Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rangers Earn 2 Crucial Points

New York - Last night the New York Rangers earned two crucial points in their 3-2 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Rangers bounced back beautifully after their defeat to the Maple Leafs on Monday in the first part of the home & home series.  Last night, the defensive effort was palpable, and the sense of urgency throughout the lineup was on display.

After falling behind 1-0, Carl Hagelin was rewarded for his hard work and effort by scoring his first goal in 10 games. The Rangers then took the lead on a beautiful dangle at the point by Ryan McDonagh when he wristed one by Leaf's goalie James Reimer.  When leading the game after two periods the Rangers are 82-0-6 dating back almost three full seasons.  That statistic alone shows how important it was to grab the 2-1 lead in such a crucial game heading into the third.

In the third, the Rangers actually blew the lead when Phil Kessel scored his second of the game (fourth of the series), tying the game up at 2 apiece.  Regulation ended with some very exciting chances at both ends of the ice.  The point earned was certainly welcomed, but with how tight the playoff race has become the Rangers knew they needed to get the full 2.

Henrik Lundqvist made a series of huge saves to get the game to the shootout.  Saving his best for last, he made three consecutive stops on Toronto's Nazem Kadri all alone in front of the net, a frantic moment for sure.  When it came to the shootout, Mats Zuccarello did what he's here to do, and scored the lone goal for either team propelling the Rangers to a HUGE 3-2 victory earning them the 2 points in the standings.

Last night's win puts the Rangers in a 3 way tie for 6th place in the Eastern Conference with the Senators and the Islanders.  With just 8 games remaining it seems as though the game Saturday night between the Islanders and Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum may be the most meaningful match-up between the two rivals in over a decade.   Expect the atmosphere in the old Mausoleum to be absolutely crazy to say the least.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rick Nash is Very Good

It's been a while since New York has had a dynamic power-forward like Rick Nash.  The most recent comparison is Jaromir Jagar from his 52 goal performance in the '05/'06 season.  Nash is not only a prolific scorer, but his 6'4" 215 pound frame makes him nearly impossible to defend.  With 17 goals and 18 assists Nash is playing at a perfect point per game pace.  The most amazing stat that he has put up this year is his "goals by period" mark.  In just 35 games, he has tallied 12 of his 17 goals in the third period.  That is an outstanding statistic which illustrates how much this guy can ramp up his level of play in crunch time.

Playing on a line with budding Center Derek Stepan, Nash has recorded 5 goals over his last 5 games.  He has mastered the power move to the net in it's most beautiful fashion.  Last night his skills were on display as he used his patented move twice to notch his third multi-goal game of the season.  Here is a look at how it's done:

Yeah, he's really good.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Rangers Fall Short in Toronto

Toronto- The New York Rangers fell short tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3.  Playing their fourth game in six nights, the Rangers ran into a fresher Toronto club that was able to take the first game in a home & home series.  After holding both the Penguins (twice) and the Hurricanes to two goals or fewer, the four goals allowed tonight was only the third time all season that the Rangers allowed 4+ in a game.

Some of those defensive lapses that had plagued the Rangers earlier in the season seemed to rear their ugly heads tonight.  On two of the four goals, Maple Leafs players were presented with golden opportunities one-on-one in front against with Lundqvist.  Each time Hank would make the initial save, but he could only do so much.  This is one part of the game that I thought the Rangers had done a good job in cleaning up over the past month or so; tonight we will chalk it up to fatigue as the blame for the mental lapses on the back end.

Not to get lost in this is the team's overall willingness not to give up.  Trailing 3-1 heading into the third period, Rick Nash scored on one of his beautiful patented power moves to the net making it a one goal game with about 15 minutes remaining.  Still refusing to quit, Derek Stepan sniped one top cheddar tying the game at three apiece with 11 minutes to go.

The Leafs responded almost immediately with Kessel getting his own rebound just 39 seconds after the Rangers tied it, putting Toronto ahead 4-3 for good.  In the end, I think it was the fatigue that got to the Rangers tonight.  The Leafs looked quicker, and the Rangers made some sloppy mistakes in their defensive zone that cost them.  With the Rangers returning to MSG on Wednesday night, look for them to feed off the home crowd, tighten up their game, and get back on the winning track in the last game of this home & home series.

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Henrik Lundqvist Named 3rd Star of the Week

NHL - Henrik Lundqvist was rewarded today for his stellar play by being named the third star of the week in the NHL.  With a 3-0-1 record for the week of April 1st-7th, Henrik's 48 save performance Saturday night against the Hurricanes was the icing on the cake for earning a "star of the week" title.  In this marvelous week that saw him get 4 starts, Lundqvist had a 1.22 Goals Against Average, and a .962 save percentage.

Henrik looks to be returning to his Vezina Trophy winning form from a season ago.  This is perfect timing as the rest of the New York Rangers as a whole seem to be following suit.  The team has steadily become more consistent showing signs reminiscent of last year's Atlantic Division Champions.  The Rangers have always relied heavily on Lundqvist to win big games for them, and much like years past, he seems to be answering the bell.  Congrats Henrik on a your well deserved, league-wide, recognition for your excellent play.

Also named to the stars of the week were Alex Ovechkin (#1 Washington) and Brian Elliott (#2 St. Louis).

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rangers Steal One in Carolina

Carolina-  Last night on the second half of back to back games the Rangers stole one from the Hurricanes with a 4-1 win.  Let me rephrase that; Henrik Lundqvist stole the win and two huge points on the road for the Rangers.  Facing a season, and NHL high 48 shots, Hank played like the Vezina Trophy winner from last year.

Much like games past, Henrik did more than his share to keep the team in it.  Only the offense responded with a much more glaring difference this time around.  The team finally produced the goals that are needed in order to not let such a awe-inspiring performance by their goaltender go to waste.   We've seen it done by Lundqvist before, but last night was something really special that us Rangers fans tend to take for granted.

"The King" put the team on his shoulders, and willed the Rangers to a victory.  As John Tortorella came out and said in his post-game comments, "Last night was the best he has ever seen Henrik play".  With all the masterful games we've seen from him, that comment by the coach illustrates just how good he actually was.

Outside of Henrik, the team looked and played like they were on the latter end of back to back games.  They were extremely sloppy in their defensive zone, but managed to capitalize on their offensive opportunities.  Stepan and Callahan both cashed in on goals just 31 seconds apart from eachother at the start of the second period.  Rick Nash also scored a huge goal with about 9 minutes left in the third.  Brian Boyle put the icing on the cake and scored the empty net goal making it final, 4-1 Rangers.

This was a gutsy win for the New York Rangers.  This type of grit and willingness to get points in both games of a back to back series is what they have been missing all year long.  It is pretty safe to say that since the trade deadline, this team has begun to turn the corner, and are trending in the right direction.  It is almost as though they have flipped a switch that has ignited the entire roster.  If they continue this type of play they are going to be a very dangerous team from here on out.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Rangers take 3 out or 4 points

Pittsburgh- The New York Rangers simply ran into a goalie suddenly turned hot. With a 2-1 shootout loss tonight to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers managed to gain 3 out of a possible 4 points in a home and home series versus the number one team in the Eastern Conference. They might not have had that same offensive fire-power they showed in Wednesday's 6-1 route of the Penguins, but the team as a whole displayed something much more important tonight.

As a unit, the Rangers proved tonight that they (like last year) still have the ability to out-work opposing teams, and be a resilient bunch. The Penguins came out of the gates looking like a team trying to relinquish an embarrassing defeat in their previous game. The Blue-Shirts did a wonderful job of weathering the storm in the first half of the opening frame, and managed to skate to a 0-0 tie after 20 minutes of play.

The second period was another stalemate, but the Rangers seemed to be asserting themselves much more by taking over the territoriality play. At the start of the 3rd, with the teams still tied a 0-0, Jussi Jokinen scored his first goal as a Penguin just 30 seconds in. This is when the "new" characteristic of RESILIENCY came into play for this New York Rangers team.

Very unlike any other game we've seen this year, the Penguins goal seemed to actually ignite the Rangers in the 3rd period. The Rangers absolutely dominated the Pens out-shooting them 14-4 in the final frame. Following the tail end of a power-play with just 4:49 remaining, Stepan won the face-off directly to Rick Nash who fired a wrist shot through the five-hole of Fluery tying the game at 1-1.

The Rangers would eventually lose in a shootout (final score 2-1), but showed a gritty determination tonight  which we have seen very little of this season.  They were able to play the highest scoring team in the NHL to essentially a 1-1 tie on the road, but were stifled by a determined goalie. I know as well as you that Gaborik wasn't the "problem" on this team; if anything he was the solution. It is because of him we have been able to add the essential pieces to re-tool this team to what made them so successful last season. It seems as though the team has certainly found their legs, and have begun playing like the contender that we all thought they would be.  The Rangers need to follow up these two strong efforts with another gutsy performance for two more points on the line tomorrow night in Carolina.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Welcome to New York!

New York - In the wake of an extreme roster shake-up Wednesday, the New York Rangers routed the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-1 at Madison Square Garden.  After the deadline departure of Marian Gaborik many Rangers' fans stressed at the thought of how the "new look" Blue-Shirts would perform.  With new additions Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard, and John Moore all set to make their Garden debut, everyone was in for a real treat.

From the opening face-off on, Clowe set the tone with a monstrous first shift.  His big hit and tenacious pursuit of the puck was exactly what this team had been missing all season long to this point.  The team from that point on looked fresh, and much more confident than we have seen in games past.  The Rangers opened the scoring with a Brad Richards bomb from the point on the power-play, and never looked back.

It was a great night to start off your Rangers career as every new addition, aside from the injured Dorsett, all pitched in on the stat sheet.  John Moore had 1 goal on 14:09 of ice time, Derick Brassard also added 1 goal and 3 assists, and Ryane Clowe broke out of his season long goal scoring drought with 2 goals and 1 assist.  All very welcome additions indeed.

The Rangers would go on cruising to an impressive 6-1 win over the Eastern Conference leading Penguins.  One of the most telling things to me was how relaxed and energetic the team looked last night.  Brian Boyle had arguably his best game of the year (not many to chose from), and Brad Richards showed much more confidence by being very hard/decisive on the puck.  Maybe having a guy like Clowe in the line-up took some of the burden off of Boyle from trying to take on too many different roles for the team, and he can begin to just go out there and play his game.  As for Richards, he's been very hit & miss this year (mostly miss), one can only think that seeing the departure of Gaborik could have given him a little kick in the butt to get his game back on track because we all know how poorly he has played at times.

Initial reaction from the new additions and the departure of Gaborik are clearly that Sather has found the right peices to gel into this team.  It is also very imperative not to get too far ahead of ourselves- These guys were playing on pure adrenaline, and could have been just a flash in the pan.  If these players really were the missing pieces, and they can continue to have this kind of impact on the team, the Rangers may have once again just become a contender in the East.

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