You might remember the last game the Rangers played against the Boston Bruins, where last season they came back from a three goal deficit to win the game and essentially save their playoff hopes. Well, today the Rangers won a similarly dramatic game against the Bruins, though under different circumstances and in a different manner. Let’s not even address the win itself and the points that come with it; more importantly, the Rangers proved that they deserve their spot on top of the standings. That they can compete with the defending Stanley Cup champions in virtually every facet of the game. The Boston Bruins did not lose today because of particularly bad play. The Rangers simply outdid them. And that is a significant realization for our team. It is only one game in January, but the months of hype for this Rangers team is further justified by what we just witnessed. Let’s look at some game notes.
Andrew Ference: It is an absolute shame that there has to be a black eye on what was an otherwise incredible 65 minutes of hockey, but Andrew Ference made sure that was possible. his hit from behind was not merely a reckless one that was the result of the speed of the game. He had all of the time in the world to mentally assess the situation and physically restrain himself from hitting McDonagh light that. His hit was as dirty as there’s been in the NHL this season and an extended Shanaban should be expected. What is important, though, is that the Rangers made him pay for his mistake. It would have been an absolute shame if the Rangers did not capitalize on the opportunity his irresponsible hit provided and relieved him of any blame for a Bruins loss. In that respect, justice was served today.
Ryan McDonagh: Still not sure of the condition of McDonagh, but he skated off the ice on his own, so already he’s not as badly hurt as he could have been. Mason Raymond, for instance, had an absolutely brutal back injury on a similar play, so it’s likely that we dodged a bullet here. Before the hit, though, McDonagh was absolutely brilliant. He blocked seven shots(!) in the game, many of which were on the penalty kill. The Rangers have a very young defensive core and Ryan McDonagh is one of the youngest, but you wouldn’t know it watching games like this one.
Marian Gaborik: He’s been one of the players who has struggled but he sure as hell picked a great game to get his scoring touch back. His first goal was an absolute blast that no goaltender in the world had a chance at stopping. The second one, the game winner, speaks for itself. One advantage the Rangers have on the Bruins is that Marian Gaborik is a caliber of forward the Bruins don’t have, and with these two teams being so similar that might be what makes the difference down the road.
Ryan Callahan: Another player that decided to wake up. Ryan Callahan is never invisible, but since the Winter Classic Callahan has played more like a third liner than a top-six guy. Tonight Callahan did everything we’re used to seeing him do. A great shot on the transition to put the Rangers on the board. Six hits and three blocked shots. His persistence was definitely frustrating the Bruins and he was a force on the penalty kill. More of this, please.
Brad Richards: Still not his most productive game, but it was nice to see some life in him. He was a lot more active tonight and looked energized. Even though it was failing sometimes, he was at least trying to make some bold decisions and make things happen. He still has some improving to do in order to get back to his form earlier in the season, but today was a step up.
Henrik Lundqvist: What can we say? The Boston Bruins lead the NHL in goals per game. They also let in the second fewest goals. Yet the Bruins could only get two past Henrik and the Rangers won the game. 32 saves on 34 shots and nothing getting past him on the power play. We’ve reached the point where there is nothing anybody can say or write that fairly portrays what exactly Henrik Lundqvist is to this New York Rangers team.
Powerplay: We scored a powerplay goal. It also took us 3 minutes and 7 seconds to get it. We were absolutely miserable on the other three attempts. The powerplay is no longer merely not scoring; they are just not doing anything. Boston got the better of the chances on the first three power play attempts and that is just not acceptable. Time to start from scratch and figure it out.
It’s too early to make any predictions about what is going to happen in the post-season, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised if these two teams faced each other at some point after the regular season. No doubt a whole number of our guys are banged up from this game, so the fact that the team only has two games in the next 10 days is probably for the best. The Rangers will host the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and then we’ll have the All-Star Break.