Still not completely sure what to make of the Rangers’ 1-0 win over the Islanders Saturday night. The Rangers didn’t play great. They didn’t play lousy. But it sure as heck was fun to watch, and the atmosphere in that old, dilapidated building was pretty cool and very loud.
1) The three-point game. It is what has made the conference-only 48-game season a silly draw-no-conclusions exercise in which so many mediocre teams are going to be rewarded and so many others are going to stay in the race longer than they deserve.
2) So the Rangers are now playing them in bunches, and that’s what it’s all about. Get points. Lose in OT or a tiddly-winks contest and you feel bad for a while, but that loser’s point goes directly into your pocket.
3) So getting two while the Islanders get one isn’t a huge help in catching the Islanders, but maybe that point is the difference in the end between going to the first tiebreaker. Maybe it doesn’t matter to Rangers-Islanders at all, but the two points make all the difference in Rangers-Winnipeg. Or Rangers-Devils. Maybe the two instead of one mean the Rangers don’t have to win their season finale to get in. Who knows? Just get the point(s). Count ‘em up later.
4) I thought the Rangers were engaged and competed at a greater level than they have most of this season. I did. They’re still not the grittiest team anywhere, or even remotely as nasty and difficult to play as they were a year ago. But they were better in this game than they’ve been in most games. Maybe it’s the lineup changes they made at the deadline. Maybe it’s the importance of the games.
5) But they still can’t score. They had a second power-play unit of Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard and Ryane Clowe up front, Brad Richards and Dan Girardi on the points. Yeesh. And for long stretches of games, it’s kinda sad when they send out line after line and it seems only one of the four really has any chance to score a goal.
6) Enough about the bad, because there was good, too. How about your goalkeeper? Since his little near-post-game blowup in Ottawa, when he seethed (and I have no doubt that he let his teammates know what he was thinking after he bit his tongue in the post-game lockerroom), he’s been pretty spectacular. He was in this game, as he was in the shootout win over Toronto. He gave up four when he was left stranded in Toronto the game before, with no help on any of the four. He stole the game in Carolina. He was superb in both games against Pittsburgh. This was his best, his first shutout when his team needed a shutout.
7) Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh shut down John Tavares, or at least limited his chances. Girardi then gets the unlikely OT GWG. That’s a pretty cool night. I get on him when he does the snow angel thing, but man the guy battles. And that was a goal-scorer’s goal.
8) Funny game, hockey. NYR hit two posts early, NYI hit two and a crossbar later, and it’s such a game of luck and inches, if any of those go in, different ballgame.
9) I thought Darroll Powe played his best game as a Ranger, and that Taylor Pyatt was more physical than usual. Arron Asham negated a power play with a needless penalty, and that was a bad move, but otherwise he was good too.
10) The Rangers, on the road, got stuck with a Richards-Tavares matchup several times. Oy. I thought Richards did play better, and he made a potential game-saving defensive play late in the third? Albeit while falling again.
11) I like that referees are calling games differently now, but it can’t be easy on the players not knowing. That said, the Kyle Okposo penalty had to be called because it created a huge scoring chance when he slashed and broke Girardi’s stick, giving the Islanders what would have been a glorious scoring chance. No idea what Okposo and the Islanders could possibly have been arguing.
12) I thought Michael Del Zotto and Derick Brassard both had some struggles. But both came up big in the OT, didn’t they? Brassard has a little bit of bite in his game. Needs a little bit more.
13) Matt Martin=Monster. The Rangers have nobody like him.
14) How about Brian Boyle getting one of your three stars, after being one of the official game stars against Toronto? He’s been coming on for a while. Of course, some of you will never, ever, ever admit it because of personal biases or because you can’t see past goals. Yes, he needs to score more goals. Yes, he stunk early in the season. But if you don’t see his value … well, I’ll stop there.
15) I thought the captain had some tough shifts early, and he’s battling the puck a little bit. But I loved that he challenged/slashed/yapped at about a third of the Islanders lineup at the end of the first period.
16) Check out the slide show in the post below.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist.
2. Dan Girardi.
3. Ryan McDonagh.
RangerJHW’s Three Rangers Stars:
So…Henrik steals yet another game!
1. The King
2. Girardi…great shot.
3. Darroll Powe…wow..is this your playoff mode?
HM-The IRON-as in posts and crossbar!
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist (33.09%).
2. Dan Girardi (22.3%).
3. Brian Boyle (8.63%).
Photos by Getty Images.