REMINDER: Live Chat today at noon. Be there. Or else.
1) I’m not going to let you know how I feel about the shootout. But I will say this. People left the Garden last night like a relative died. Yeah, the fans love it. I will say this, too. If the Rangers had won that sham of a contest, you guys would be all going nutso today about how the team has turned a corner. Instead, it’s Ledge City again.
2) I will say this, too. These three shootout losses the Rangers have had, in each and every one of them the Rangers played miles and miles better than they played in their regulation losses so far. I mean, the losses to Columbus, Toronto (twice), the November Cup champion Islanders and Edmonton were unsightly messes. The one in Montreal maybe not so much. But these games were right there for them.
3) That all said, in too many games this season already they’ve given up goals to guys right at the doorstep, completely ignored, as one or both defensemen have snoozed. Last night it was John Moore first, then Marc Staal, who also was bailed out once by Henrik Lundqvist, and who also left a man wide-open on the game-tying power-play goal, though it never got to him, deflecting instead off Dan Girardi and into the net. Those uncontested goals are killers in a game where you did more than enough to win.
4) Henrik Lundqvist. I thought he was very good in the first and good enough to win the rest of the night. But teams have obviously figured out, to some degree, that the straight-in, deke move isn’t going to work in the shootout. So they’ve gone to just shooting it — as a lot of players/teams have — or to holding onto it and forcing Lundqvist to make a move. He said, “I have to be more patient.”
5) Daily Nash-O-Meter. Rick Nash made the play in the defensive-zone to start the 2-on-1 Derek Stepan goal during the 4-on-4. He drove to the net at 3-3 in the third, got whacked in the mouth by a stick (no call) and was robbed by Semyon Varlamov. I thought he was good in all three zones again. His line got pinned once for a long time. His line also had the puck in the Avs zone for a long time in the third, Martin St. Louis drawing the penalty eventually.
6) Dan Boyle. When he lost glove in first, and kept playing without it, wow, that could have been disastrous coming off a broken hand. He was flexing the bare hand quite a bit. He also fanned on one-timer from Mats Zuccarello. Took that penalty, but what’s up with this new play where the puck-carrier turns into the defender and the defender gets called for boarding? Didn’t get a chance to run a real PP until the third, and it wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t good. I thought he moved the puck really well. After the first, all the Rangers’ D-men did.
7) Zuccarello was very involved early. Had the big hit on Marc-Andre Cliche. Big assist on go-ahead goal by Girardi, had those great chances at the end of regulation and in OT. Superb game, IMO. Same for the top three centers. Derek Stepan was a factor every shift, physical, too. Scored in the game and in the contest. Derick Brassard hit the pipe 2-on-1 and was solid again. Kevin Hayes … I’ll mention later. Also, Chris Kreider seems to be out of his funk now. Big-time force the last two.
9) And that was an interesting play by Kevin Klein to pull the puck out of the zone on the delayed penalty, let the Rangers hit the reset and re-enter the zone, Matt Hunwick then making the pass off of Dominic Moore to Kevin Hayes, who had drawn the penalty in the first place, then scored the goal. I think Hayes’ game is coming along very well for a rookie with no pro experience.
10) Alain Vigneault made some moves, too. After John Moore lost his man on the first Colorado goal, AV switched his D-pairs, put Staal with Girardi, Moore with Boyle. In that first, BTW, the Rangers were dominated on draws (Hayes 0-7, Brassard 0-4), yet Dominic Moore won one and Colorado scored off the ensuing turnover and bad coverage. AV also made the decision to shoot second in the shootout, which goes beyond the popular strategy. To me, the shootout is too random an event to even break down. “I guess I made the wrong call,” Vigneault said. Not sure he did. And it’s always going to look bad when he chooses Lee Stempniak, who has good numbers in the contest, and Stempniak fails, while the Rangers’ top scorers are on the bench.
11) So Tanner Glass hits a guy cleanly, Colorado’s tough guy jumps him, and there’s no instigator penalty? So why have that rule in the book? PS, I continue to love it when Glass retweets the links to his fights from @hockeyfights. (click here to see it).
12) Jesper Fast seems to do a lot of grabbing, to me at least. He finally got caught, with the pouliot. When I see that No. 19, I keep thinking it’s Brad Richards. Same with Michael Kostka’s No. 4 and Michael Del Zotto. Not sure if Fast stays in when the Rangers go Saturday to the hornets nest they stirred up on Tuesday. Fast played well vs. Penguins Tuesday (who didn’t?). But AV likes to change it up after a loss. Anthony Duclair is sitting around and AV said he liked the way he responded to earlier scratches. So, maybe …
13) Speaking of Kostka, on waivers and apparently on his way to Hartford upon clearing at noon today, and with tryout Tomas Kaberle agreeing to go to Hartford to play two games with the Rangers brass making the drive up to watch, I fully expect that Kaberle will be the Rangers’ No. 7 defenseman until Ryan McDonagh comes back. Then, no idea what happens. If he’s their No. 7, that shouldn’t be a problem. If he’s No. 6, that is a problem, IMO.
14) Something I never saw before: the Zamboni driver, doing the dry-scrape before overtime, had to blow the horn because the Avs players were in the way in front of the bench.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Derek Stepan.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Kevin Klein.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Derek Stepan.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Dan Boyle.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Derek Stepan.
2. Kevin Hayes.
3. Mats Zuccarello.
Photos by Getty Images.