I could sit here and ridicule the Rangers for yet another awful start to the game, letting Nick Johnson and Derek Engelland, who had 3 combined goals prior to today, score twice early. However, the Rangers recovered and got the two points in relatively easy fashion. For the first time since February 1st, also against the Penguins, the Rangers scored three or more goals in a game. For the first time this whole season the Rangers scored three power play goals. This is not the time to nitpick about little things. Despite an awful start to the game, the Rangers figured it out relatively early and got two points they deserved to get. Let’s review the game:
John Tortorella- Major props to Tortorella today, for a multitude of reasons. Tortorella made the right decision in calling a timeout after Nick Johnson’s goal, but what he did during the timeout is what is really important. I’m sure many people expected Tortorella to scream and yell at the team, but he instead remained calm and focused the team. Many coaches also might have pulled Lundqvist and put Biron in the game, but he instead stuck with Lundqvist and trusted him to get the job done, which he certainly did. He also got the most out of his line combinations. For all the people looking for Tortorella to be fired, there are not many coaches who could have gotten the team to win today after that kind of start.
Steve Eminger/Ryan McDonagh- This is not so much an in depth analysis as it is calling out Rangers fans. Eminger wasn’t spectacular today by any means. However, he was undeservingly attacked for the first goal of the game, as if kneeling to block a shot and it banking off him into the net is some lapse in judgement. If anything, we should be appreciating the effort and him willing to risk his teeth just to stop the puck from going in. Unfortunately it bounced the wrong way. Meanwhile, Golden Boy Ryan McDonagh, who had a solid game otherwise, was almost completely at fault for the second goal. The puck got passed him in the offensive zone and he failed to recover on the back check, watching Nick Johnson get the puck on the transition and put it in the net. I did not see a single person criticizing him for that mistake. I understand some players are going to be liked more than others, but people need to objectively evaluate plays and the individuals making them instead of blindly bashing them for who they are and not the decisions they make.
Slot Presence- The Rangers scored 3 of their goals today due to someone standing in front of Marc-Andre Fleury. Both first period goals by Boyle and Callahan were the result of them planting themselves in front of the goalie and deflecting the puck past him. Callahan’s second goal went in because Brandon Dubinsky’s body was preventing Fleury from seeing the puck. Prospal and Anisimov also scored after crashing the slot. Essentially, it’s not coincidence that the Rangers scored five goals today by positioning themselves around the net. The Rangers don’t have the talent to play a perimeter game, so they need to simply throw pucks at the net and put people in front. Good things will happen that way. Today showed that.
Marian Gaborik- Gaborik again showed today that he doesn’t need to be scoring to be a key player. Vinny Prospal was left completely unchallenged as he slid the puck into a wide open net with his feet virtually in the crease. That’s due to the Penguins defense focusing their attention on Gaborik, who made the initial play that got Dubinsky the puck before he passed it across to Prospal. Rangers fans might be cynical about Gaborik being unable to score, but opposing teams are not going to take any chances. Star players require star treatment from defenders, and that is going to open up the ice for the other 4 people on the ice. I can not stress this enough. Gaborik doesn’t need to score every game to be a contributor and earn his contract.
Ryan Callahan- A big game tonight from Callahan. He’s never going to be mistaken for a skilled player but he made the best of his power play time tonight and got the job done, which is ultimately all that matters. Aside from his two power play goals, Callahan was very good on the penalty kill, which Tortorella gave credit to post game. Callahan not only puts in the effort consistently but also ends up on the scoresheet often. He’s certainly making his case for becoming the next Rangers captain.
I claimed in the pre-game that the Rangers needed to come out early and dominate, and they did the complete opposite of that. Inevitably, the first line full of AHLers for the Penguins managed to score. However, the Rangers shook it off and really owned the ice for the next 55 minutes. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was a good win and they got the two points.