1) Happy anniversary! It’s now officially 74 years with one Stanley Cup since the Rangers won it on April 13, 1940.
2) So it’s Rangers-Flyers like the good old days. So light up the Empire State Building in orange and black in honor of Mr. Snider. Sure has been a while since the Legion of Doom ran over Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Adam Graves, Jeff Beukeboom and all in the ECF in 1997. And longer since Smurfs vs. Cement-heads. I like the storyline that both of these teams had such an awful start, one with a new coach and one with a coaching change, and some dips along the way and finished 2-3, and a very close 2-3.
3) A real wild card, of course, is going to be the severity of the injury goalie Steve Mason suffered Saturday. Craig Berube said he should be fine. We’ll see. Because Mason has looked a lot better than the VW full of clowns the Flyers have tried in goal all these years. The Rangers are going to have an edge in goal whether he plays or not, but it will be an enormous edge if he doesn’t.
4) And p.s., under old playoff format (which really didn’t need to be replaced), it’s a 4-5 matchup against Montreal or Tampa Bay.
5) Going to have Josh Thomson, 26, with me for the playoffs.
6) I think it does indeed have great ramifications that Columbus snagged the first wild card and kept the playoffs set up as four from one division and four from the other, with no crossovers. Why? Because I think the way Detroit plays there’s a chance that the Big Bad Bruins might take a first-round header. Not sure that would be the case with Columbus. And now the Jackets can play with house money against Marc-Andre Fleury, who nearly cost the Penguins a series to the Tire Fires in the first round last spring.
7) Onto the game. I am not a big fan of resting guys or letting up on the gas pedal. I’m not. I’ve seen it backfire, especially in the NFL. But I also have great admiration for teams that don’t mail it in at the end, and it makes me think of the Giants and Patriots before their first Super Bowl tussle, and of Tampa Bay winning that meaningless game on the final day of the season to get the Rangers into the playoffs in 2011.
8) So I give full marks to the Rangers and their coaches to be able to rest Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist and Martin St. Louis, and not rush back Ryan McDonagh, and then to still go out and play a game like that. It wasn’t just well played, either. It was nasty and snarly, and the Rangers have played a lot of games like that these last several weeks. They’re never going to be the 2011-12 team in terms of rough stuff and being so hard to play against. And their lack of overall muscle might catch up to them starting Thursday or thereafter. But they don’t back down, and they do, for the most part, stick up for each other. That will be put to the test vs. Philly. And anybody they are fortunate to play after Philly. They showed great professionalism in Montreal, took it very seriously, played “the right way” and defended really well.
9) Cam Talbot. He sure deserved better. Played more than two full games in Montreal this season and didn’t allow a goal until that great penalty shot by Brian Gionta. How about the save on Plekanec in the second period? That might be his final appearance of the season, and if it isn’t, as somebody said last night here, that can’t mean things are going well. But the Rangers are in the No. 2 seed because of his contributions this season. Heck, they are in the playoffs because of his contributions. And you can’t say enough about Carey Price.
10) Daily Nash-O-Meter. Still really good and dangerous on PK. Didn’t score. It’s not that simple. But he’s going to have to be nine miles better than he was last spring. Maybe he would have been better off playing Columbus?
11) I think the one decision Alain Vigneault has to make before Thursday—and of course he can change his mind mid-series—is whether Daniel Carcillo or Jesper Fast plays on the Brad Richards line. Because I think the other three lines are set and good to go, and you don’t want to mess with that fourth line now. Fast sure adds some Chris Kreider 2.0. Carcillo adds, well, you know. I am not convinced that the toughness he brings outweighs the speed and potential offense Fast brings. On defense, I think John Moore stays in and Raphael Diaz—who had a really strong game in Montreal, hit the double-post, and hasn’t been bad at all—comes out with McDonagh returning. Boy could they use Kreider, though.
12) Derek Dorsett sure was a fireball. His fight with Frances Boullion was his first since Nov. 30 (Tom Sestito) and he had some run-ins with P.K. Slewfoot. By the way, how about, before the Dorsett-Boullion dustup, when Subban thought about jumping Dorsett, then when Dorsett pressed the ejector button on his gloves, Subban, um, thought better of it and got out of the area. Then, after a second near-incident, Subban courageously cross-checked Dorsett, who was down, in the back three times. And when Dorsett got to his skates, Subban went turtle.
13) The penalty shot was the correct call. But the fine officiating crew pretty much screwed up every other call or non-call throughout. Officiating has been a massive problem this season. Terrible. The bigger problem is that I don’t think the NHL thinks it’s a problem
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Cam Talbot.
2. Benoit Pouliot.
3. Derek Brassard.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Cam Talbot.
2. tie, Marc Staal, Derek Dorsett and Mats Zuccarello.
Photos by Getty Images.