At long last, we had a good hockey game. It was high strung at times, but the Rangers came away with not only a big victory on home ice, saving themselves from their first ever 3 game losing streak this season, but a huge 2 points in the standings once again. The top six came to play, and when the power play did get a look, it converted.
The Rangers had a 57:46 minute game. The other 2:14? 3 goals on 3 shots by the Blues to take the lead into the second intermission. One thing this team has shown time and time again though is on most nights, if they are down, they can climb their way back to the top. Their top end skill, team perseverance, and dare I say, grit, showed tremendously in this game.
While the score might not necessarily reflect it, these are the types of tests the Rangers will be up against in the playoffs. If they get down, how will they respond? Will they wither like they did on the 2nd half of a back to back to the Canucks, or will they score three goals in a period and take the lead themselves like they did against the Blues? These questions and more will soon be answered. There are still many games left before the dance.
He’s been lighting it up and at not a moment too soon, but what more can you say about the play of Alexis Lafrenière? He has been electric since the team has returned from the All Star break, and he actually is producing like a top end draft selection. It’s the best of both worlds. All the talk was about the return of Buchnevich to the Garden, so it was nice that the kid who replaced him on the top line got a goal, and Buch left with no points. Lafrenière wasn’t the only top six player to continue rolling though, welcome back to the goal column Chris Kreider!
Let’s also not forget we saw yet another Artemiy Panarin masterclass as he looked like himself again, making plays and really taking control of his line. He could have easily had 4 or 5 points, but instead could only settle for three. I’ve become a broken record at this point, but if the Rangers seriously want to make a run in the playoffs, both the top line and Panarin lines have to be rolling, not just one or the other. They will be at their best when both are legitimate scoring threats every time they are out on the ice.
Whenever the Rangers are able to get Kaapo Kakko back, he will slide in nicely on that Panarin line again much like he did in the beginning of the season. That should not deter the Rangers front office from going out and getting some help for some low risk assets, but you wonder if the Rangers pull a Yankees and go “Kaapo Kakko is our deadline acquisition”.
Rangers 1, Blues 0
The Rangers top line had a solid shift here, gaining the zone and getting the initial chance from Alexis Lafreniere. They then did something that the Rangers struggle with, retrieving the puck and getting a second chance. Laf, after his first chance, got in front for the screen, getting his stick free with the jump and banging home the rebound. No real breakdown here by the Blues, just a good play.
Rangers 2, Blues 0
Ryan Strome caught Ville Husso off his angle and between shot/pass.
Rangers 2, Blues 1
Ryan O’Reilly forced the turnover on the Rangers breakout, something that was off all game for the Rangers, and then capitalized off a great passing play. The breakdown for the Rangers was the turnover on the breakout. The rest was just great passing and O’Reilly getting behind both defensemen.
Rangers 2, Blues 2
Ivan Barbashev got in behind the defense, and this was just a beautiful shot. Swivel head fail by the Rangers here.
Blues 3, Rangers 2
Credit the Blues for a good rotation here, but Barclay Goodrow did a fly by on David Perron. Didn’t go near the wide open guy who scored. Too many Rangers facing the puck and not watching the play on all three goals.
Rangers 3, Blues 3
The Rangers caught the Blues almost breaking up their breakout, which led to a 2-on-1 with Hunt and Panarin. Husso made the first save, but it was chaos after, and Patrik Nemth, yes Patrik Nemeth, scored.
Rangers 4, Blues 3
Chris Kreider is the best net front presence in the NHL.
Rangers 5, Blues 3
Artemiy Panarin empty netter.
The Rangers were great in this game. They had lapses and weren’t perfect –notably giving up goals on three straight shots– but they were overall dominant against a very good Blues team. The Rangers had more attempts, but the Blues did get a good amount of high quality chances early. The Rangers clamped it down late though.
The Rangers played a very strong game. Again, not perfect, and you’re not going to get perfection from any team. But this is more like what you want to see from the Rangers.
Last thought on the night, Igor had a rough 2:14 seconds letting in 3 goals on 3 shots, but make no mistake, he still had a hell of night. Stopping 29 saves on 32 shots, most of them in high danger scoring areas, there are simply no more words to describe he makes me feel in my very soul. He is the clear Vezina winner, and as discussed on previous posts, you seriously have to have him for consideration for the Hart trophy. The Rangers have some unbelievable talent up and down their lineup, but without Shesterkin stopping 94% of the shots he faces, is this team nearly as successful as far as wins and losses are concerned? Hard to say.
One thing is for certain, if Igor Shesterkin has even an inkling of that Henrik Lundqvist level of “clutch” in the playoffs, good Lord watch out for the Rangers.