Another day, another Rangers win. The team didn’t put forth their best effort for the last 40 minutes, but they found a way to win. The story of the game however, was the absolute brilliance of Henrik Lundqvist and his league-leading 7th shutout. To the bullets…
- This game belonged to Lundqvist. I will elaborate more later in the recap, but not bulleting him first would have been a travesty.
- Ryan Callahan is just scorching hot right now. 6 goals in his last 4 games and another power play goal. For those keeping score at home that’s 38.5% over the past 4 games, with greatly improved puck movement.
- This game was remarkably clean considering the physicality and the personalities at play. A couple of off-setting minors and a few scuffles, but mostly just hard nosed hockey.
- The Blueshirts started off a little slow but really came on in the second half of the first period. The forecheck was relentless and forced turnovers using the newly implemented system that The Suit so conveniently broke down just this afternoon.
- The Rangers were the beneficiaries of a fortunate bounce off Chara (own-goal anyone?) at the end of the second period. From then on out, the Rangers played well defensively, but rested a little too much on Hank’s brilliance and seemed to do a little too much clock watching. 20 shots on goal isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs.
- I thought Brandon Dubinsky played very well tonight. 1 assist and a +1, plus ten stitches and some chipped teeth highlighted a very blue collar effort. He really needs to start being more decisive when handling the puck though. He had several opportunities to pull the trigger and preferred the pass. We all know what Dubi is capable of when he shoots with confidence.
- On defense, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal had particularly strong games. Del Zotto had yet another assist (4 in the past 4 games), and Girardi continued his steady play.
- Carl Hagelin’s speed continues to be an asset. He was strong on the forecheck and negated a couple icing calls. He threw the body around and was a general nuisance to the Bruins all game long.
- Artem Anisimov is quietly playing some of his best hockey this season after being reunited with Gaborik (another assist, who knew he had the playmaker gene?) and Stepan. Arty has 6 points in his last 6 games, and has made his presence known.
- Now with all that out of the way, we can move on to the goaltending. Now, I don’t make it a secret that I am not much of a Tim Thomas fan, but he played fairly well tonight. Obviously, Cally’s PP goal was one that you can’t really hold the goalie responsible for, but it was a mini-illustration of the problem I have with Thomas’ style. He works incredibly well within Boston’s defensive system, but his aggressive style takes him out of plays after the first shot, and forces his defense to compensate for him. If you watch the replay, although the goal was in no way his fault, all his effort went directly to Del Zotto and gave himself absolutely no chance to stop the shot on the lateral pass.
- Thomas griping aside, the real story in this game was The King. He was absolutely out of this world tonight. He was in solid position on the first shot and was balanced and poised for the rebounds. He bailed out tired defenders countless times when Boston was mounting extended shifts of pressure. If he continues to play at even 85% of the level he is at right now, he is a lock for the Hart Trophy. Hank deserved his league-leading shutout, with 42 saves and continues to sport the best save percentage in the league and is second in GAA only to Brian Elliot, who has played in 15 less games.
With this win, the Rangers are now 9 points up on the 2nd place Bruins. Mike Keenan made the bold prediction that no one is going to catch this team now. You guys agree? Off tomorrow and then the Blackhawks come to town on Thursday at 7pm.