ice and somewhat healthy. Each line, each D-pair looks more like it should be getting the minutes it gets. And when the puck goes in, even the coach seems smarter :)
2) Rick Nash=Monster. Pretty good first outing for a guy who missed four games with what was almost certainly a concussion – Henrik Lundqvist was marveling at how good Nash looked despite barely working out and just sitting on his couch all week … in other words, he had a concussion or he was being treated as if he had a concussion.
3) … but the guy did everything, and after the game took it to heart that Martin St. Louis beat him to the slot for the beauty of a re-direction that was the only goal Lundqvist would allow to that dangerous team. Was accountable. Felt responsible. Gotta like that. Offensively, Nash just a force, start to finish, making space for Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, taking a few nasty wristers, twice made those finesse moves around defensemen that we’re starting to expect. He doesn’t throw his body around like, say, Ryan Callahan, but he uses his size and strength as much as he uses his speed and his hands, and when it’s time to deliver a hit, he does.
4) So, the Rangers who gave up a fair amount of their team to get him, naturally, looked a little lost without him. And if he plays like that, he will score more goals, too.
5) That all said, I thought a lot of players (all of the defensemen, for example) played really well, much better than lately, in this game, including Richards, who had some extra jump – maybe it was the sweater on the other side as much as it was Nash? Whatever, he had the puck more, moved it, backchecked; he looked a lot closer to the 2011-12 Richards … except on the power play point, particularly on that short 5-on-3. Ugh.
6) Where was I going with that? Oh yeah, that all said, this was the Lightning which for the third time was just a mismatch for the Rangers, who let the Rangers skate, let them use the middle of the ice, let them impose their will on the cycle. Let’s see them do this against Pittsburgh, Boston (I know, they have grinded out two wins against the B’s) or the Devils before we get too impressed.
7) Ryan McDonagh did talk briefly (listen to the audio in the previous thread) about an adjustment the team (the coaches) made to prevent Tampa Bay from taking away the wall as a lot of teams have tried to do since, well, since the Eastern Conference finals.
8) Looks to me that Tampa Bay doesn’t do that Guy Boucher thing at center ice anymore, or at least doesn’t do it very well anymore, and also it looks like the Lightnings, who were winning by scoring tons early and not winning nearly as much lately, still might have goalie issues.
9) Hagelin just keeps getting better and better. Not just with that amazing speed, but also with his smarts and his hands, and not a bad shot, either. And when he plays the wall, he doesn’t look or play very small.
10) Another big game from the Captain, who is still probably playing with less than two 100 percent shoulders. (another listen recommendation: Torts on Callahan post-game, in the previous thread). He made two big plays on the Derek Stepan goal, followed that with a big hit. He’s finding his whole game.
11) I know he could have put his feet up and had a couple of power bars and fruit smoothies during stretches of this game, but Lundqvist made an all-world save on Steven Stamkos on the 2-on-1, stopped a couple of his one-time rockets, too, got beat only on an all-world play by St. Louis. He took the game-winning goal against Winnipeg to heart. That’s the way he is. It is terribly obvious to say this, but the Rangers need a lot more games like this out of their guy.
12) There were some real pansification penalties, on Steve Eminger, on Alexander Killorn and on Eric Brewer.
13) The Rangers power play. I thought the first one was really good, had five or six shots. I thought the one that included the brief 5-on-3 stunk, reverting to the old “four guys above the circles can’t fail” strategy, and Richards getting that shot blocked for a 3-on-5 short-handed chance. The one on which the Rangers scored, they got a huge break with linesman Brad Kovachik keeping the puck at center ice when it was clearly going all the way down the ice, and would have allowed the Lightnings to change.
14) When Tortorella talks about the kids like he did pre-game last night, and explains why he sends them down or why he plays them, I don’t understand how people can still thinks it’s personal with him.
15) After being loud and savvy in the loss to Winnipeg, the place went mostly silent again last night.
16) Another way to dominate: Ya boys went 38-19 in the circle.
17) Stu Bickel. I know the rule of thumb is you don’t do one of those staged fights when you’re leading. But at home, I think it’s a different rule of thumb. Leading on the road? Let it go. Don’t get the crowd riled. Leading at home, why the hell not? Plus, frankly, it’s about time somebody in blue dropped the mitts.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Ryan Callahan.
3. Carl Hagelin.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash (31.25 %).
2. Carl Hagelin (25.0 %).
3. Henrik Lundqvist (16.35 %).
Photos by Getty Images.