After a win in Phoenix in which the Rangers won by a fraction of a second, these past two games have been relatively easy wins. Sure, it was a one goal lead for much of the game tonight, but there weren’t any points where it felt like the Islanders were threatening to come away with the two points. The Rangers had momentum for majority of the game, and in the instances the Islanders were pressing Martin Biron answered the call. The only unfortunate aspect of the game tonight is that the Rangers had a few opportunities to make it 4-1 and put the game out of reach. That would have given Tortorella the ability to rest players like Girardi and McDonagh and keep them as fresh as possible for tomorrow’s game against the Flyers. But it’s hard to complain. The Rangers were the better team tonight and have won three straight. Let’s review the game.
Martin Biron- In Biron’s last two starts rebound control has been an issue. Tonight he let a puck bounce out of his glove and the Islanders capitalized. That aside, though, Biron came up big when the Rangers needed him tonight. He made a huge save on Michael Grabner early in the game; one that surely would have given the Islanders the momentum to start the game. He also had a couple of timely saves after the linesmen completely blew an icing call. 24 saves on 26 shots. Somehow, by letting in two goals Biron’s GAA will actually rise from the 1.82 he entered with. The Rangers are now 7-1 with Biron in net this season and there are very few, if any teams that have a better backup goaltender.
Michael Del Zotto- A well deserved first star tonight and he continues to make his detractors look ridiculous. He was on the ice for 23 and a half minutes and was a +2 with a two blocked shots and a hit. His physical play was noticeable all night and his passing was fantastic. Even during this great run of hockey for Del Zotto, his shooting has been something he could improve. Tonight, he unleashed an absolute bomb that ended up being the game winner. With the defense inflicted with injuries all over the place, Del Zotto has stepped up when the Rangers need him most and has been playing the best hockey of his life.
Marian Gaborik- There’s really not much to say that hasn’t been said other nights. Gaborik was all over the place and continued to his dominance of the Islanders with a goal off of a well executed faceoff play. The reason I bring him up tonight is because his 20th goal puts him in a four way tie for first in the NHL. However, he has played less games than the other three. Gaborik’s .62 goals per game is first in the NHL. Richards is getting a lot of attention for his early success in New York, but Marian Gaborik might just be the best free agent pickup Glen Sather has ever made.
Anton Stralman- The biggest surprise of tonight was Anton Stralman. And I don’t believe he is getting the praise he deserves after tonight’s performance. A guy that nobody wanted in the summer and the Devils, who are thin on defense, saw no use for, played over 22 minutes tonight and was a +3. That is almost unbelievable in the literal sense of the word. He had two assists tonight, one of which was the result of a great step-up that turned over the puck and let John Mitchell put away the game with the empty netter. John Tortorella is going to have a tough time figuring out which defensemen stay and which don’t once everybody is healthy.
Stu Bickel- His penalty was not smart, but all things considered you have to be happy with how Stu Bickel has played in his two games with the team so far. Here’s a guy who was undrafted and was an ECHL defenseman only two seasons ago. He was brought to New York in a minor league trade and there was absolutely no reason to expect he should be able to come to the NHL and hold his own. But that’s what he’s done in two games; no more and no less. The sooner we get even Jeff Woywitka back the better, but Stu deserves credit for not looking out of place and doing everything he can to make a difference. There have been worse defensive replacements for other NHL teams this season.
Faceoffs- Faceoffs have been an issue recently and specifically it has resulted in pucks in our own net. It was the center of John Tortorella’s attention at practice and tonight the Rangers improved, winning 56% of the faceoffs tonight. One specifically was a well executed play by Anisimov and Gaborik to score the second goal of the game.
Congrats to Brandon Dubinsky on scoring his first goal in 17 games. He’s played well recently but tonight it finally paid off in the form of a goal. Three wins in a row for the Rangers now. It seems that losing two games is a catalyst for another winning streak this season. The Rangers don’t have much time to enjoy tonight’s victory, though, as we face the Flyers tomorrow night at 7PM at MSG. It’s always satisfying to beat the Devils and Islanders, but tomorrow’s game against the Flyers is undoubtedly the most important of the three.