Don’t hate on your Coach for saying what needs to be said. If the Rangers don’t know that by now, we’re going to be sorry after the All-Star break.
At MSG tonight, the Rangers game dangerously close to losing to one of the worst NHL teams before stepping their third period back up and remembering that hey, they’re a team. The first period was kind of a mess. There were so many chances on goal and once again, it was looking like the Rangers just could not generate into the netting.
McIlrath (originally thought to be Miller), opened up the scoring at 5:58, until in true Rangers fashion, a late goal from the Sabres in the first, ties it up. Stalberg had a gorgeous backhanded swipe that went straight through Johnson’s legs off a pass by Hayes, giving the Rangers a one goal lead. What a beauty of a goal that was, talk about taking a chance and making it pay off.
Hank was making some choice saves and defense was going a decent job getting interceptions but still, chances were just not going in. Going into the third at 2-1, the Rangers were feeling cocky as they got their lead up to 3-1, thanks to sassy Brassy, and forgot there was still the better chunk of a period to play. The Sabres’ Girgensons, who we knew to watch, scored twice in less than 90 seconds, tying the game at 3-3. The panic started to set in for Rangers fans as it looked like were going to let another easy match-up slip away, and another two points.
However, the heat got turned up, from what I can only assume was flashbacks to yesterday’s game and impending embarrassment. Have we discussed already how Miller is on fire? Within a minute of Girgensons most recent goal, Miller was on the board making the score 4-3 with a gorgeous shot into the empty right corner of the net thanks to a pass from Fast and Brassard. The blood continued to boil and a miracle happened when Zuccarello answered Blueshirts United’s prayer for the first power play goal in what feels like years. (Side Note: NHL on NBC’s ‘When mom brings home pizza rolls’ GIF of Zuc’s slow point made my night). To seal up Brassard’s sweet night, and giving him his fifth point, he wristed it into the open, empty net and MSG erupted at 19:24. Brassard is the first Ranger since former Captain Callahan on March 6, 2011 to earn five points in a single game.
While these two points feel good and the third period late comeback showcased some of the best things about this Rangers team, if we want any chance at the Cup this year, that has got to be the intensity and energy at a constant rate. If we pull this cocky, resting nonsense, teams like the Capitals will chew us up and spit us out yet again as the playoffs approach.
I love this team, but our struggles are far from over. Let’s meditate on positive vibes about this win and then come back after the All-Star break with some serious determination to race towards Lord Stanley.
After a lengthy six day break, where the Rangers boasted ocean side photos, it’s back to the action in Jersey tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils. I sure hope Stalberg, Lundqvist, Zuc and Brassard soaked up enough rays to keep sparking energy into the Blueshirts for the second half of the season.
Last time the Blueshirts met the Devils on 10/18, Lee Stempniak surged ahead in overtime with Adam Henrique to score the winning goal in a 2-1 Devils win. Not. Cool. The goalies boasted saves in the twenties, Lundqvist with 22 and Schneider with 26.
The Rangers have won their past 4 matches in the last six and center, Derick Brassard scored 5 points (including two goals) in the January 25th match-up against the Buffalo Sabres. It was an impressive feat, only achieved by former Captain and current traitor (I kid, I kid), Ryan Callahan. Brassard has had a pretty great momentum this year, but J.T. Miller is the one truly on fire, and he seems to be achieving his goal of showing something impressive and making a statement every game.
With Nash out with a bone bruise on his left knee, all the forwards are going to need to step up their aggression and speed to elevate their chances at the net. A current trend for us has been an inability to score, despite some phenomenal chances… Hayes. Hayes… I’m looking at you. We simply can’t afford to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. It’s not productive and the playoff race is very real right now. We are three points above the Islanders and four above the Devils but that margin small and getting smaller with every contest we don’t capitalize on.
The Devils have been doing well as of late, until a 2-0 shutout by the Penguins on the road snapped a four game winning streak. Former Ranger Star, Carl Hagelin, had an assist with the Penguins that night - breaking Blueshirt hearts everywhere. Cammalleri will be sorely missed with an upper body injury Tuesday night. He leads the Devils with 38 points and 14 goals. Personally, I’ve got my eyes on Kyle Palmieri for the Devils. The former Duck has 3 goals and two assists in the past five games. After watching him in person in Anaheim, I know he can pack some heat and with Cammalleri out, I’m sure he’ll be raring to go.
On the Rangers, I’ve got my eye on a couple players for different reasons. 1) Oscar Lindberg. Hello Oscar. What’s been going on with you? After a super hot start to the season, Lindberg has only one goal as of late but has been desperate to make things happen in front of the net. He’s due for an offensive come back but his green-nature in the NHL is showing as the rigorous 82 game season enters its second half. I’m also going to be watching Derek Stepan, assistant captain. He spoke to Nash’s absence, saying he’s a quiet top-six leader that will be greatly missed. Accurate, but Stepan himself has been making some strong offensive drives to the net and with him being more rested than Captain, Ryan McDonagh’s All-Star appearance, I’m expecting him to step even more strongly into a leadership role the rest of this week.
Side note: I’m going to be at MSG for the game on Thursday which blows my mind. I’m here in NYC on business and just lucked out that there was a home game on my last full day here. Being a SoCal resident, this game is so special to me and I will probably cry the whole time. Sorry.
Anyway, thanks to all of you who have followed this passion project of mine. Can’t wait to see where it goes from season to season.