1) Speed, speed, speed, speed, speed.
2) IMO, and I’ve said this before, Carl Hagelin has been the Rangers’ best player since he came back. There were three or four or five remarkable plays in the first half of this game … A play when Justin Falk was trapped up ice, and Hagelin sped back to break up an odd-man rush … his pressure on the puck that drew the too-many-men penalty … his play on the penalty kill when the Habs had a bit of a shooting gallery going in the second … his play on the PP, in the defensive zone, when Brad Richards was under siege, and resulting in the 5-on-3 power play. He was on P.K. Slewfoot all night.
3) Calm Talbot. Yowzer, first Rangers shutout in Montreal since Eddie Giacomin in 1967? First NHL shutout for the rookie? I like that he facewashed Brandon Prust in the first-period scrum around his net. The kid was pretty cool, wasn’t he? And he needed a shutout in this game, needed to be really good, under some difficult pressure by the Habs and in a place that, obviously, has been tough for the Rangers to win. Splendid performance. He outplayed Carey Price, too, and I thought Price was sensational … as good or better than he was in all of those previous shutouts he hung on the Rangers over the years.
4) That Ryan Callahan goal won’t go down as a 5-on-3 goal because the first penalty had just expired, but man has the 5-on-3 looked good this year … especially compared to the last few years. The Rangers were leading the NHL with three 5-on-3 goals.
5) And Callahan, while not spectacular in this game, I thought looked a lot closer to being himself than he has at any point since coming back from the thumb injury. Mind you, he hasn’t been bad at all.
6) Chris Kreider is the whole package now. Even his biggest fans, or the biggest Torts hater, can’t tell me he ever played this way in his other opportunities, that he ever asserted himself, even in the minors, like this. That penalty he was assessed may or may not have been justified, but Slewfoot got away with twice kicking out Kreider’s skates and then a rabbit punch before the call. The shot off the post was impressive, wasn’t it? (I meant, The Kreider).
7) J.T. Miller had the great chance, too. He’s had some hiccups, like the one he had in the second period when he failed to get one in deep. I think they should keep him around a while, though, because this team is suddenly one of the fastest around, and with Rick Nash coming back soon, will be even faster. Unless Miller really gets overwhelmed, his wheels are worth keeping.
8) Must have been really tough for Justin Falk to go in and then to play third pair, then to play the wrong side. Didn’t mind him at all. And he gives you that little bit of edge, too. I don’t think they will change the lineup tonight off a win. Anyway, I’d bet Michael Del Zotto is back in there soon.
9) I wondered, as you know, if the Rangers had the skill to play this style … and I’m starting to think they do. But let’s face it, they’ve gotten better this season as they’ve learned to defend within this system, and they certainly have done that. That said, don’t underestimate the importance of the guys like Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle in a game like this, with all those icing faceoffs, a lot of D-zone draws, and a ton of simple plays in a game when the Rangers were protecting a one-goal lead for a really long time.
11) ICYMI, Rick Nash hopes to play Tuesday vs. Boston (watch out for that Lucic Monster thing) or Thursday in Dallas. They really shouldn’t rush him, and I don’t think they will. Man, this lineup might look good if he can be himself and stay healthy.
12) Wonder if the Rangers’ offense was slowed by having to play on that smooth sheet of ice.
13) Rangers right back at it tonight against the Kings, minus Jonathan Quick (he of the gift goal of the season). What is up with all these goalie injuries?
14) I want to see a game where the Canadiens wear their red and the Rangers wear their blue. Why not?
15) Off topic, The Heidi Game, 45 years ago today.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Calm Talbot.
2. Carl Hagelin.
3. Chris Kreider.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Cam Talbot.
2. Chris Kreider.
3. Ryan Callahan.
Photos by Getty Images (top four) and Associated Press (bottom).