1) Although the game was hideous at times, and I thought early on the Rangers didn’t take care of the puck nearly well enough — especially the line that eventually created the game-winning goal — this was a pretty good win. It was one of those whatever-it-takes games you need to have coming off the most memorable win of the season. As Rick Nash said, it put an exclamation point on the game in Chicago Wednesday. It did.
2) And again, I thought that line of Nash, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, gave up a prime scoring chance on each of its first four shifts, or four of its first five. But that trio got much better as the game went on. I originally thought Nash shot wide on that breakaway. He didn’t. He made a really good shot, above the right pad, below the blocker, and Kari Lehtonen robbed him. Thanks to reader cooscoos for pointing that out to me.
3) Which brings us to the daily Nash-O-Meter. The guy has been better lately, a lot better. Yeah, a stinker thrown in here and there. He was one of two Rangers who didn’t have a point in Toronto, but I thought he was good there, after a terrible game (by everybody) in Pittsburgh. He was strong against his former team, Columbus, on Monday, excellent in Chicago, and that GWG he scored last night, while being twisted to the ice, is what he is paid to do. And let us not forget that that play doesn’t happen without the good cycle by Stepan and Kreider.
4) But, boy, was that hard to watch, especially early. Terrible pace, which is to be expected from a Lindy Ruff team, on the road, in the second of back-to-backs. Alain Vigneault said there were more than 50 faceoffs in the first two periods (there were 73 overall, and the Rangers won 45). Marc Staal said it set a record for icings and faceoffs. Hideous. But the Rangers played into it with the icings, and with, early on, some stubborn attempts to carry the puck through the neutral zone or through two or three Stars at the blue line. There were probably more brain-locks with and without the puck through the first 24:00 than there were through an entire 60:00 against the Stanley Cup champs.
5) How nice must it be for the Rangers to finally have a power play? A really legit power play? The new first unit of Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot really got it done at a big point in the game. Pouliot with the screen, Zuccarello with the pass, Brassard with the redirection. You could count on not too many fingers how many PPGs they scored like that last season.
6) And Pouliot made a really sensational but subtle play on Ryan Callahan’s goal. He was going for a change and saw the puck laying just inside the blue line. He hesitated for his teammates to tag up, then made the pass across to Brad Richards, whose shot was blocked and caromed to Callahan. And he, too, scored while going down. Maybe there’s something to that.
7) Speaking of Richards, I thought he battled pretty hard against his former team. Got into a few scrums. Had the slapper off the crossbar — really, the Rangers had enough chances to maybe win it earlier — and did a lot of good things with the puck. And more than usual without it, IMO.
8) The 1-0 goal, Marc Staal — who I thought had another solid game — was behind the icing ling with Anton Stralman. I thought Staal was tripped (no call) and that created the chaos. But Pouliot and Brassard lolly-gagged back, and Zuccarello busted it but didn’t stop the goal scorer, Cody Eakin. It happens. On the second, Staal was up ice — as the coaches want him to be, and Stralman couldn’t prevent the pass on the 2-on-1. But give credit where it’s due. Antoine Roussel’s pass hopped and Ryan Garbutt showed some mitts by knocking the puck out of the air and onto his stick for a quick shot. Again, it happens.
9) And after watching those goals several times after the game, I don’t think you can blame Henrik Lundqvist for either of them. In fact, other than the short-sider in Chicago, he hasn’t allowed much at all lately. Is he coming around, ready to go on a little roll? I’m not ready to say that. I need to see more. But it sure beats the way he had been playing. Still the most important player, or at least the player the Rangers most need to get turned around.
11) Daniel Carcillo. Hey, you know what I think of him being on this team. But … the guy was credited for eight hits. His hit on Garbutt was followed by a bigger hit by Michael Del Zotto on Roussel, and those got the crowd going and got the bench into it. We sure haven’t seen enough of that this season. I was talking to Dave Maloney and he made a great point. You can tell that Carcillo’s been in the league a long time. He handles his few minutes responsibly (other than the bad penalties, none of which he has taken yet). But has a basic understanding of where to be and what to do when he gets there. Carcillo played only one shift in the third. If he’s on the team, he has to play against Philadelphia. So I understand J.T. Miller going to Hartford to play at least a couple of games this weekend.
12) Oh, and once again, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi put a blanket on Dallas’ first line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Erik Cole. Yeah, it’s not Pittsburgh, but, assuming my math is correct (big assumption) those three guys had 47 goals and 99 points coming in, and had 47 goals and 99 points when they left.
13) The Captain was pretty darn strong in this game, too. Finding his game in a big way lately.
14) Did Dallas really trade James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski? On the other side, how do you get a guy like Antoine Roussel (8-8-16, 109 PIM)?
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Brad Richards.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Brad Richards.
3. Henrik Lundqvist.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Brad Richards.
Photos by Getty Images.