You know your season is going well when two losses in three games is considered a notable slump for you team. But with that being the case, the Rangers were in a funk and needed a strong game tonight to end it. And like every other period of mediocre hockey the Rangers have experienced this season, they didn’t let it continue for too long. Nashville, a good road team and one that matches up pretty well against the Rangers, were completely outplayed in virtually every aspect and the Rangers came away with a convincing 3-0 victory. Anders Linback did what most backup goaltenders do against the Rangers and made scoring a difficult task, but ultimately the Rangers had too many chances and got a few bounces. Let’s look at some post-game notes.
Henrik Lundqvist- Similar to how the team is performing, it says a lot about Henrik that two not so good starts in a row is cause for discussion. Nonetheless, after getting the night off in Montreal, Lundqvist came to MSG in top form. The chances Nashville were able to generate were contained with ease by Lundqvist and Nashville really had no chance of beating him tonight. Nashville was unable to light the lamp on three attempts and Lundqvist was reason number one for that. The six shutouts the Rangers have this season ties them for third in the NHL. Regardless of how your offense is doing, it’s incredibly difficult to lose games when you’re not allowing the other team to score at all.
Dan Girardi- An all-star defenseman with an all-star game. The goal was a fluke, but he had the right mindset in trying to get the puck towards the net. Aside from that, I thought his offensive play was better than it’s been in past games. He was making smart decisions with the puck in the offensive zone and was looking to make things happen. He missed the net three times but at least he was looking to generate chances. He’s no Paul Coffey, but it’s not unreasonable to expect him to contribute from the point occasionally.
Defensively, he was top notch. Henrik Lundqvist is incredibly difficult to beat from the perimeter and especially on shots he sees. Dan Girardi did his job in keeping Nashville to the perimeter and broke up a ton of plays in the neutral zone.
John Mitchell- We’ll see what happens around the trading deadline, but with the personnel the Rangers have right now I don’t know how anyone can justify taking John Mitchell out of the lineup. He has scored in back-t0-back games now and certainly brings a good all-around offensive game for the bottom-six. He uses his body well on the cycle. He sees the ice pretty well. He looks to shoot and does a good job of setting up players for shots. In less than 9 minutes of ice time he scored a goal and had another shot, blocked two shots, threw two hits and had one takeaway. That’s a very good stat-line in limited ice time. When we’re not getting production from our top guns somebody has to make up for it. John Mitchell has played his part.
Dubinsky and Fedotenko- Not that they were the sole reasons for it, but there was a tangible difference in the Rangers’ forechecking and cycling of the puck tonight with these two in the lineup, as opposed to the past couple of games without them. The Rangers had multiple shifts where they kept the puck in Nashville’s zone for extended periods of time and these two were a part of that. Dubinsky specifically was strong on the forecheck and did well to shield the puck. Fedotenko does not get enough credit for the job he does. I don’t care if Wolski looks nice skating and makes a nice play every eight games. The grunt work that Fedotenko does on a nightly basis is so much more important.
Matt Halischuk- Not that he was particularly good tonight, but I don’t see why I would pass up an opportunity to laugh at the Devils. He can be annoying sometimes but you can see why Barry Trotz gave him 17 minutes on a night where Nashville was struggling to get anything going. He plays with a lot of energy and is definitely a solid all-around player. He’s only 23 and he’s in his first full NHL season and has scored 10 goals. The Devils moved him (and a 2nd round pick) to Nashville last season for Jason Arnott, who played 62 mediocre games for New Jersey before being shipped to the Capitals at the deadline. Devils sure as hell would be better off with him.
With the win, the Rangers now have 62 points, which puts them first in the National Hockey League. It was also their 14th home win of the season. For comparative purposes, the Rangers had 20 home wins all of last season. The Rangers will try to continue the home as well as divisional success against the Penguins on Thursday night.