Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve!
1) The non-existent quick whistle. How is that play not blown dead? I mean, there are so many layers to this onion. How does the referee tell Brad Richards, according to Alain Vigneault, that if the puck didn’t go in on the wraparound, then it wouldn’t count? … I’m guessing he meant he was waiting to see if the Kelly Clarkson stuff attempt went in, and then he would have blown the whistle if it hadn’t. OK, so then how does that goal stand, since it was obviously Nazem Kadri’s jam-shot that went in and not Clarkson’s? And if that is really what the referee believed, how does he not convince the video folks in Toronto (Toronto … hmmm) that his intent was to blow the whistle once Cam Talbot covered the Clarkson shot?
2) Can’t wait to hear what HBO’s 24/7 microphones picked up during and after that non-goal. I will say this. If Anton Stralman stays on his feet instead of doing the sliding snow angel out of the play, none of that happens and the Rangers probably win 1-0.
3) Calm Talbot deserved to win that game 1-0, even with the remarkable shot that hugged the goal line as it went post-to-post. And the Rangers thoroughly outplayed the Leaves from, oh, mid-first until the Kadri gift goal, sort of the same script as Minnesota the night before, only minus all the goals. Talbot’s two straight starts gives Henrik Lundqvist a few extra days to clear his head, because seriously, there seems to be a lot going on in there. And let’s face if, as good as the kid as been—and he’s been pretty spectacular—ya boys aren’t going anywhere if Lundqvist doesn’t figure it out.
4) Ryan McDonagh=McMonster … my God. That play he made to chase down Phil Kessel, one of the NHL’s quickest players, and then to strip him of the puck from behind, and make a play with it. That’s an all-timer. You will not see that very often at all. And I thought both he and his partner had two solid games after the clunker against the Fishsticks.
5) That trading chances thing was kinda fun to watch. Toronto sure likes to play that way, and the Rangers don’t mind. They would have gotten killed in that game a week ago, with the way they’d been defending and the way their faster players were playing at that time. Now, bring it on. They still have to be careful around the blue lines, and I thought early on they weren’t. But if they defend and take care of the puck when they have it, they can play the fast game.
6) Speaking of whom, J.T. Miller had some glorious chances earlier in the game, then buried the only Rangers goal in the hockey portion of the program. Fired off five shots in just 9:29 of ice. He had a nice back-to-back weekend, too. Vigneault said he looks more comfortable in his natural position, center. Just more wheels and another potential scorer, to whatever degree.
7) Hate to sound like I’m grading Rick Nash game to game to game, but he’s that important to the Rangers and so maybe I watch him a little more closely. I thought got a little better late in the Minnesota game, and I thought was better still in this one. The guy never ever gets a call, right? I mean, for a big man and a player of his status, he gets nothing. The goalie interference call was ridiculous. And the play on which he was taken off the puck on the breakaway? Earlier in the game, John Moore’s pass forced Stralman to take a penalty. OK. But if that was a penalty, how was the play on Nash minutes later not a penalty?
8) Derek Stepan was much better, start to finish, in this game, too. Very good defensively. And he happened to score a huge goal in the skills competition.
9) Speaking of plays you don’t see every day, and penalties … how about the Derick Brassard high sticking penalty with his stick in the earhole strap of McClement’s helmet? Pretty funny. Brassard is another one, with Carl Hagelin, who’s been getting better lately, the Islanders game withstanding for most of them.
11) Chris Kreider set up the only goal of the game, took a late penalty trying to do the right thing by chipping the puck off the glass and out of the zone while protecting the lead, and then got left out of the rotation in overtime. I don’t know if he is untrusted in those situations, or if it’s just one of those things … sometimes a coach tries to keep pairs together in OT, which means a winger usually gets shafted. Stepan and Nash were a pair for a few shifts in OT. Kreider didn’t get a sniff.
12) I think I’ve told you guys, my new seat on the bridge is right in front of the broadcast booths. So I can hear Sam and Joe, and Kenny and Dave, quite a bit. But I can also hear the visiting TV booth, and I love the Canadian broadcasters. First of all, they are really into the game, very excitable both ways, not homerish. But also they stick to the play by play, don’t try to force in conversation or over-analysis. Very simple. Very good.
13) You know, I always kinda liked Colton Orr, who is as tough as they come, and if there really is a code, he’s as close as there is to a follower of that code. Not a cheap-shot artist, only fights the tough guys, doesn’t do much crap against anybody else, and when he fights, it’s strictly business.
14) Good news, again, that Marc Staal worked out Monday, pushed himself, according to AV, and got through it fine.
15) The Garden outdid itself with some scoreboard videos of Rangers players’ faces cutouts superimposed over the Chipmunks and singing Christmas songs in Chipmunk voices. Hope they put the videos up on their web site and/or on YouTube. Too good to not share with those who weren’t in the building … like the Dan/Joe Girardi video about the new alternate jerseys.
16) You guys who have been around know that I’m not a big conspiracy theorist in terms of the Rangers, the NHL and the officiating. But I’ve got to say, I am starting to understand why you might feel there’s a conspiracy after all the goal/no-goal and penalty-shot calls you’ve endured this season.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Cam Talbot.
3. Ryan McDonagh.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Cam Talbot.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Chris Kreider.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Cam Talbot.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. J.T. Miller.
Photos by Getty Images.