Apologies for the technical difficulties last night. No idea why the Go Time! post disappeared. Will try to figure it out. Don’t forget Sunday’s game is a 12:30 NBCer, and we move the clocks on Saturday. So it’s a really early game.
First and foremost, a special great job! and congrats! to our friend Gift of Gab, whose charitable work resulted in this wonderful story. Click here.
1) Real dual-personality game. Some guys who really hadn’t been doing much, in this game, and lately, got it done late, especially two of the three guys who are supposed to make up the top line. I also thought the Rangers, even though they were out-chancing the Hurricanes by a decent margin, weren’t doing enough around the offensive net.
2) On the other hand, I thought they handled the area around the defensive net much, much, much better than they had since the last 12 seconds vs. Chicago and through the losses to Philly, Boston and Toronto (I don’t really care what Alain Vigneault’s scoring chances chart said, they were sloppy). I really did think they got that fixed. And that goes for the defensemen and the forwards (with the exception of the nightly defensive lapse of Chris Kreider on the 1-0 goal). That kid still has so much promise, but he really needs to figure out the away-from-the-puck game and quickly in this homestretch. Remember, the best thing the Rangers had been doing when they were on that streak heading into the Olympic break and winning all those road games, was defending. They got their offense from that. They got back to defending tonight.
3) Henrik Lundqvist, of course he gives up the first goal, high glove — great shot and all — after Rangers can’t buy one. But Lundqvist was strong the rest of the night. Can’t blame him on the penalty shot, though it sure appears that opponents have stopped deking and are straight out trying to beat him with the shot, either glove or 5-hole, whichever he gives them.
4) The Daily Nash-O-Meter. I don’t know. He didn’t show me a lot at even strength, and on the 5-on-4 power plays. I guess you give him credit for a pretty good PK, then a great play on the SHG, and because he scored the tying goal. I wasn’t in love with his overall game. He supplied offense. If he does that, you live with anything else, for sure.
5) Same for Martin St. Louis. The guy sure is crafty and has a great hockey IQ and vision. And while I don’t expect him to win any Selke Trophy, at least he appears to give it a helluva try in the other end … more than at least three or four other Rangers forwards. That pass on the 5-on-3 goal by Derek Stepan was a thing of beauty. So were some of the chances he created for himself, and for his teammates.
6) And while St. Louis is the Rangers’ best offensive player in terms of ability, Mats Zuccarello continues to be the season-long best Rangers forward by a mile. He was in this game, just as he was in most of the games before his Olympic injury. He gave up an early chance for a good shot, and I wondered if the hand was bothering him. Answer: No. Guy was great all night. And it was kinda fun when he played a bit with St. Louis.
7) That said, sometimes coaches go by contracts/reputations/hockey cards when deciding who gets PP time, instead of going with the unit that, you know, works. I thought Nash and Stepan were OK all along in this game, and got it done late, actually, but especially meh on the power play while the real No. 1 unit of Zuccarello-Derick Brassard-Benoit Pouliot sat on the bench. The 5-on-4 hasn’t been good since the Stadium Series, IMO.
9) Ryan McMonster. I am trying to not mention him and Brian Leetch in the same sentence every game … but I’m biting my tongue to not do it. Hey, McDonagh had a lousy game (by his standards) vs. Toronto and just rebounded big time last night. He was superb long before the short-handed goal he scored, which was only an enormous goal. McDonagh wasn’t alone. All six D-men bounced back nicely.
10) This intent to blow the whistle rule has opened a giant can of cop-out for the refs. Just awful. They can just tell Toronto, “Hey I intended to blow the whistle” when in fact they got the call wrong. It allows them to come up with a reason to disallow a goal call that they might have botched. That puck was in the net. The ref copped out.
11) That puck over glass delay penalty is a necessary evil. Too bad. But if they take out that stupid rule, there won’t be any more icings. Guys will just fire it over the glass, get a stoppage and a change. As somebody suggested on Twitter last night, you could make the puck-over-glass the same punishment as icing — no player change, defensive-zone draw. The danger is, though, every time a player feels any pressure in the defensive zone, bingo, he wings it over the glass. You’ll have four-hour games.
12) Gotta say, though, the officiating was top-notch overall in this game again. That’s sarcasm, kids. My gosh, some of those little tugs are hooks, but serious slashes and spears are not penalties. And I’m not sure the Brian Boyle elbowing penalty was a penalty at all.
13) How in Holy Hell does Carolina get a breakaway off the faceoff after the empty-netter?
14) Sometimes — often — the opposing goalie is praised when the Rangers really make it easy on him. I didn’t think that was the case in this game. Not that the Rangers were great offensively 5-on-5, but the kid in net, Anton Khudobin, really almost stole this game.
15) ICYMI, a very funny moment in the post-game presser. Alain Vigneault was having a coughing fit. He apologized, saying he must have been yelling too much at “that French referee.”
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan McDonagh.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Martin St. Louis.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Rick Nash.
3. Ryan McDonagh.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan McDonagh.
2. Tie, Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis.
Photos by Getty Images.