When it rains, it pours. For all the one goal losses this season, multiple times the Rangers have had piled it on the opposition. To do so against the Flyers, who are at the top of the league, is bittersweet in a way. The win of course is great. Beating the Flyers is always fun, and especially like they did today. At the same time, though, it also raises the question of “What could have been?” Those that have watched the Rangers this season know that today was no fluke. Sure, 7-0 shutouts are a rarity, but the way the Rangers executed today; Getting pucks to the net; the transition game; goals doing the dirty work in the slot; perfect penalty killing; persistent physical play; flawless goaltending. These are all things that the Rangers have shown time and time again that they have the ability to do. It’s just a shame that for the past month and a half they haven’t been able to do it. If the Rangers can play the rest of the season out like they did today, then not only will the Rangers make the playoffs, but they’ll be a team nobody wants to touch in the first round. Let’s look at the game notes:
Ryan Callahan- He’s gotta be the first mention. The first hat trick of Captain Callahan’s career, and he added a fourth one, just for shits and giggles. All four of his goals were typical Callahan goals. Nothing fancy, just him doing the dirty worth in front of the net and willing the puck into the goal. The hat trick goal was an unbelievable play. The work to get the puck of Versteeg’s stick and then the poise to pick the corner is something that most fans won’t appreciate as much as it deserves to be. Just like that, Ryan Callahan has 20 goals and is tied with Boyle for the team lead. Of course, if he didn’t break a finger earlier in the year he’d probably be well ahead by now. Callahan is now on pace for 26 goals this season, or 34 goals over a full 82 games. That’s simply incredible production from Callahan, whose effort is enormously greater than his talent. Not bad for a 4th round pick, huh?
Henrik Lundqvist- Not that he had to be perfect, but he decided to give the Flyers nothing, anyway. Lundqvist completely shut down the 4th best offense in the NHL and made big save after big save. The 24 save effort led to his 9th shutout of the season, which makes him the league leader. Lundqvist has reached the 10 shutout mark once in his career, in 2007-2008. One more would match that.
Mats Zuccarello- The first multi-goal game of Zuccarello’s career. He has scored 3 goals in his last two games. Zuccarello’s offense has gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and although I doubt he ever reaches the level of Marti St. Louis, I think Zuccarello will have a lengthy career in the NHL. Zuccarello is putting up points at a rate that is the equivalent of 47 points over a full season. That’s more than anyone could have anticipated from Zuccarello in his first season in North American hockey. 60-65 points is not impossible when he’s in his prime. Again, not a Martin St. Louis, but anyone who had him pegged as another Petr Prucha or Nigel Dawes can start to apologize now.
Brandon Dubinsky- Another great game from Dubinsky that didn’t completely translate to the scoreboard. He got an assist, but more important was the physical game he brought and the confidence he displayed. Dubinsky needs to be a player that contributes every night. Whereas a guy like Wolski is understandably going to make almost all of his contributions with goals and assists, Dubinsky needed to make his presence felt every night. If it isn’t on the scoresheet, then it better be in the faceoff circle, or on the forecheck, or in the defensive zone. He’s gotten back to making that happen the past two games. The points will come eventually.
Power Play- Two for five tonight. That’s great to see. That was made possible because of MOVEMENT. Instead of playing a perimeter game, all five Rangers on the ice shuffled their position actively. That will inevitably lead to openings. when you stand still the job for the penalty killers is that much easier. Also leading to success was slot presence. Callahan’s 4th goal was the definitely of a garbage goal, but it was made possible because he planted himself in the crease and Gilroy put the puck towards the net.
Artem Anisimov- Anisimov has been unbelievably impressive the past two or so weeks. Offensively, there’s little difference between him and a player like Nik Zherdev. There are stretches where he is making everything happen, such as this stretch, and then there are other times where he’s invisible in the offensive zone. What makes Anisimov’s inconsistencies bearable is his play in the defensive zone, which is underrated around the league. Anisimov isn’t diving around blocking shots like Ryan Callahan or Chris Drury, but his positioning in the defensive zone is great and his stick-work is the best there is on the team. As long as he continues to put in the defensive effort he does, Tortorella will live with the streaky offense. At only 22, Anisimov is on pace for 43 points. If he can keep his defensive abilities and develop into a 60 point center, then the Rangers will have an extremely valuable piece in Anisimov.
Every single player could really be mentioned, really. It was a great effort from top to bottom. The Rangers don’t play again until Wednesday in Anaheim. Who knows which version of the team decides to show up. for now, just enjoy the results of this game.