1) I know you guys don’t want to hear the glass-half-full stuff, so I’ll just blurt it out and get it over with. I didn’t think the Rangers were outplayed at all, especially at 5-on-5, in this game. I thought they defended pretty well and a lot of guys had decent games, some better than decent. There. I said it.
2) Now, these games become more disconcerting as they pile up because so very many times it is the Rangers’ best players who don’t give them nearly enough, sometimes nothing at all, and sometimes they’re downright detrimental. You know who I’m talking about. Rick Nash. Brad Richards. Derek Stepan. Derick Brassard. On this night, Dan Girardi was not on that list, nor was Henrik Lundqvist. But, really, their second-tier guys are doing fine for the most part. They’re just not skilled enough to make a difference very often.
3) So, let’s start with Nash. Again. What a dreadful shift he had early on. Nash, who was circling the perimeter during a decent forecheck by his linemates, did a poor job of covering for Girardi, who had pinched, dived for a puck that he had very little chance of keeping in instead of skating back to defend the ensuing, inevitable rush, then took the careless, needless penalty against the best power play in the league. Other than that it wasn’t so bad. And probably not his worst of the season. Of course, the Capitals scored on that power play. Nash was in the box for that goal, and on the ice for the other two by the Caps.
4) And to repeat what I’ve been saying, if he’s struggling because of the concussions, that’s frightening. If the concussion is not an issue, that’s worse. He’s playing the way he did in the playoffs last year. Ugh.
5) I thought, and have thought most of the season, that Richards was pretty good on the power play. I think he’s made a big difference between last year’s ineptitude and this year’s relative success. I still don’t like him at the point and prefer him on the half wall, but he’s been good on the 5-on-4. At even strength, that’s just another story altogether.
6) And so, I understand Alain Vigneault going with his most experienced, most proven scorers in the late stages of a game needing a goal, and in overtime. But when those guys are out there and nothing good is happening, then Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider (who has struggled since getting clobbered by Tom Wilson early on the homestand) are not out there. Same as the OT the other night.
7) The Rangers sure took enough dumb penalties against the threat of the league’s best PP. Carl Hagelin took a lazy offensive-zone hook. Then there was the too many men snafu. Then J.T. Miller took one behind the net in the offensive zone. Maybe they were actually lucky to be in the game.
8) The Rangers finally got a call on a goal/no goal replay situation. A Festivus Miracle.
9) Cam Talbot. I had no problem with the decision to play him. Henrik Lundqvist sure can use some practices with Benoit Allaire, and the team was just off for three days. And I thought Talbot gave them a chance most of the night. But he wants the second one, by Nick Backstrom, back. It was a bit of a breakdown after Ryan McDonagh lost a bouncing puck. But the Rangers need that save after dominating the period. Then he really had to stop the game-winner by Eric Fehr.
10) The Anton Stralman injury. Yeah, most of you guys think he’s pretty replaceable. Problem is, in this organization, he isn’t. Because with Marc Staal out, Stralman is their third best defenseman. So when he goes out, not only do they have to play with five D, but No. 4, 5 and 6 (in this case Michael Del Zotto — who has stabilized lately, struggling John Moore and Justin Falk) have to play more minutes. McDonagh and Girardi are already over-taxed in a matching game with Alex Ovechkin. And now the organization’s eighth or ninth defenseman, Conor Allen, is coming up to probably play Sunday, with Dylan McIlrath injured again. So, yeah, they’ll miss Stralman if he’s out
11) McDonagh was a McMonster again against Ovechkin, who is also a monster, but who has gone nine games including playoffs without a goal against the Rangers. McDonagh had the bad hop on the 2-1 goal late in the second period. Had the assist with the lob-wedge pass on the Carl Hagelin shorty after a big hit by Girardi, who stayed on his skates and was much better.
12) Hagelin’s really played well again lately. He has been the constant in the two little decent streaks the Rangers have had this season. Well, he and Talbot. He scored the shorty — and the Rangers’ only other SHG this season was the 180-foot fluke McDonagh scored on Quick in L.A. the first week of the season. But, he took that penalty and, after Girardi hit the pipe during the late 4-on-4, Hagelin was doing his one-man forechecking job, playing with Brad Richards. He threw the puck in front to nobody, trapping himself and Richards below the icing line. Still, that’s a 2-on-2 break. John Moore didn’t play it great, nor did he mess up as badly as it was made out on TV. Talbot has to stop that shot.
13) Some of these soft Rangers forwards should feel ashamed when they see Zuccarello compete like that. Though as he has become the Rangers’ best forward, maybe they can’t afford him to be in the penalty box, even if it creates a 4-on-4.
14) Benoit Pouliot. He’s playing very well. But can anybody really expect it to continue, based on Pouliot’s career?
15) The Caps have more skill, are bigger and more physical. They have better offensive defensemen. Why are they not better than the Rangers? They really are not.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan McDonagh.
2. Carl Hagelin.
3. Benoit Pouliot.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. tie, Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin.
3. tie, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller.
Photos by Getty Images.