And I must add that the last two games the Rangers – as always whenever they have struggled over the years – looked like a team that still has all kinds of trouble finishing, and that’s not going away when things get tighter against better opponents in the postseason. So, though I think they’ve played hard and played, for the most part, well the last month, I’m not convinced they can make noise once the playoffs start.
The Rangers have a chance to finish seventh and avoid Pittsburgh in the first round if they can beat the Devils Saturday, and I think that’s crucial. I also think it’s comical that these mediocre and flawed Rangers will then have a better record than the Islanders, who are having such a “magical” season.
1) The Captain started it and finished it. He was great early in the game, heroic late. Thought he hurt his hand there on the PK with no stick – well, he did hurt his hand, but wondered if it was serious. I thought he was off in Florida. He was huge vs. the Devils Sunday and huge again last night.
2) Have you ever seen a player on such a lucky streak in terms of goal scoring as Brad Richards has had lately? Seriously? Not knocking him, but man, he’s managed to bounce a few indirectly into the net lately. It was total luck that it even got to OT. Things weren’t looking good, either, with Carolina playing the OT with nothing to lose, and Winnipeg going up 2-1 against Montreal at that moment.
3) Biggest concern going forward: Special teams. Difference between Rangers’ special teams and other special teams Exibit A: Ryan McDonagh chases a puck needlessly out near the blue line, Carolina gets a 3-on-1 down low, Dan Girardi does the snow angel and doesn’t stop the pass (he had no chance). Big goal changes game. Exibit B: Rangers have a power play, move the puck well … but move it with three players, including Rick Nash and Brad Richards, their two most experienced first-line players, out at the blue line. Well, opponents will let the Rangers play out there all day long. And why not?
5) The start was just so crucial and Derek Stepan provided that first goal … after Henrik Lundqvist prevented them from falling behind quickly.
6) We discussed Stepan as a No. 1 center on the Live Chat yesterday and somebody suggested that he needs to clean up his faceoffs to be that, and he had lost one just before the 1-0 goal that resulted in a couple of Carolina chances. But the kid sure has some skills, a really good shot – I’d like to see him fire it more – and his overall game has been terrific most nights.
7) That all said, how about the outlet pass by Michael Del Zotto to start the play, and then the pass by Carl Hagelin to set up the goal? Hagelin’s been strong lately after I thought he dipped for a while. Of course, a lot of you will completely dismiss the Del Zotto pass because, yeah, he made a huge mistake in the game, and because he never gets credit here for some of the good things he does. Only the bad.
8) Mats Zuccarello. Not only did he distract the ballerina/figure skater/whatever Jeff Skinner and then the clowns Larose and Bergeron, to allow Derick Brassard to score the 2-0 goal, but he also threw a big hit right at the start of the shift to pop the puck loose near the blue line. I’ve said it before, It think he’s been a bigger addition that Ryane Clowe or Brassard or John Moore. And I wonder if there’s any doubt that he has to be re-signed.
9) Carolina did a good job shutting down Taylor Pyatt most of the night.
10) I hate to play doctor, but it sure looked like Ryane Clowe was knocked silly by that Bobby Sanguinetti elbow, which means concussion. Which means we probably won’t be seeing him for a while. Some are speculating it wasn’t a head injury. Maybe I’m seeing something else. I hope it’s not his head.
11) During the first Carolina PP, when Callahan lost his stick, Eric Staal swept the stick toward the boards. Now, I’m not certain it was broken, because Callahan at one point made a move toward the stick as if he would try to retrieve it. I just don’t think it should be legal for an offensive player to move a stick away from the defensive player.
13) Seeing these teams eliminated in a 48-game season like this, I can’t help but think what a joke this is. There are so many mediocre teams in the middle of the pack in both conferences, teams in that might be out in a legit season, teams out that might be in in a legit season.
14) In case you missed it, Kris Newbury was recalled from Connecticut (AHL) after the game.
15) I felt bad for Matt Gilroy, shoved into a difficult spot. The first penalty was legit, a no-brainer. The second, without benefit of a good replay, looked like a push that didn’t need to be called—that’s the one on which Carolina scored. And if you call that, how do you then not call the takedown of Rick Nash in the third?
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan Callahan.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Derek Stepan.
(the real) Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan Callahan.
2. Carl Hagelin.
3. Brad Richards.
RangerJHW’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Captain Cally-World Class Shot
2. MZA-solid effort and tough!
3. Hags-good energy tonight
HM-The King…many key saves…again
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan Callahan (27.06%).
2. Mats Zuccarello (15.29%).
3. Derek Stepan (11.76%).
Photos by Getty Images.