The Rangers are really trying their best to eliminate the word lose from their vocabulary. The Rangers played an at best mediocre game. They lacked energy for the most part, lack cohesion and didn’t manage to sustain an offensive game. That said, this team has the best goalie in the league and has depth. The team got key performances from individuals and worked hard to earn a lucky 3-1 victory. To the hits:
Overall Game Comments
The Rangers got dominated for three quarters of the first but had Lundqvist to thank again. On the back of Lundqvist the Rangers gained a foot hold toward the end of the period. Following strong play along the boards and a simple cross-ice toss by McDonagh – ably assisted by Dubinsky making a nuisance of himself in front -Richards banked home a rebound with Fleury out of position. Call the first period daylight robbery on the part of the Rangers and their Vezina goaltender.
The Rangers were caught out of position for the Pens goal. Following Boyle being taken down deep in the Pens zone a three on three became four Pens as Ben Lovejoy was trailing the play and was completely free right in front and gave Lundqvist no chance. Fedotenko was trying to get back in to the play but was well behind Lovejoy when it mattered. A breakdown by the Rangers cost them dearly
Credit Tortorella for calling an early timeout. It may not have initially had an obvious impact but the Rangers All Star coach takes action when he deems necessary and doesn’t just watch idly like some coaches.
Biggest issue in the first period was the Rangers inability to stop the Pens putting pucks on net, getting bodies to the net and creating havoc around Lundqvist. In short, they seemed to do whatever they wanted around the net other than score more than once.
The Rangers routinely failed to track the free man in their own zone and were caught chasing the puck several times. Given how dangerous James Neal is, it was worrying to see him alone near Lundqvist as the teams battled for the puck near the corner early on.
Early on, it seemed the gap between the Rangers forwards and their defense was too big. The first period in general was the Rangers worst in a very long time. However the score after one showed why this team is where they are: they simply don’t give up and keep themselves in games. The very definition of ‘difficult to beat’.
The Rangers scored a great shorthanded goal following a breakout from their own zone. Callahan showed excellent patience with the puck, making a nice drag-back and slid a simple pass to Dubinsky who tapped in. It was an eerily similar goal to one the Rangers scored in the same game by the same two players last season.
Much like in the Winter Classic, following initial dominance by the opposition, the Rangers raised their compete level, found their legs and looked faster beginning to win more battles along the boards which led to a few chances on Fleury.
Rangers had a two on one about eight minutes into the second. Once again it was Dubinsky and Callahan breaking in and this time Dubinsky, the puck carrier, elected to shoot. This is the type of play that drives people nuts about Dubinsky. He simply has to get that shot on net.
It was noteworthy to see Lundqvist hold on to so many shots and freeze the puck. Why? The Rangers were better on face-offs in the game. As obvious as it sounds, being remotely competent in the faceoff circle reduces the time the team is forced to spend in their own zone.
The third goal. It all started from the way McDonagh patiently tracked Kunitz round the Rangers goal and forced him to play the puck backwards. Gaborik chased the puck down, Fleury mishandled and Stepan followed up a Gaborik post shot to bank the puck in an empty net. Poor play from Fleury but great pressure from the Rangers.
The back tracking from the Rangers forwards vastly improved following the first period. Their neutral zone play – and the aforementioned gap between forwards and defense – was much better as the game progressed.
- It’s almost pointless singling out Lundqvist for his play because he’s spectacular most nights and excellent every night. He made big stops, his positioning was excellent and his rebound control was solid. As noted on the MSG commentary his glove hand was especially brilliant tonight. James Neal (active throughout) found his master in the King.
- Ryan McDonagh had a slight mid-season dip in form but it’s behind him. He was a beast in this game. Involved offensively, solid as a rock defensively and equal to anything the Pens had. When he plays like this (which is often) you almost feel sorry for Montreal fans. Almost.
- Brandon Dubinsky played his best game of the season. He was physical (which he needs to be to be effective) and he was excellent offensively while he constantly went to the net. However there’s that shocking miss on the two on one.
- Marian Gaborik ended the night pointless but he was busy, dangerous and defensively responsible too. His work rate and defensive conscious are under-appreciated but he wouldn’t get so many offensive opportunities if he wasn’t working so hard.
- A final tip of the Broadway Hat goes to Dan Girardi. Like Lundqvist it’s almost boring to praise the Rangers rock on the blueline but he went +3, and played great defense. Whether it is a block, cleverly negating an icing or his great positional play Girardi almost never makes a bad play. Immensely consistent.
What else is there to say? This team keeps winning. It gets contributions from all over the roster and with Marc Staal getting better with each passing game this team has another top tier player on his way back to form. In recent years a win in Pittsburgh would require a great overall performance from the Rangers but this season they can beat elite teams without playing their best. Scary thought. I cannot wait to see how the Rangers measure up against Boston’s finest.