1) Let’s get right to this. I know it’s a popular theory, and I’m sure you can find dozens of news stories today saying so, but it’s a fantasy that John Tortorella hated Chris Kreider, or held him down. Kreider himself says it’s not real. Said yesterday that he “wouldn’t have trusted himself” last season, especially playing on a bad ankle, and playing poorly. Nobody wanted Kreider out of college and into the pros sooner than Tortorella did. Nobody wanted a big kid with size and speed more. But Kreider was not ready last year … and, lest you forget, he was not ready at the beginning of this year. Alain Vigneault even said it yesterday: “Well, it’s not the same player that I saw in preseason,” Vigneault said. “I sent him to the minors. There wasn’t really much going on.”
2) That said, this Kreider is a different player and he’s here to stay, and he’s a factor in a lot of games. Needs to be a factor in more of them, because he still does struggle away from the puck sometimes. But, man, the kid’s got everything a coach could want in a player once he figures it all out. He’s still figuring. But there’s a lot going on now. (I meant, THE Kreider).
3) Calm Talbot. Let the goalie controversy begin. It’s not really one, not yet. But Vigneault said yesterday that Talbot could get consecutive starts, with Monday’s game. Vigneault’s made the decision, but wouldn’t announce it because he hadn’t told Henrik Lundqvist or Talbot yet. So, in that way, maybe he’s fueling a little controversy. Maybe it would be good for Lundqvist to be pushed, though normally he pushes himself pretty hard. Good for Talbot. He deserves to play more. I’m not sure yet that he’s going to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. But I don’t think he’s a flash in the pan. Too positionally sound and, well, Calm, to not be at least a good goalie.
4) Anyway, his first time playing at the Garden and he got a nice ovation of “Tal-bot, Tal-bot” for the first time after the 4-1 goal and again later. That goal broke his streak of three consecutive Saturdays without allowing a goal. See the post-game notes posted last night for some of the other accomplishments he has posted in seven starts of two or fewer goals allowed, six of those wins.
6) Also good for Michael Del Zotto, who was back in the lineup, back on his natural left side—perhaps in a showcase attempt? I don’t know that he played any better or worse, but he scored a big power play goal and that had to feel like a hat trick to him. He also escaped a potential injury on the somehow unpenalized head shot by Tom Tostitos. Brendan Shanahan was in the building. Wonder if anything will come of that. Also wonder if there’s anything to this: Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton was up in the press box area where the scouts usually sit. I don’t believe he usually sits up there.
7) That Mats Zuccarello-Dominic Moore-Carl Hagelin line looks like they made the other three lines, then had three guys left over and decided/had no choice but to put them together. But they did pretty well. Of course, all four lines did pretty well on this day.
8) Dan Girardi had some early tough shifts … he got hurt doing a snow angel, then broke his stick defending a 2-on-2 break. Then made the pass to nobody at the left point. Then got hit up high with a shot.
9) In a game filled with irony, there was Daniel Sedin blocking Girardi’s shot on the Rick Nash goal.
10) The Rangers power play got another pair, right in front of Tortorella and Mike Sullivan. Sully: “Just like we drew it up. Oh, wait.”
11) The Rangers needed a win like this. I’m not sure that they played great, but much better than most of the 3-2 road trip, I thought. The puck goes in, sometimes—as I’ve said many times—and the game looks a lot different. But it did appear that a lot of those who, Vigneault said, brought their “B-games” Friday, were a lot closer to “A” Saturday.
12) That said, Kreider pointed out that Vigneault—who was angry after the game in Boston, dropping an F bomb and slamming a door after his brief presser—helped fire up his team, not because it was playing his old team. “You see that passion,” Kreider said, “That’s the klind of passion you need to bring to the rink every day. I think a lot of guys felt that way after the game and you want that kind of fire after a loss like that.”
13) No idea how Brian Boyle got involved in a second fight in two days, but give him credit for showing up. Kevin Bieksa was hoping to get Kreider after Kreider roughed him up and took a penalty, at least that’s what it looked like Bieksa was saying to Kreider as he skated by the box and looked at the time remaining on the clock.
14) “I am going to coach this game, hopefully kick their asses and get outta here.”—Tortorella. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Chris Kreider.
2. Cam Talbot.
3. Rick Nash.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Chris Kreider.
2. tie, Rick Nash.
2. tie, Cam Talbot.
Eddie, Eddie, Eddie’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. The Kreider: The kid still needs to learn the process, improve in all areas of the rink, and is far from ready for the NHL, but that was an impressive performance today and a big “up yours” to the Nucks coach.
2. McD: Excellent game today. I counted at least 4 nice poke checks on odd man rushes. He had his legs today and played a good hard physical game. Great rebound in less than 24 hours.
3. Tam Calbot: I know there are still plenty of doubters but this kid is really playing well. Square to the shooter and standing tall, Tam constantly challenged the Nucks offense. Interesting sidebar, there were a few nice Tam clears that the Rangers weren’t ready for…This young man is no Henrik with the puck
1. The car seat: I think those straps are going to need tightening after the ride home. Torts was not happy.
2. Testito: What a tool. Hopefully, The Bickel will be called up when our boys travel west if only to pound him into submission…
3. MSG crowd: I was happy the former coach became their former coach, but he brought more excitement and passion to the Garden that we’ve seen in a long long time. That run to the ECF was terrific and Torts deserves a lot of the credit…
Photos by Getty Images.