Two very important games against two inferior teams in two nights, and the Rangers get two critical victories. Hey, you don’t dissect these at this point.
Put the four points in the bag and move on. Four games left.
1) I wonder if any of you are taking a little extra pleasure in the knowledge that the win in Buffalo not only knocked the Baby Buffaloes out of the playoffs but it also eliminated Mr. Snider’s Flyers. Turn out the orange lights on the Empire State Building.
2) I also wondered if the Rangers’ new No. 1 center told the Rangers new No. 3 center – who scored his first career hat trick – “Hey, I scored a hat trick in this building in my first NHL game.”
3) Seriously, good for Brad Richards, who scored his first hattie in his 896th game. I’ve been on him all year, and mostly deservedly, IMO. But I’ve also mentioned that the guy cares, that it really hurts him to not contribute (and to not win). And that this team isn’t going anywhere without him, Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik scoring. Well, Nash has been no problem overall, and Gaborik was turned into two players who have helped, but the Rangers still need Richards over these final four games and whatever follows.
4) Derek Stepan, who had the hat in his first NHL game, didn’t light up the scoresheet, but he was on it, and I thought he really had a great game again. Stepan beat Steve Ott cleanly on defensive-zone draw to start the 1-0 goal, which occurred because of Carl Hagelin’s speed. It was a little thing, the won draw, but who knows where this game, which was 0-0 at the time, goes if Stepan loses that draw?
5) Another little thing while it was 0-0 was when John Tortorella had to use his timeout after an icing because his guys were completely gassed. They were still puffing after the timeout. And Buffalo’s interim coach decided that was a good time to put his fourth line on the ice instead of Tomas Vanek or somebody who could take advantage of the exhausted Rangers.
6) Though I will say, that fourth line, about 11-12 minutes into the first, helped Buffalo take over physically for a brief period. Last year it would almost always be the Rangers who set that tone.
7) That all said, before the onslaught – a Rangers franchise record five in 2:58 including three in the final 1:18 of the first period — of silly goals, on bounces, deflections and just a horrific Ryan Miller coughup, I thought the Rangers were playing fine. I’m not, and I know you won’t, get too nuts over the pucks going into the net at that rate, but I thought overall the Rangers were twice as good as Buffalo on this night, and that’s how the score turned out.
8) Also, that’s two good games in a row for Ryane Clowe, who really scored the back-breaker in this game, after setting up the most important goal in the 6-1 win that was 2-1 and teetering the night before.
9) Buffalo’s going to have an interesting off-season. They Baby Buffaloes already made the mistake of firing coach Lindy Ruff, and then traded away some nucleus, and now GM Darcy Regier might walk the plank. And I wonder if assistant coach James Patrick will be available over the summer, and if he’d be interested in coming home to New York, or if the Rangers would be smart enough to bring him back. I think he’d be great for their young defense core, especially if Mike Sullivan goes elsewhere (total speculation).
10) Games like last night’s you can see what a competitor Henrik Lundqvist really is. He doesn’t give a rat’s behind about his stats. He hates giving up goals any time in any game, whatever is at stake and no matter how important the game is. And when it’s over, all he cares about is the win.
11) Ryan Callahan should play all his games in Western New York.
12) The Rangers still control their own destiny, and still have a shot to get higher than the eighth seed. Though it’s been unseemly at times, and though the two losses were hideous as were some of the wins, they are 7-2-1 in the last 10 down this stretch.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Derek Stepan.
2. Brad Richards.
3. Carl Hagelin.
RangerJHW’s Three Rangers Stars:
Most relaxing game of the year…
1. Brad Richards-hopefully just the start
2. Cally-just another great day at the office
3. Stepan-blown away by just how good you’ve become.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Brad Richards (19.05%).
2. Henrik Lundqvist (12.7 %).
3. Tie, Ryan Callahan, Ryane Clowe and Carl Hagelin (11.11%).
Photos by Getty Images.