1) As you know, I completely agree with what Brad Richards said post-game. That you don’t judge how a team played in a hockey game based on the coin-flip that is the skills competition. Because, as you know, I always maintain that it’s not part of the hockey game, and that if the Rangers had won the gimmick contest, you’d all feel much better about your team today. You would. You shouldn’t feel any differently, whichever way you felt before the shootout.
2) That said, this sure wasn’t the Rangers best game of the season, but it was also far from their worst. A lot of players are better the last two games than they had been for a while, when there were a pile of ghosts. Now there are only a few. And we’ll get to that in a minute. The glass-half-full part is that, two games in a row now, the Rangers have come back in the third period to force OT (and then a tie-breaking gimmick). That shows some fortitude. I’m not ready to compare this team’s character to 2011-12’s team by any stretch. But any character looks good on a team that had shown almost none for a couple of weeks.
3) The biggest friendly ghost is Rick Nash. One of the Pittsburgh columnists tweeted that Nash is a dog. Just awful. Can’t stay upright (did he catch Dubinsky Disease?). Won’t go to areas where he might get a pass and fire a shot. Won’t go near contact (he actually had a first-period hit, a legit hit, his third of the season, which is two more than Jaromir Jagr, who right now is about three times the player Nash is). If it’s the concussions, that’s pretty frightening. If it’s not the concussions, that’s even more frightening.
4) That overtime power play. It had some chances. It did. Richards can’t shoot that puck five feet wide, just can’t, not 5-on-4, but especially not 4-on-3 when not only is it almost certain to come out of the zone, but it could very well be an odd-man break the other way. Worse, much worse, was Nash drifting backward near the left point until he actually took himself completely out of the offensive one, while the Rangers had the puck, on a power play! WTB?
5) And, anyway, Mats Zuccarello is the best power-play player the Rangers have, and he couldn’t get a shot there? Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider have been good on the power play all year. They were stapled to the bench, too. I don’t get it. The power play’s been much better this year, but that power play left me scratching my head. And don’t forget, Brassard had scored the PPG that forced OT. Kreider didn’t play a shift in OT.
6) Ryan McDonagh was so good vs. Sidney Crosby. McDonagh’s only bad moment was when he lost his stick and he chased the puck up the wall, and Derek Stepan didn’t cover for him as Pascal Dupuis, wide-open, buried Crosby’s pass (Dan Girardi doing the snow angel). To that point, Stepan had made two or three fabulous defensive plays, one to prevent Crosby fromn getting a hack at a rebound early on
7) Henrik Lundqvist. Was really good in the shootout this time … until the Sutter GWG. Was really good in regulation, too … If you want to complain, because I know a lot of you complain about all the goals he allows, maybe you can complain about the back-hander on which Sutter scored after he went right around Michael Del Zotto on the 4-on-4 to make it 3-1.
8) I said it in the comments shortly before those two Pittsburgh goals in 1:01, that I know it will come back and bite me in the butt, but Michael Del Zotto was having a pretty strong game. As one of our main Boneheads, Latona, then replied. “Chomp.” Before that, I thought Del Zotto had a good response when that Penguin whose name I can’t spell gave Lundqvist a snow shower. Del Zotto crosschecked him in the back, right down to the ice. Good for him. And good for the refs, who were otherwise sub-standard (which is becoming the new standard), to call the unsportsmanlike penalty for the snow shower. Carl Hagelin then scored on the 4-on-4 that resulted. So good response all around.
9) On the other hand, I thought the non-response after Chris Kunitz steamrolled Lundqvist was rather pathetic. At least it required a facewash and some nastiness.
10) The Rangers sure do give up a lot of goals right around the goalmouth. On the 1-0 goal, hey, it’s a power play and Derek Dorsett broke his stick, so it’s 5-on-3 essentially. And still, Girardi is laying face down in the crease when Chris Kunitz puts in his own rebound. If he’s on his feet, maybe he can prevent it, or knock Kunitz on his keyster. I really am not a big fan of the snow angel.
11) And I haven’t even gotten to the fact, yet, that Pittsburgh was missing literally half it’s regular lineup, including one of the best players in the world, five of six regular defensemen, and most of its muscle. The Penguins have won five in a row and 10 of 11. This kinda shows how far above the rest of the Lesstropolitan Division the Pens really are. And they are running away with it, using half a team.
12) I thought, overall, Richards continues to be better lately. Stepan too, Brassard definitely. I thought Dorsett deserved more shifts — he had a bunch of hits and was involved all night. Hagelin’s been really good for two games in a row, even though he was right back on the fourth line until he was promoted during the game. John Moore’s been a lot better lately. Hey, it’s two decent games in a row for Benoit Pouliot, too. On the other hand, you have Nash, and you have Anton Stralman, who’s really fighting it, among others.
13) The Islanders come in for their Stanley Cup Game 7 Friday.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Ryan McDonagh.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Carl Hagelin.
3. John Moore.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Carl Hagelin.
2. tie, Mats Zuccarello, Henrik Lundqvist.
Photos by Getty Images.