From the disrespectful attitude towards the Canadian national anthem, to the putrid Orange Flyers Winter Classic Jersey’s, to the terrible NBC coverage – there was a lot not to like today for Rangers fans. Luckily for Rangers fans there was a lot to like about the final score, the determination they showed in coming back to win and yeah, the moral victory in the jersey stakes.
The Rangers were the second best team over the first two periods. They couldn’t impose their game, got little-to-no sustained pressure on the Flyers and seemed to be a step behind the play. They didn’t give up however, had the world’s best goalie in net and once again, found a way to win a tight game. The Flyers couldn’t match the Rangers intensity in the third and their desire to win the one on one battles, so it’s not surprising the Rangers won an oh-so-tight 3-2 affair. What a game, what an ending, what a (Rangers) goaltender.
Let’s start the quick hits backwards, with the ending:
You want the definition of clutch play? 19.6 seconds left on the clock when Lundqvist out waits Danny Briere on the incorrectly called penalty shot to preserve the Rangers one goal lead. Lundqvist was spectacular throughout and that was a fitting climax for the league’s best goaltender on the league’s biggest stage.
The Rangers actually started the game well with Callahan having a great chance to begin the first. They were hard in to the corners and had some good early pressure but they couldn’t keep it up and as stated, struggled to do so until the third period.
You want more examples of the brilliance of Henrik Lundqvist? His early saves on Jagr and Giroux. The one (on Jagr) was patience, standing up to the Czech legend and taking the space away from Jagr. On the Giroux chance he was surprisingly aggressive and made a great poke check which likely caught Giroux off guard. There were other, multiple spectacular stops throughout the game by Lundqvist. Great goaltending. Again.
They weren’t at their best in this game but Anisimov and Gaborik did create some chances. However Stepan had a relatively poor game, his worst in some time. Defensively he was off while he was less visible offensively than his line mates. Anisimov was good on the puck while Gaborik showed off some nice awareness and his usual speed.
Throughout the first two periods the Rangers defensive coverage wasn’t great. One occasion early on, Voracek was wide open on the right hand side but luckily fanned on his shot – no one was near him.
The Rangers also caused several turnovers giving the Flyers some good offensive zone opportunities. There were simply too many neutral zone breakdowns by the Blueshirts (not Blueshits, Mike Milbury).
Before the Mike Rupp show began I had made a note on how Bobrovsky was pretty solid. Then the clock struck twelve and he turned into a pumpkin. Not just because of Rupp’s second goal either. He gave up several juicy rebounds and made a few routine saves look harder than they should have been.
It’s worth noting how carefully the Rangers were managing Marc Staal’s comeback as he had just 3:40 of ice time after one (compared to Girardi’s 10:46) and 9:35 after two. Very un-Staal like minutes but it was the right way to handle him.
- Thought on Brian Boyle: he had a great hit by Boyle to open the second period –why doesn’t he do that more often? That aside, good in the face-off circle which was much needed.
- Another defensive concern: despite nothing materializing from it I didn’t like one instance when the puck broke for the Flyers in the Rangers zone and the trailing Ranger (Mitchell) left his man in the middle and migrated toward the puck to help out his beaten team-mate. Had a Flyer got control of the puck he’d have had a team-mate standing in front of Lundqvist completely alone.
The first two periods the Rangers lost a ton of puck battles all over the ice. Credit to the way the team rebounded in the third. The Rangers won much more battles in the last period. A coincidence that they won the period? I think not.
More physicality: Brandon Dubinsky had a nice hit on Bourdon – he’s more effective when he plays a physical game. He was involved in the game winner though and generally played an intelligent game, especially how he handled the puck at times.
- Schenn’s goal 7:34 left in the second? After Matt Carle threw it on net, there was a big bounce right in front of Lundqvist that created a juicy rebound which a streaking Schenn chipped into the net. It’s hard to criticise Lundqvist given the bounce but Schenn did the right thing by going toward the net. More concern should be how Schenn was left unattended going to the net.
- My issue on the second Flyers goal? While Del Zotto was caught up the ice pinching (leaving an odd man rush) the winger needed to recognise the pinch by Del Zotto and cover him: it was another breakdown in the Rangers play.
Mike Rupp; by far his best game as a Ranger and not just because of the two goals – but obviously they were huge. Loved the Jagr salute by the way. Following a great pass from Prust, Rupp used Meszaros as a screen to beat Bobrovsky with a neat wrister for his first. That was a terrible defensive play from Meszaros by the way and Bobrovsky was helpless on the goal.
One point the Rangers had a 2-on-0 and Stepan should never have passed and instead taken the shot. One too many passes ruined a great chance which was created from a nice turnover by Gaborik. The botched play was symptomatic of Stepan’s day.
Kudos to Prust for two nice assist’s today by the way. Clearly he can play the game, it’s just been to rare this season from the gritty forward.
Despite having an average game, Brad Richards scored the eventual GWG off a rebound following great work from Callahan and Dubinsky. Richards roofed a rolling puck into the net. Nice finish.
After the Richards goal the Rangers began to finally establish their cycling game down low. For the first time in the game they were able to play their own game. Exhibit A: they had great pressure with about five minutes left of the third controlling the puck, getting lots of shots off and creating traffic, eating up a ton of clock.
The closing minutes of this game were simply spectacular. The incredibly inconsistent referees attempted to hand the Flyers a tying goal but they couldn’t get it. How? First of all the power play was questionable. Then, as Callahan goes down the ice and gets pulled down, how the referees see a penalty on both the Flyer and Callahan is beyond. Finally, with little evidence to prove McDonagh closed his hand on the puck in a goal mouth scramble they award a penalty shot. Incredible decision making.
Side note: If you hear in the coming days or weeks that Henrik Lundqvist has a new love in his life it’s me. Today’s game hooked me in. I love you Henrik. God knows how I’d react if that was a Cup Final game seven. Henrik; Call me…..
So hey, the biggest stage so far and the Rangers find a way to win again. Tell me you don’t feel good right now, I dare you. This team is for real, far from perfect, but they don’t give in. Let’s enjoy this ride shall we? Oh and big up to the man with a cigar for walking into Philadelphia and guaranteeing a victory. I’m smoking my Cuban right now for you Glenny boy.