The Rangers have won a lot of games this season and thus have played well against most teams, but one team that has gotten the best of the Rangers this season is the Toronto Maple Leafs, with two convincing wins in the two matchups prior to tonight. But tonight was a different night, and the Rangers had one of their most convincing wins of the season in Toronto. Surely if you look closely enough you will find mistakes tonight and I’m sure John Tortorella will do just that, but overall the Rangers were the better team for almost all 60 minutes and it’s hard to not be satisfy with both the effort and the result. Let’s look at some post-game notes.
Martin Biron- Marty had a very good game tonight. He made some absolutely fantastic saves but he also did not let in a soft one, which he has been prone to this season. Aside from that, it gets pretty boring talking about the team’s goaltending in this respect because it’s very repetitive. It’s very rare that we don’t get a good effort from our man in net, whether it’s Marty or Henrik. So instead, let’s look at Martin Biron in a different light. Here are two, if not telling, interesting statistics for this season:
1. With Martin Biron getting his second shutout of the season tonight, only one goaltender in the Atlantic Division has more than he does; that goaltender is Henrik Lundqvist. Marc-Andre Fleury and Johan Hedberg both have 2 shutouts as well, though Fleury has gotten his in 36 games and Hedberg has gotten his in 21. Biron has only started 12 gams. Every other goaltender in the division has 1 or 0 shutouts. Martin Biron is not just playing well for a backup. He’s playing as well as just about any goaltender in the division not named “Henrik.”
2. Martin Biron got his third assist of the season tonight in his 12th game. Scott Gomez has played 14 games this season and has four assists. This tells us more about how bad Scott Gomez has been than anything, but another point is that Martin Biron is very good at handling the puck. Tonight he perfectly played a puck off the glass to Carl Hagelin, who set up Derek Stepan for the goal.
In summary, I’ve written this many times but it is still important to say: We are incredibly lucky to have a goaltender like Martin Biron backing up Henrik Lundqvist.
Derek Stepan: I think Derek’s been very quiet the past 10 games or so. Even in games he was scoring, he was not doing much aside from those isolated incidents. Tonight Derek had a very strong game. Mike Rupp was left with a gaping net to shoot at thanks to his (and Wolski’s) awesome passing play, and he made a great move on Gustavsson to score the third goal of the game and put it out of reach. Four shots from him and four hits as well. I’d love to see that kind of night from him more often.
Ryan McDonagh: I think it will get overlooked because he didn’t make any stand-out plays on either the defensive or offensive ends of the rink, but Ryan McDonagh had a great game. He had maybe his best all-around defensive game of the season. He continued to be impossible to beat in the neutral, and him getting first to the puck set up the passing play that resulted in Rupp’s goal. One takeaway, no giveaways, three shots, two blocked shots, and four hits. The only thing more depressing for Habs fans than my Scott Gomez stat from earlier is the fact that I’m writing reviews like this about McDonagh. Martin Biron was the #1 reason for the shutout tonight, but Ryan McDonagh was right behind him.
Brian Boyle- Boyle had a pretty good game tonight but it was great to see him finally put one in the net. I think he does have some bad nights but I also think he shows up majority of the time and does a hell of a job as a checking line center. The offense hasn’t been there for him this season so it was nice that he finally got rewarded. I know a lot of people are disappointed in his season and sometimes he doesn’t play like the huge forward he is, but look around the NHL and there are many bottom-six centers than whom Boyle is better.
Marc Staal- He had a solid game but nothing particularly great. He does look to be getting better and more confident with every game. Tonight, Tortorella was not as strict with his icetime as Staal saw 18:53 of playing time. That’s a lot closer to what he’s used to playing normally and I don’t think we’re that far off from getting him back to full force. Girardi, McDonagh, Staal, and Del Zotto make a hell of a top-four going forward.
John Tortorella- He makes weird line combinations and everyone becomes skeptical and bitter. And then they manage to work out. The guy sure knows how to push the right buttons and when to mix things up before they get too stale.
The Rangers get right back work tomorrow against the Habs. On one hand, the Rangers have been unable to win in Montreal for some time now, but the Rangers have also been highly successful in the second of back-to-back games the past two seasons. Something has to give, right?