OK, show of hands, how many thought the Rangers would get three points out of this home-and-home series against the prematurely-crowned Stanley Cup champions? Two points? None? Seriously, if I had told you on Wednesday afternoon when everybody was nuts over the Marian Gaborik trade that they’d get three points, you’d have ordered me to take a breathalyzer.
1) I thought in this game, despite the stupid breakaway contest, the Rangers were better than they were in the 6-1 win at the Garden Wednesday because I thought the Penguins were a lot better, and because Marc-Andre Fleury was fabulous. At 0-0 and at 1-0 Penguins, I thought it was the best game by far this year in which the Rangers hadn’t scored.
2) A bunch of superlatives, actually. I thought the Rangers carried the play as much as they have all season. And I thought this was probably the Rangers’ nastiest game of the season too. Just like that, you add Ryane Clowe – playing the part of Brandon Prust, and probably a much better player than Prust – and Arron Asham gets back into the lineup, and all of a sudden the Rangers aren’t the gooey-soft team they’d been.
3) You know, when Michael Del Zotto knocked James Neal out of the game with one of those probable upper-body concussions, and Pacqual Dupuis took a run at Del Zotto, and when Matt Cooke, that piece of cooke, started to run around like an idiot as usual and slashed Henrik Lundqvist, I said in the comments that last year’s Rangers would find a way to get it tied up and get points. Last year’s team ramped it up when things got confrontational, and played their best in those games. And boom, the Rangers got it tied.
4) Del Zotto’s probably going to get a spin on Brendan Shanahan’s wheel of random justice for the blind elbow to Neal’s chin. Two things about that. I have no idea how Shanahan is going to figure Del Zotto purposely elbowed somebody behind him (but I don’t know what they figure at NHL HQ). But Neal spent the better part of both games running Rangers defensemen, especially, for some reason, Dan Girardi; many of them high, dangerous hits. So Del Zotto braced himself for another one and tried turn the tables on Neal.
5) Del Zotto later put Evgeni Malkin on his back for a whack he took at Lundqvist. Good for Del Zotto.
6) During the Clowe-Deryk Engelland fight, MSG’s cameras appeared to be near the line for the men’s room. And nice job by MSG or Optimum or whomever was at fault for missing the first 30 seconds of play several times because it was in those high-quality local commercials.
7) Lundqvist was so good early. Fleury had to be even better, especially late, especially on that save on Derek Stepan (who had another big game). This is a big stretch for MAF, too … because last season’s complete meltdown has to be in his head going into the playoffs. At one point, Fleury lost his glove and one of the referees retrieved it, and I’m thinking, why in holy hell are on-ice officials undoing a natural disadvantage that happens in a game. How is that allowed?
8) Douglas Murray=Monster. Of the three big acquisitions, the Pens made, he looks a lot better than Jarome Iginla or Brenden Morrow. Iginla looks like he’s older than Chris Chelios. Of course, the fourth acquisition, Jussi Jokinen follows the recent NHL script of being heroic (regulation goal, shootout winner) in his debut with his new team.
9) If you’re looking for a little bad news, other than the possibility that Del Zotto could be suspended, well, the Rangers had trouble scoring again – they now have one legit first-line player, who happened to score their only goal. And Brad Richards, after such a good game Wednesday, I thought regressed. Stepan stunk on faceoffs – though he sure won a couple of big ones late, including the one that led immediately to the tying goal.
10) The Breakaway Contest After the Hockey Game Ends (BCATHGE). My God, if there ever was a screaming advertisement for what a ridiculous way it is to decide a great, great hockey game – a game played the way hockey was meant to be played – this was it. So the Rangers got three of a possible four points, the Penguins got two of a possible four points. That’s five. That’s awful.
11) Anybody thinking that Rangers-Penguins in the first round might now be worth watching? And if ya boys take care of business in Raleigh tonight, that upcoming home-and-home with Toronto is pretty interesting, no?
12) Rangers are undefeated (in regulation) with the new blog format.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist.
2. Rick Nash.
3. Derek Stepan.
RangerJHW’s Three Rangers Stars:
W.C. Fields – “Pittsburgh … I spent a week there one day!”
1. MDZ—#1 at clearing the crease the right way.
2. Henrik – steals the point.
3. Nash – abets Mr. Lundqvist with the theft.
HM – Solid team effort and we should have taken the OT … but 3 of 4 from the Pens – a solid effort.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist (22.97%).
2. Michael Del Zotto (16.22%).
3. Rick Nash (12.16%).
Photos by Getty Images.