Chris Kreider –he of the constant up-and-down with his former coach– spoiled John Tortorella’s return to MSG yesterday, netting a hat trick in New York’s 5-2 win. Kreider and Torts had a rocky relationship on Broadway, as Kreider was constantly moved in and out of the lineup. It is no coincidence that the best game we’ve seen Kreider play was against the coach for whom he had so much to prove.
But it wasn’t just the Chris Kreider show. Cam Talbot made it seven straight games allowing two goals or fewer, making 35 saves in the win. Rick Nash had a goal and two assists. Derek Stepan had a pair of assists. Ryan McDonagh had a strong game. Dan Girardi had a strong game. The powerplay converted twice. Everything clicked for the Rangers.
On to the goals:
Rangers 1, Canucks 0
Capitalizing on turnovers is the key to winning. This time, Stepan and Nash forced Alex Edler into a turnover at the blue line. Nash hit Kreider with a pass that sprung him on a mini-breakaway. Kreider, one of the best wrist shots in the league, beat Roberto Luongo clean for the early lead.
Rangers 2, Canucks 0
The Rangers showed great patience and moved the puck extremely well on this powerlay. Eventually New York wound up with both Nash and Kreider in front, but the Canucks only had Chris Tanev down low to cover both. McDonagh thread the needle between the two Canucks challenging him (Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Kesler), where his pass was deflected by both Nash and Kreider for the goal.
Rangers 3, Canucks 0
The Rangers forced another turnover in the offensive zone, which led to the puck landing on Dan Girardi’s stick. His shot was blocked, but the puck went right to Stepan, who put the puck on net. During the confusion, Nash was able to slip behind both Nucks defenders and deflect this one past Luongo. This goal chased Luongo from the game.
Rangers 4, Canucks 0
More patience and solid puck movement for this powerplay goal. This time around, Henrik Sedin bit a little too hard on a Mats Zuccarello pass to Derick Brassard in the high slot, forcing him out of position and leaving the weak side point wide open. When Brassard got the puck back to Zuccarello, he made a nice touch pass to the open ice, where Michael Del Zotto was able to walk in with tons of room to maneuver. He placed his shot from “the ladies tees,” as Anson Carter so eloquently put it (top of the circle), perfectly for the 4-0 lead.
Canucks 1, Rangers 4
This was just a solid passing play by the Canucks to get on the board. David Booth made a long pass to Dale Weise for the zone entry, who got the puck back to Booth when challenged. Booth back to Weise (then Booth skated to the goal line), Weise to Mike Santorelli to generate a 3-on-2 down low, who touch-passed it back to Booth. Booth made a great move around the defense and around Talbot for the pretty goal.
Rangers 5, Canucks 1
Anton Stralman set Kreider up for his hat trick goal with a perfect lob shot from the point. Both Brad Richardson and Kevin Bieksa, who were with Kreider in the front, just let him take a perfect deflection in front. Neither challenged him or tied up his stick.
Canucks 2, Rangers 5
After a face off win, Kesler and Daniel Sedin went to the front of the net while Edler was able to get a shot on net from the point. Girardi was in front to tie up Kesler, but McDonagh was a bit too high for the situation, and Daniel was able to bat home the rebound.
This is actually a very interesting chart to look at. If you look at the goals the Rangers scored at even strength, there were a lot of defensive zone breakdowns for the Canucks of which the Rangers took advantage. However, the Canucks themselves were dominant in the puck possession game. Usually a team that jumps out to a big lead sits back, but the Rangers didn’t do that until after their fifth goal (when they finally took a Fenwick lead). The Rangers were actually being outplayed from a possession standpoint until that point in the third, despite the 3-0 and 4-1 leads. It wasn’t until the 5-1 score that they sat back and defended their lead (as noted by the spike in the red line at the end). Just a very interesting chart.
It has to be maddening for a lot of people right now. The Rangers played a solid game yesterday, but haven’t really been able to string together a bunch of those in a row. They are 5-4 in their last nine games, but managed to finish November with a 9-6 record. This team is now 11-6 after starting the season 3-7. If they continue on that pace (let’s make it a pair of wins for every loss, just to keep it simple), then they will finish the last 55 games with a record of 37-18 (roughly) and 51-31 for the season. That’s 102 points and a playoff berth. Just sayin.