There's a lot of talk about the Rangers getting that first winning streak together; about building some momentum. What if we're already at that point and just nobody has realized it, though? With the win tonight, the Rangers have quietly compiled 10 points out of a possible 14 in the last seven games. That's a pace that, were they to continue it, would put them among the top in the league. Of course, I'm not one to get excited over small sample sizes and John Tortorella will be the first to remind everyone that the Rangers haven't proven a single thing yet and need to stay consistent. But with all of the chaos and noise - the call-ups, injuries, trades, powerplay worries - the team's first real winning streak and positive momentum has gone somewhat under the radar. At the minimum, it seems the Rangers are a leaner a lot closer to nirvana than to disaster. Let's review tonight's game:
Rick Nash: With all due respect to Carl Hagelin, who played very well tonight, I thought Rick Nash was robbed of the first star. He did all of the work on the first goal, using his stature and strength to cut towards the middle and fire a shot off despite two Tampa players putting their sticks all over him. Hagelin getting a piece of it was accidental. And he put in his third goal of the season with a nice shot from the left wing as time was winding down. Overall, the Tampa defense had no answer for stopping Rick Nash and he particularly made the big Victor Hedman, one of the better defensive defensemen in the NHL, look silly. I think if you asked the Tampa defense who the best Rangers forward was tonight they'd agree it was Nash.
Henrik Lundqvist: Not that Lundqvist was particularly bad earlier in the season, but he has really stepped his game up to his elite level the last few games. Over the 60 minutes tonight the Rangers were clearly the better team and deserved the win, but there was a window for the Lightning to get back into the game thanks to a number of odd man rushes. Had Tampa managed to take advantage of one then the game would have played out completely differently. Luckily, Henke was sharp and bailed the team out.
The Fourth Line: How far we've come in only a week or two. At one point Tortorella basically refused to even acknowledge the fourth line's existence since they were contributing little. Ever since the roster changes the fourth line has regained a purpose for John Tortorella. Asham, Halpern, and Powe all played their best games as Rangers tonight, getting pucks into the Tampa zone and then keeping it there with a lot of forechecking and grinding. It's not pretty, but it's essential. Ryan Callahan's goal, the one that really set the tone for tonight, was the result of an exhausted Tampa defense turning the puck over to Cally, who had a clear break for the net. It was the persistence of the fourth line that made Tampa prone to that error. Asham capped it off with his first goal as a Ranger.
I want to give special mention to Darroll Powe. Brandon Prust came to the Rangers as an afterthought and very slowly built a role on the team and became a key representative of the team's identity. Darroll Powe, in his first few games as a Ranger, reminds me of Prust in his first season with the team. He has very little skill, but he has everlasting energy and is willing to do all of the ugly things behind the scenes that set up everyone else for getting on the statsheet. He blocks shots. He works hard on the PK, he's tenacious on the forecheck every shift. Again, I'm not going to get enamored over a few games, but Powe has a real chance of becoming a key role player for this Rangers team. It's not a trade of any real magnitude in the way the Gomez trade was, but how Sather was able to ship away the broken Mike Rupp and bring in a high energy player like Powe is unknown to me.
Line Changes: I don't know what the hell the issue is, but it seems every game the Rangers manage to give up a goal or get a too many men on the ice penalty thanks to a sloppy line change. Tonight, a lethargic line change allowed Tampa to counter, get the puck cleanly into the Rangers' zone, and ultimately score their only goal of the game. They look like a bunch of blindfolded giraffes playing musical chairs. With all of the complexities and difficulties of a hockey game, it's absolutely ridiculous to let line changes bring you down. Communication is key.
JT Miller: A solid, though unspectacular game from him tonight. I bring him up because we have now seen him three games, and he has two more before the Rangers have to decide whether to send him down or keep him up and burn a year of his entry-level contract. Tortorella gave him almost 14 minutes of icetime tonight, including 3:19 on the powerplay, so Tortorella clearly trusts him on the ice. He managed two shots and drew two penalties, so he did contribute. However, it's only been three games. The worst thing the Rangers could do is keep him up, give him 8-10 minutes per night on the fourth line, and ruin his development (ask the Islanders how that worked out with Josh Bailey). We're afforded two more games before a decision has to be made, but Sather and Tortorella will be left with no choice but to make a decision based on only a handful of games. Much like playing Kreider in the playoffs last season, keeping Miller up is a decision that is somewhat of a leap of faith. We'll see how he does in the next two, but through three games it's clear that the Rangers are a better team with JT on the ice.
Matt Gilroy: Not too much to say about Matt. But really that's more or less what you want from your 6th defenseman; invisibility. His speed alone makes him a better option than Stu Bickel, and he had a nice give and go play tonight through the neutral zone to set up a shot. If you have speed then you have a chance under John Tortorella. I think Gilroy has earned a spot in the lineup for the short-term.
With the win, the Rangers are now 4-0-0 for games in which Kevin DeLury does not write the recap. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from that. I'm not endorsing any particular violence or actions but if Kevin somehow goes missing tomorrow I'll plead ignorance.
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Great win last night, all lines clicked.
But.......that 4th line!! Wow! They look great, no joke. When was the last time the Rangers had a 4th line that they could put out there, that Tortorella trusts for 10:00 per night?
And I'd hate to say it but Asham is playing real well. This feels like Bizzaro World right now.
One knock I do have is this, what is Stepan's role with this team right now? Because the guy, with the exception of being responsible in his own end, produces nothing.
And I am happy to see 'Pop Gun' Del Zotto off of the PP.
I liked the powerplay a lot better last night. The first one they had in the first period was especially good, They had two others I think, one more in the first and one in the second where they had a great deal of difficulty getting setup, but on both the second half of the PP was better, puck and people movement were there, even if the goals weren't. I like the Gaborik/Kreider/Miller unit, they seemed to have some good chemistry, of course, that means they'll be together for one or two more chances before Torts changes it up, but still. They have a ways to go, but I'm at least seeing signs of hope there. Again, power play goals are important, but not as important as puck pressure and offensive zone time on the PP, that keeps positive momentum flowing. Do that and the goals will start coming eventually.
Nice game overall! To your last point, Adam, I'm pretty superstitious where the Rangers are concerned. Do what you must to keep the streak going.
Didn't get a chance to actually watch the game, heard it on the radio. Any reason as to why Gilroy was glued to the bench for what seemed to be all of the third period?
As for what I did see on Rangers in 60, we looked solid. I'm absolutely loving the 4th line. I enjoyed Halpern crushing St. Louis. Asham has a pretty sick shot.
As for Nash, last season in his first 11 games he had 3 goals and 6 assists. This season in the first 11 games he has 3 goals and 6 assists. Season before that he started off even slower. Looking through each season post-lockout, he's primarily gotten off to pretty slow starts. Didn't know this until I checked it out now. I think the best is yet to come.
@JoshKaye No idea on Gilroy. Thanks for the history on Nash. With all the quality chances he's getting, you have to figure they'll start finding the back of the net eventually.
@KevinDeLury @JoshKaye I love that Nash is so good that when he starts at 9 points in 11 games, its a slow start.
@KevinDeLury For his career his shooting % is 12.6. This season it's stuck at 5.1. No way that stays.
although they did not score, powerplay looked a little better today, especially that first one. No Del Zotto again, again going with girardi. seems like a lot of people dont like girardi on the PP bc hes not a offensive minded player. I disagree bc girardi is prolly the best getting his shot through and on net but overall it looked like an improved PP....hopefully they will start go in
@Ty Galpin Where? I still don't think they should trade him. Depth is a good thing. They'll need him at some point. Would rather bring him out of the press box than Newbury.
@KevinDeLury Yeah, I'd want to keep him too, but there's no one I'd take out for him right now. It sucks, but he's the odd man right now. Maybe Halpern?
@DuPont_Snotty @Ty Galpin @slapshot13j @KevinDeLury At this point id be fine with him replacing stepan
If Boyle wants to get back in the line-up he better start praying for an injury or someone to slump badly.
The test of this team will be beating Boston and Pittsburg. Hank kept us in this stopping many odd man rushes. Could have easily gone the other way if Tmapa gets a few of those in. Loved that Asham scored hopefully Torts rolls 4 lines more often!
It's gonna b a tough decision on JT Miller but IMO they're a better and faster team with him in the lineup...Something that came to mind during the game was how I noticed how Torts was playing him and what Torts said about him after the game against the Islanders the other night...He said how they have to b careful how he's brought along and I think tonight you can see that Torts doesn't want JT to get to high or to low......What I'm saying is that even know he had 2 goals the other night the Rangers want him to realize that that won't happen all the time and that he's gonna have bad games to.....I want him to stay and I hope he makes their decision really hard for them......LGR
Totally disagree on Nash. Thought he had a decent game at best. Hagelin was awesome, Stepan was good, Pyatt was the Rangers best forward along with Hagelin. His forechecking has been exceptional and he's a constant presence in front of the net. Rangers put on a defensive clinic in the third period. They vaporized St, Louis and SS during that period and for most of the night.
@shishya100 I agree...I think even Know Gabby didn't score tonight I thought he played a good game on both ends of the ice
@TheNYRBlog my best part of the night was taking 4 seconds to convince the guy next to me that asham is an upgrade from Prust
Thanks for bringing up my poor recap record Adam. BTW, anyone else notice Nash seems to be the Arod of the Rangers by only scoring in garbage time?
@KevinDeLury uhh didn't he score last week vs. the Lightning to put the Rangers up 2-1 in the 3rd?? Nice try...
@SarKellner @TheNYRBlog My biggest fear is 20 different people buying me shots and then I wake up naked in the middle of Penn Station.
@Herman_NYRBlog @TheNYRBlog HAHA I'll buy you a tequila shot... We can go post Montreal game on the 19th... look at me being awesome.
@SarKellner @TheNYRBlog I'm so mature and cute for my age, right? Whenever Kevin decides it is #NOPRESSURE