In my go time post last night, I forgot to delete a paragraph about not doing the review myself that I had copied and pasted from my previous go time post. Clearly, this is a half-assed venture.
- How about the way this team plays? The transition is so fast, they forced more odd man rushes than I’ve ever seen the Blues give up under Ken Hitchcock. It’s really incredible. Wicky must hate it.
- That said, do not get used to this. They are scoring at an historic pace; 4 goals per game. It will not last. In fact, for them to regress to the mean, the correction will have to be significant. A lot of scoring on the rush, but what happens if those opportunities aren’t there? Can they grind and cycle to “build” goals? Enjoy it while it lasts, but know that the offense will dry up a bit at some point. The same goes for the PP.
- Case in point is Jimmy Vesey. Sure, he could maintain his pace, but it’s far more likely that he slows, either just as a function of his PDO dropping from an insane 106.45 (before last night’s game, now probably over 107), or because he hits the rookie wall. Don’t forget that just last year, Oscar Lindberg started his season 7-5-12 through his first 15 games before going only 6-10-16 over his final 53, including overlapping stretches of 22 games without a goal and 1 goal in 35 games.
- The thing that I like about Vesey is that he’s doing things besides putting the puck in the net. Good things that lead to the puck ending up in the net. Case in point were the third and fifth goals of the game (more on them below). His line has been so good, you almost forget that Stepan still does not have a goal on the season. But make no mistake about it: that line has been fantastic, especially Vesey and Nash, who looks better now than he did at any point last season.
- Then again, Stepan will start to score some goals at some point, and Zibanejad, who hit another post, will get off the schneid as well. So maybe the inevitable decline will be tempered a bit.
- Ryan McDonagh has been tremendous this season, particularly on the offensive side of the puck. First period, Rangers turn it over in the offensive zone, Pietrangelo starts to carry it out, and McDonagh dispossesses him with a great poke check at the blueline, then finds Kreider down low who hits Girardi coming down from the slot. Girardi’s shot takes a deflection off of a Tarasenko’s stick and the bouncing puck beats Allen, 1-0.
- Rangers PP gets some great puck movement, going high-low-high-low between McDonagh, Vesey, Skjei, and Stepan, completely annihilating the Blues’ PK shape in the process, particularly the last pass from Skjei to Stepan. Stepan, with the puck at the side of the goal, holds it for a second while Bouwmeester snow-Dangelardis past, to find Vesey in the slot, 2-0.
- Second period, former future, but still potentially future Ranger Kevin Shattenkirk attempts a 100 ft pass from behind his own goal to the red line that Vesey reads perfectly and picks off, leading the Rangers in on what is essentially a 3 on 1 since Shattenkirk starts from behind the goal. Shattenkirk actually makes the correct read to go with Nash, forcing Nash to go a bit wide on his shooting angle and Allen makes the save. But Nash stays with the puck behind the goal and then banks it in off of Allen, 3-0.
- The second PP goal featured a pass that I’ve seen a few times this season. The puck ends up in front on a Rangers stick, and instead of putting it right back on goal, the player (Kreider in this case) makes a small pass across the goal for a slam dunk (Zuccarello in this case), 4-0.
- That was the end of Jake Allen. That he played tells me that the Blues have not done their homework. If they had gone with a backup goaltender, as they did earlier this season with Hutton, it would have been a shutout.
- Speaking of goaltending, now is as good as time as any to point out the Lundqvist was fabulous. A couple of moments that stand out were the amazing glove save on Fabbri in the first period and the handling of a knuckling, dipping shot by Yakupov in the second period, a save on a Parayko (!) breakaway, and a Berglund slapshot in the third. It wasn’t just that he saved the Yakupov shot, he steered it with his blocker into an area that he wanted to. When Lundqvist is at his best, he eliminates second chances, either by trapping the puck or by controlling where the rebound goes. A very good sign if he keeps his play like this.
- A centering pass from Berglund goes all the way through the front of the net and takes a good knock-hockey bounce off the corner up towards Vesey, who had the presence to stay on the ice rather than change. Vesey leads a 3 on 1 rush up the ice with Miller and Hayes. Pietrangelo was the Blues defenseman caught up ice. The pass to Miller is off a bit, but Miller makes a tremendous play with his skates to get control and slide it over to Hayes for the finish (a great shot), 5-0.
- The second period ended with some chippiness, but Brady Skjei kept his cool enough to not take a penalty. Smart. Wicky must have hated it.
- All this time and I have barely mentioned Kreider. He hasn’t missed a beat from his five game absence. This seriously could be the year of the Kreider breakout. Two assists and hit the post on the power play Skjei drew from not retaliating at the end of the second. He’s even playing a better two-way game.
- Third period was less impressive. A lot of punting on first down that we saw last year. No surprise that the Rangers were outshot 10-5 at even strength in the third period, including 5-1 in the last 10 minutes of the game.
- I said before the game that I would switch Buchnevich and Grabner quickly if either of them struggled with these line combinations. I thought both were not particularly good, so I would switch them back.
My Three Rangers Stars:
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Jimmy Vesey
- Ryan McDonagh
Your Three Rangers Stars (sort of):
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Jimmy Vesey
- Chris Kreider