Well, it would be a lie to claim that it was the best, or best executed performance of the season for the Rangers. Sometimes you have to work with the hand you're dealt. The Rangers put in a performance tonight that the 2011-2012 team would have been proud of. The team put in a full 60 minute effort tonight, limiting mistakes and tempering frustration, which could have easily crept in. It seemed that the puck was in the Islanders' end most of the night. The Rangers finally made a possession count as the Islanders backed down and were playing not to lose. Not a pretty game. Not an offensive show by any measure. But a hard fought, complete game in which the Rangers earned their two points. Let's look at some post-game thoughts:
John Tortorella: Tonight we saw a spectactular contrast in coaching. John Tortorella put his experience and intuition to the test tonight and ultimately outcoached lame-duck Jack Capuano. After a frustrating 40 minutes, the Rangers stayed persistent and stuck with the gameplan, trusting that eventually a bounce would go their way. The Islanders, meanwhile, seemed content to play prevent defense and hope Nabokov could continue to stand on his head.
Specifically, though, was a big gamble that Torts made; which paid off big time. Sam and Joe alluded to this. After rolling all four lines most of the game, Tortorella decided to basically go with excusively the Miller and Stepan lines for the last 10 minutes of the game. Capuano, hell-bent on matching Hamonic and MacDonald with the Nash line, was forced to follow suit with his own players. In effect, Tortorella took a risk and trusted that his top two lines were conditioned well enough to take on the extra minutes. The Islanders were worn down by a clearly superior opposition, and Stepan, Hagelin, and Nash finally capitalized as an exhausted Islanders first line watched on. We can whine about how Tortorella responds to the media, or how he refuses to disclose injuries. We can whine about how stubborn he appears at times. Perhaps there is some merit to those complaints. That being said, John Tortorella is not part of the Public Relations department. His job isn't to make the media and fans enjoy his comments. He's being paid to execute in the locker room and behind the bench. Tonight, he put on a coaching clinic that Jack Capuano had no clue how to manage.
Henrik Lundqvist: The harsh reality is that if Henrik Lundqvist is not at his absolute best tonight the game could have been over well before Nash had an opportunity to tip one home. The Rangers struggled mightily on the transition and the Islanders were handed numerous breakaways and odd-man rushes. Lundqvist was on top of all of them. As a result, a one-goal gap was maintained, giving the Rangers a chance to come away with a result. He ended up with 27 saves on 28 shots, and was the most important player for the Rangers tonight. Though Nabokov put on a clinic of his own, a loss would have been undeserved for Lundqvist.
Rick Nash: Nash was not good in his the first 40 minutes. It appeared as if his brain and his body were on completely different frequencies. Pucks were sliding off his stick and he lacked that burst we are used to seeing from him. He found his game when the Rangers needed it most, though, and was the best forward on the ice in the third period. He had some great individual efforts, including one instance where he split three Islanders with only Nabokov preventing him from the highlight reel. Anyone who has played hockey likely knows that high shots are incredibly difficult to even make contact with, much less put on net. It takes some great hands to deflect the puck downwards like Nash managed. In overtime, he made a perfect feed to Del Zotto, who was tripped up by Michael Grabner, and he got an assist on the resulting powerplay. Unsurprisingly, there's a pretty consistent correlation between how well Nash plays and how likely the Rangers are to get a win. It's been four straight now since his return to the lineup.
Marian Gaborik: No two ways around it; Gaborik was awful tonight. With Richards out, the Rangers can not afford Gaborik struggling. Ultimately, though he faked confidence he clearly did not actually have, commanded the powerplay in overtime, and put the puck home for the win. And that's what he is paid to do. His first goal in eight games, hopefully this can give Gabby some life. He now has 18 goals in 20 games against the Islanders since signin with the Rangers.
Girardi and McDonagh: John Tortorella has given Marc Staal the assignment of shadowing the opposition's top player. With the eye injury, Girardi and McDonagh were given shared duties. I'd say they did a damn good job of limiting John Tavares tonight. He really did not have much room to work with, forcing the Islanders to look elsewhere for offense, which clearly did not happen.
Marc Staal: I gave my props to Girardi and McDonagh, but Staal was sorely missed tonight. A lot of questions were posed as to why the Rangers looked so bad on the transition and why the Islanders were afforded so many breakaways and odd-man rushes. The answer is, in part, that Marc Staal was not playing. He does not have the recovery speed that McDonagh has, but he doesn't need it. Staal is so sound positionally, is mobile enough on his skates, and has a long reach. That's a killer combination that doesn't allow for many transitions from the opposition while he is on the ice. The Rangers were caught flatfooted a lot and were beaten to many pucks by Islanders' forwards. Staal has an arsenal of mental and physical tools that limit those opportunities.
Roman Hamrlik: He didn't light the world on fire, but a moderately pleasing performance from a guy who is brand new to the team and has only played four games this entire season. He made simple but smart plays with the puck, didn't get outmuscled in the corners, and didn't make any mistakes. That's all you can ask for from a bottom-pairing guy. It's one game against a lesser opponent so we won't throw any parades yet, but he was an upgrade for the back end of the defense at least tonight.
Penalties: The Islanders are 27th in the NHL in 5 v 5 play. The Islanders have the 5th best powerplay in the NHL. The Rangers did not take a single penalty (aside from the Bickel coincidental). I don't know how much more I can say regarding the subject. The most likely way the Rangers were going to lose tonight was by gifting the Islanders powerplays. They took none and the Islanders clearly struggled to match the Ranger at even strength for a full 60 minutes.
As Forrest Gump once said, "that's all I got to say about that." Four straight wins for the Rangers and they'll have the opportunity to extend the streak tomorrow against the Senators.
Follow Me On Twitter: @Herman_NYRBlog
Great points on Torts' coaching, Hamrlik's play, missing Staal, and Lundqvist's performance. But I'm not sure where you got your views that Gabby and Nash played bad up until each of them scored. Even before the 3rd period, Nash was everywhere. Creating opportunities with his body, driving to the net, passes right on the tape, getting shots...to say he was not good in the 1st 40 minutes is really mind-boggling. Same with Gabby too. The past several games, while he hasn't scored, he's been showing signs that he's coming closer to being the player we know he can be. Yesterday his goal-scoring ability finally broke through, and hopefully Torts will start putting him on Nash's line so they can feed off each other.
glad we got the 2 points. Awesome to have 4 wins in a row. Would have been hard to swallow a loss to the Islanders. Gotta say though...still worried over the horrible Power Play that gives up better scoring chances than it generates. Also too many odd man rushes on Hankie. Good thing he's the King.
Don't mess with the Nash baby!
@TheNYRBlog yea u mean he is the isles daddy again or he sonned the isles haha
@TheNYRBlog I...don't think you mean that the way you typed it..
Great recap. its a little scary how dependent upon Nash this team is. They're very above average with, but without...scary
@TheNYRBlog yes he won the game but he played like shit! He looked slow and lost not strong on the puck!
love the recap Herm, touched on almost all the points i was thinking about during the game. two things that caught my eye tonight.
1. the PP is never going to get better with the forward on the point. were not even running the correct sets to fit our personnel. all i see out of this team is an overload, sparingly switching to an umbrella. with cally being so good infront of the net and gabby/nash lightning quick whrister, the best thing for us would be G or DZ at the point running the 1-3-1/slot set/umbrella rotation.
and 2. after watching replays of the past 3 games focusing on the actual play of each individual, it is starting to seem like Rick Nash, though he may dazzle sparing in the first two, seems to go 85% the first two periods so he has the energy to completely explode in the 3rd. the secondary help is keeping him fresher throughout the games. no complaints, just an observation.
all my piles friends are bitching and moaning about the non calls for the rangers. im sure if we were in the same boat we'd say the same thing.
Adam - awesome recap. I could only watch the first 2 periods and was amazed by Hank's performance in the first 40 minutes.
Gabby - FINALLY!
You are that guy just figured it out think you know everything about hockey and never even played one sport your whole life...I know your a die hard ranger fan but be real just lay of gabby guy got more skill than 80 percent of the league
Hahaha lets hate on gaborik because I write a rangers blog...so weak put you on even skates in ice and you fall down stop hating
Know this is off-topic for this post, but felt the need to put it here anyway.
This is the reason the Kaleta hit on Richards was so dangerous - not the force of it, but the way Richards hit the boards caused have had much more serious consequences:
I Just caught the 3rd and OT tonight and liked what I saw. Not just because they won but how they played. Total domination by the top 2 lines lines. They looked hungry for the 1st time in quite a while. Real passion and emotion. And you knew" the Beast" was going to do something impossible again to score a goal. Loved Cally's leaping "split screen" on the OT goal. great stuff. Congrats Gabby on the game winner. This team's becoming fun to watch again.
Great write-up, very thorough.
Hopefully this OT goal will get Gaborik going again. He was so determined to get that puck in during that power play, he was dropping bombs. Maybe this will give him the confidence to start using his world class shot more often. Even if he doesn't play spectacular 5v5, I still would like to see him get more PP goals like that.
One of the best recaps of the season. Partially because that's exactly what I was saying after the game, but hey, great minds think alike.
Just wondering I heard someone allude to Gaborik being one of the best signings the Rangers have ever made, where would he truly be placed? I would have to think top 10 of all time...
@slapshot13j Well it's tough to compare eras, since free agency as it exists today is completely different than free agency 20-30 years ago. For all of the whining about Gaborik, the Rangers picked up a guy for free that has scored 40+ goals twice in three seasons. Hard to think of any more successful free agent pickup the Rangers have had in a long time.
This comment has been deleted
@Herman_NYRBlog yea I would agree, and I like the Nash signing now but he has to do it for a little while. Also, I was looking at the numbers, and for Hank's bad start his numbers are starting to become vezina worthy... He is top 10 in just about every category (shutouts aside) and has a ton of wins... For a bad start he is starting to look in form...
This comment has been deleted
@kicker75 Loved that he was aggressive shooting.
This comment has been deleted
@kicker75 yeah, good point on the slapper.
@kicker75 @slapshot13j @KevinDeLury When Richie went down that game and we were on the PP against the Sabres, Gabby was on the point. We scored two goals and he moved the puck pretty effectively. Same for the Flyers. Lately Gabby has been in Richards spot on the PP, and we have been scoring. Granted, it doesn't always look pretty. But if we keep scoring once a game on the PP, I won't argue.
Big 2 points in a tough place for us historically to win. Nash turns up in 3rd periods when we need it. Wanted to see some fights thou.
This comment has been deleted
Also the part about Marc Staal, every team is going to miss a Norris trophy candidate. He is our best defensman, yes better than Girardi and Mcdonagh, because he has the most talent and clearly the most hockey knowledge... that is why the A is on his chest. The real question is how the Rangers defense can play until he gets back. I agree there were a lot of odd man rushes, but it is our first game wthout him and hopefully that will stop. Other than those odd man rushes i thought the defense played a helluva game for not having their top defenseman....
@slapshot13j I still think Girardi is our best defenseman. He is the definition of a rock. solid d-man. Rarely misses games, plays responsibly physical, and has perfect position almost ever play. He makes the player he's paired with better.
@coontzbloontz @slapshot13j Staal is better with the puck in our end down low in the corners under pressure - he's able to read the play even with 2 guys all over him and make the right play. he's also a better shut down defender than Girardi - but Girardi is insane when it comes to blocking shots and is - as you said- rock solid - all star material!
@coontzbloontz I agree with everything you say about Girardi, and he is a great defenseman... But if you watch him play it is just so clear that when healthy, Staal has the most talent out of any of our dmen. I love Girardi and he is a solid top 2 guy, but Staal is a legitimate number 1 dman on any team in the NHL
@coontzbloontz yea I would agree with that, but hed be behind Hedman on Tampa for sure
@slapshot13j I think on teams like Tampa Bay, Calgary, Florida, or Buffalo where the defense is a joke, he could easily be a #1 d-man. On any decent team he would probably be top 3.
@coontzbloontz he has the potential to be a number one dman absolutely, but not there yet. Also he has shown the tiniest bit of dare I say regression this year, but still has been solid
@slapshot13j We're drowning in potential number 1 dmen... McDonagh could easily be a #1, especially on a team with weaker defense...
This comment has been deleted
@kicker75 @slapshot13j Yeah, Girardi his a pure stay-at-home guy, never jumps in on plays. But since Girardi always stays back, he gives guys like Marc Staal the opportunity to jump in on plays without being burned. That's why I was liking the G/Staal, McD/ Stralman pairings. G/McD are mostly stay at home guys, but Stralman and Staal pinch more and jump in on the rush more often.