1) Most of the time, you can analyze a game and say this team deserved to win, or this team deserved to lose. Last night was one of those games that, seriously, could have gone either way, no problem. The only thing that would concern me a little bit, if I were you guys, is that last year and during their little four-game winning streak, the Rangers won those games.
2) Even more to the point, the Rangers last season always, always (well, maybe not in St. Louis) played better when the game got nasty. And this game got a little nasty, but the Rangers didn’t win. In fact, they were the worse of the two teams in the end.
3) About the nastiness. Teflon Chris Neil, on whom NHL refs are not allowed to call penalties and NHL disciplinarians are not allowed to suspend, spent the night doing his usual routine with one noticeable difference. He really spent a lot of time hammering, hacking and going after Carl Hagelin, at one point plastering Hagelin in front of the Rangers bench, at another squishing him with a clean hit, then spearing him in the back as they both went to their benches. And of course, you have to think that had something to do with Hagelin’s elbow that concussed Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson last spring, right?
4) I’m going to admit I was wrong last night. I thought that Micheal Haley should have gotten the instigator in his “fight” with Chris Phillips. I thought Haley’s original hit was clean, and that Phillips was just being a good teammate and getting in Haley’s grill, and that Haley surely dropped the gloves and started the fight, throwing several punches before Phillips figured he’d better fight back. But I was reminded (by NHL.com’s Dave Lozo) that there are other factors that go into the instigator call, such as the distance traveled by the aggressor, and the perceived attitude of said aggressor, and on those counts, then, yeah, Phillips was the instigator. On some, he wasn’t:
46.11 Instigator – An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.
5) That said, the officials still mishandled the situation because A) they weren’t going to call the Haley charging penalty until they realized that they would have to award the Rangers a four-minute power play because Phillips instigated while wearing a shield and B) the linesmen should have interceded earlier since there was an obvious fighter vs. non-fighter fight ongoing and one guy was just holding on.
6) Brian Boyle. He got what he deserved. Another benching. I don’t think it’s effort, but I don’t know what it is. He’s not the same player he was last season. I don’t expect him to score 20 or even 10, and I don’t expect him to be the dynamic player he was in Games 1, 2 and 3 of the playoffs, pre-Neil concussion. But I couldn’t imagine he’d be this. That said, I think if he figures it out he’s better that Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, Darroll Powe, Stu Bickel and Haley. I do. He hasn’t been.
7) Brad Richards. Maybe that monkey’s off his back now, with his first goal in 16 games. The Rangers absolutely have to have their No. 1 center going.
8) It did seem like Henrik Lundqvist was fighting the puck a bit. But he had zero chance on the first one that ricocheted off the ice, and though he left a rebound off a shot off his chest on the game-winner, with a little bit of help he’s out of there 2-2.
9) The guy down the other end sure made one whale of a save on Derek Stepan in the third, didn’t he?
10) Back to Haley. This was his first fight as a Ranger, so I’m a little shocked at that. But I am surprised that he hasn’t been a sideshow at all, and that he actually can skate and deliver a hit, and has some (limited) skill. Honestly, all those times I saw him with the Islanders, he did nothing but act like a clown. Last night he had the fight, the big, clean hit that started the fight, was credited with a team-high six hits and blocked three shots. Pretty nice stat line for eight shifts and seven minutes of ice. Good for him.
11) Del Zotto. For some reason, this guy loves to go head-to-head with Neil, dishes and takes and dishes. He had a really good assist on the first goal, six shots on net (not including the post-ringer), four hits, two blocks. I gave him my first star.
12) Anton Stralman. He lost his socks and jock on that one play where he ended up taking a penalty, but just a little while before that he made a great play to break up a 2-on-1 without a shot after Michael Del Zotto’s shot hit the post and resulted in a long carom.
13) Marian Gaborik. An up-and-down night. Very bad offensive zone penalty, after he stopped moving his feet, that led to the Ottawa power-play goal. Took a wicked, uncalled, slash across the forearm later in the game. But if you tap a guy’s stick, or hook his glove in the slightest, that’s a penalty. What a league.
14) So I’m at one of the concession stands and the couple in front of me orders large Sprites with their meals, and are told – I swear to God – they can’t have large Sprites. Why not? “Mayor Bloomberg’s law.” Holy mackerel. I’ve read and heard about this, but I didn’t think it was actually happening and being enforced. And the large soda cups really aren’t all that large. The end of the world.
15) So Ryan Getzlaf is the best player in the NHL now, right? So the owners are going broke and need to lock out the players every eight years or so? So idea of five-year contract limit—the infamous “Hill we will die on”—is kinda out the window because, you know, the player has a gun to the owners’ head. Eight years, $8.25 million cap-hit per, for a guy who’s never scored more than 25 goals and is not in the top 10 forwards in the league? What a bunch of hypocrites.
16) Just want to ask again, I may need somebody to do the game review of the Pittsburgh game next Saturday afternoon. Hoping one of our regulars will volunteer. If you’re interested, regular or not, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RangerJHW’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan Callahan.
2. Rick Nash.
3. Derek Stepan.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash (21.51 %).
2. Brad Richards (18.28 %).
3. Henrik Lundqvist (10.75 %).
Photos by Getty Images.