1) The Rangers weren’t God-awful, just awful enough to lose. They sure have played worse games than this one, but this was their worst in the last six, since that Islanders game at the Garden before the Stadium Series and the competitive loss to St. Louis. And that was their worst in the last 17, going back to the whooping they got in Pittsburgh Jan. 3. Tonight they go back to the Burgh. Then when they come back from the break they get the Stanley Cup champs at home. So, given that, this was a bad game to lose.
2) And the way they lost it, as AV put it: “The winning goal was five guys on the ice getting beat to loose pucks and them protecting the puck and finding an open man in the slot … There were five puck battles, we lost them all, and it was in the back of our net.” The Rangers also got caught on a change, with Chris Kreider overstaying his shift, then taking a nap on the shooter, Brad Richards—who is rarely good in his own end—getting beaten and knocked down on a puck behind the net, and yeah, battles lost. Oh, and a deflected shot. Murphy’s Law.
3) Ryan Callahan, who was also on the ice and didn’t do enough to prevent the winning goal, was really physical in this game, not just hits, but rub outs and crunchers. He was quick and on the puck, nearly scored on the short-handed breakaway. But he also missed a bunch of nets with chances to beat Ben Scrivens, who has allowed one goal in six periods to the Rangers.
5) The story that won’t go away: It looks like Callahan will be a Ranger when he gets back from Sochi. Barring something unforeseen, nothing will get done today, either a new contract (which might never happen) or a trade before the 3 p.m. Olympic-break roster freeze, which runs until Feb. 23 at midnight. Which gives the Rangers about 10 days to get something done, or live with the possibility that the captain walks for big money July 1.
6) I though the Rangers’ best player in the game was Benoit Pouliot … doing it in both ends. He jumped on the turnover that started the quick exchange for the Derick Brassard goal, moving it to Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers’ first line scoring again.
7) Because the line that’s supposed to be the first line sure didn’t do much. The Daily Nash-O-Meter’s needle was pointing down. Guy has gone back to the perimeter the last couple of games. He gets a lot of chances on the rush, but not much in the half-court game, if you will. His center, Derek Stepan, had a stinker too. Both headed to Sochi. Kreider was bullish and by far the best player on the line … other than his defensive-zone nightmares. And there were a couple before the GWG.
8) This has to be tough for Cam Talbot now that Henrik Lundqvist is playing most of the games. He had sat five in a row and 12 of 14 before this. Talbot looked handcuffed a few times. Played very well, moved the puck. Helped by a crossbar and a (correct) quick whistle. He said the puck had gone up in his shirt, then the whistle blew as it dropped down. It was non-reviewable, apparently, so no spin of the goal/no-goal wheel in Toronto, although the war room looked at it.
9) The GWG stands out, but the first goal of the game was equally hideous, a Kevin Klein pass into a dangerous area, behind Brian Boyle and off his skate, directly to a wide open man. There was an unfortunate bounce, and Talbot lost the puck as it fluttered behind him, and nobody knocked Ryan Smyth on his keyster. But what led to the shot was terrible.
10) The Oilers sure have plenty of offensive skill and creativity. They surprised me a little bit when they turned on the physical play and when they crashed Talbot’s crease a few times. They didn’t surprise me with the holes in their defensive game. But Scrivens bailed them out … with help from the Rangers’ sharp-shooters.
11) Looked as if the refs were on their Olympic breaks already. And that’s mostly OK with me. I like it when guys have to fight through a check or a slash or a little bit of interference, or when there’s a skirmish and nothing called. But you have to call the Ryan Jones elbow to Zuccarello’s head … even if it is a low elbow. You have to call the tackle on Richards driving to the net on the pass from Callahan. And as Richards said, it would be nice if the players knew which games were going to be officiated like that, because most aren’t. Rangers got zero PPs, Edmonton one. With today’s pansified rules, that’s hard to fathom.
12) Speaking of the quick whistle, the Rangers have now had one of those go their way, a kicked-in goal by an opponent disallowed, and a penalty shot in their favor in the last five games or so. Is it their luck turning?
13) Things sure have changed at MSG. New Yorks’s own Nick Fotiu and Brian Mullen were introduced in second intermission to present the Emile Francis award. You would have thought Stewart Cink just made a two-foot par putt with the polite applause. A few years ago, Fotiu would have gotten a loud standing O.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Benoit Pouliot.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Derek Brassard.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Cam Talbot.
3. Derick Brassard.
Photos by Getty Images.