First, wanted to pass along that we will do a Live Chat Wednesday at noon. Be there.
1) So ya boys are still a game over NHL-.500, which is in actuality, in this case, two games under .500. Whatever. They have gone a game over eight times now, and lost the next game all eight. In one other case, the loss was one of those non-losses, but in that case they then followed the non-loss with a real loss to drop back to .500. So, against the defending Stanley Cup champs coming up next, the Rangers have another shot—which will actually be their 10th shot—to go two over NHL-.500 for the first time this season. Got that?
2) I didn’t think the loss to Columbus was anywhere near one of the Rangers’ worst games of the season, not by a longshot. Not even a bad game, really. In fact, if they’d won the stupid dice-roll at the end it would have been a pretty good win, coming back from 3-1 in the third period and all, killing the penalty in OT. I never felt they were being outplayed for any stretch of the game, even at 1-0 and 3-1. Never felt they couldn’t come back.
3) And again, it’s pretty tough to pin odd-man rush goals on the goalkeeper, but, yeah, it’s getting to the point … Even Henrik Lundqvist pretty much said so post-game. This was another game where the goals were good ones, but you expect a world-class goalie to stop one or two of them, especially the breakaway—his specialty, or one or both of the shootout goals, his other specialty. Lundqvist was pretty good in the third and very good in OT. Sergei Bobrovsky won the battle of the last two Vezina winners by stopping a breakaway and two pretty good glove saves in the skills competition. And I didn’t think Bob could be blamed for any of the three he let in during the first 60.
4) So now you have to wonder at what point Cam Talbot takes over the bulk of the games, or at least a split … or at the very least a larger load than he’s gotten. That moment probably would have arrived sooner if the record hadn’t been around .500, and if there isn’t much chance of the Lesstropolitan teams getting away from them. And there isn’t.
5) The Daily Nash-O-Meter. After that dreadful non-performance in Pittsburgh, I thought Rick Nash has now played two good ones in a row, two where he’s gotten himself into position to score, two where he’s skated hard, where he hasn’t looked to avoid contact. The two goals, meh. I mean, they were very good shots—one top corner through Chris Kreider’s screen, one a wrister from 55 feet out through Ryan Callahan’s screen. So, yeah, he got two. I’m not looking at that as an indication of a turnaround. I’m looking more at what he’s doing to get his shots. I think he’s done more lately … and prior to Pittsburgh, I thought he was getting closer, too.
6) The question is, does he make the Canadian Olympic team, and if so, does that boost his confidence a little bit? Does it get him cranked up to prove he not only belongs on the team, but in the top four RWs so that he’ll be in the lineup in Sochi? Or, if he doesn’t make it, does he pout, or lose confidence, or does he use it as motivation, as Bobby Ryan and Kyle Okposo vowed to do? That selection is at noon today. I don’t think this should be trivialized in terms of what it means to Nash as a Ranger this season.
7) Chris Kreider (does he soon get his own daily meter, too?). The kid was amazing in the first 20 minutes and several seconds. Even the penalty itself was pretty impressive, the way he overpowered Fedor Tyutin and sent him flying. I do think Kreider pulled up, threw a little snow. He also followed through and with Tyutin in that dangerous spot a few feet from the boards, it was a textbook boarding penalty. Guessing the refs thought Tyutin might be hurt, and so the major and game misconduct. I don’t have a big problem with that, based on what is called in today’s Pansified NHL. The noise late last night was that there would be no suspension. I think that’s a good call, but I never know what the NHL is thinking on these things anymore.
8) I’ve said it before and will say it again. In the old days, when that boarding call was rarely made, there were fewer incidents because guys didn’t put themselves in that position. They knew they would get drilled, so they avoided getting drilled. Today they almost invite the drilling, hoping to get the call. And the league obliges, and encourages them to put themselves in harm’s way. Vicious cycle (downward, IMO).
9) I would have loved to have seen Kreider play in the 1980s or early ‘90s when guys like Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur and Mike Gartner flew down the wing and ripped it the way he does.
10) I wonder if J.T. Miller gets prucha’d now so that newcomer Daniel Carcillo can play against his former team in Chicago.
11) Anton Stralman, on that 2-1 goal—caused by the Kreider hit and the Brandon Dubinsky retaliation—I thought was awful on both ends. He coughed it up forcing a pass inside the blue line, and I thought he did a good job to get back against Cam Atkinson, before failing to prevent him from deking on Lundqvist. That goal should not have happened … all the way around.
12) We had a lot of discussion about Dubinsky during the game last night, and deservedly so. We saw pretty much all the positives, all you could want, out of Dubinsky, and none of the negative. He threw a big hit on Dan Girardi to start the first goal, which he finished with a deflection. He made a great pass to James Wisniewski on the 3-1 goal (bad job on the backcheck by Derick Brassard, on a simple 3-on-3 break). He squashed his old linemate Ryan Callahan. He stuck up for Tyutin when he got racked up by Kreider. If only he had scored a few more goals after he signed that last contract, he might have been an untouchable. But he is exactly what the Rangers lack up front. Even in the year when he couldn’t score and couldn’t stay healthy, and when he got tossed to the third line, he was a very important piece. And the Rangers have missed that piece.
13) The penalty on Derek Stepan = pansification. C’mon. That’s not a penalty. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen it called.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Ryan McDonagh.
3. Marc Staal.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Dan Girardi.
3. Henrik Lundqvist.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Chris Kreider.
3. Ryan McDonagh.
Photos by Getty Images.