Usually days in which the Rangers are playing have a little bit of extra jump in them. But for the first time since I can remember I was not anxiously waiting for the game to start. That’s mainly the result of the flat play of the Rangers to start the season. So of course the Rangers come out with their most convincing win of the season. The score of the game against the Canucks was nicer. The overtime victory against the Flames was more dramatic. But tonight the Rangers won like we saw them win last season; with every player on the ice making a contribution of some sort. I have no answers for why it took the Rangers ten games to finally get to this level; the level we all expect them to be at. But to finally get a full 60 minute effort against a very good team in the San Jose Sharks with the backup goaltender in can only be good for the near future. Let’s recap what we saw tonight.
Full Team Effort- I’ll single out some individuals, but tonight was a typical New York Rangers win, with every single player doing his part to earn the victory. The first 9 games of the season we were seeing 4-5 guys helping the cause, and who those 4-5 were changed every game. You’re not going to win a lot of hockey games like that. The Rangers won tonight because of 4 contributing lines and 3 contributing defensive pairings; compared to the Sharks, who only had one line really going.
Power Play- Tonight we saw the best looking New York Rangers powerplay since 2005-2006. It’s not just the two goals they scored. They were able to get possession of the puck in the offensive zone, which is something that was impossible previously. They were moving the puck around very well and taking the right shots at the right times. Six goals in their last sixteen attempts is a far cry from the abysmal attempts we saw to start the season.
Michael Del Zotto- The most under-appreciated player so far this season. Del Zotto was flawless tonight in the defensive zone and showed confidence in the offensive zone. Statistics aside, Del Zotto had the best game of his career tonight, in my opinion. He was a perfect complement to Richards at the point on the power play and was a big reason for its success. When you have two guys on opposite points able to make plays with the puck it makes it a lot more difficult for the other team to kill the penalty. As rocky as last season was for Del Zotto, I think it ultimately benefited him. He was taking his spot in the NHL for granted and needed a reality check. It’s evident that he has his priorities in place and is taking everything a lot more seriously this season. I don’t think he’ll be in Connecticut any time soon.
Brandon Dubinsky- Still no goals, but he’s been very good the last few games. Tonight he showed a lot more confidence on the odd man rush, one of which resulted in Derek Stepan’s first goal of the season. He had two assists but also was a major factor in a third goal. The first goal of the game was the result of Dubinsky driving to the net. Two Sharks followed him into the slot which opened up Callahan’s pass to McDonagh who then shot the puck with those two Sharks screening Niemi. The goals will come for Dubinsky as long as he sticks to his game. He did that tonight.
Erik Christensen- The Enigma once again stupefies. Christensen waited until the 10th game to do anything relevant, but he definitely was relevant tonight. Two exceptional passes to Anisimov and Callahan led to goals. Inconsistent isn’t even the right word to describe Christensen, because he only plays to his ability a handful of games every season. There is not a single more frustrating player in hockey.
Martin Biron- Now 34 years old and coming back from a broken collarbone, I was not completely confident that Biron would still be a quality NHL goaltender. But so far he’s put those fears to rest. Biron didn’t make any tremendous saves, but that’s largely to his credit. He plays a very simple game and makes smart decisions. All you can ask from your backup goaltender is to save the shots that should be saved, and Biron provides that. With the Rangers playing their best game in front of Biron and Lundqvist being a bit off in his last couple of starts, don’t you have to at least think about starting Biron again next game? There’s no question as to who is the starting goaltender on this team and over the course of the whole season the Rangers are better of with Lundqvist in net, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tortorella sticks with Biron again on Thursday.
Tonight’s game was only the third one of the season in which the Rangers recorded 30 or more shots. In general, the more shots you take, the more likely pucks are going to find their way into the net. What I really like about tonight’s game is the fact that they played so well after a terrible loss to the Senators only a couple of nights before. Every team is going to experience bad losses; the good teams are the ones that can forget about them and get the job done after the fact.