1. First, congratulations to Sam Rosen. A class act all the way and very deserving recipient of the Foster Hewitt Award.
2. Second, welcome to anyone who has just found us. We’ve had a month to get some of the kinks out, but please understand this was Carp’s beyond full time job and I have my own beyond full time job. So putting aside that I could never live up to Carp’s standard of excellence, this is still just a half-assed venture (HAV). That said, I’m glad you’re here. Also unlike Carp, I’m not a reporter, so I don’t need to remain objective. That said, I usually have a pretty even take on the team. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @rangersreport2.
3. Third, my oldest son, who is four years old, has been obsessed with hockey this season, much to my delight. Last night, he recognized his first hockey player. “That’s Zuccarello!” He picked a good game for it, too, as Zuccarello was great. Not long now until I have him saying “ZUUUUUUUUUC!!”
4. Fourth, the biggest story from this game isn’t the two points, it’s the nearly two months they will be without their second line center, Mike Zibanejad, after a scary crash into the boards during overtime. During the postgame, Dave and Joe broke it that Zibanejad had a broken fibula and is out 6-8 weeks. Good on the Rangers for coming out with his actual injury, and quickly, rather than going with some nebulous “lower body injury.” I have to say I’m shocked he didn’t have any ligament damage. As a purely speculative and amateur injury diagnosis, it looked like he tore his ACL. That over rotation of the knee while being rapidly decelerated from the collision with the boards is the mechanism that is usually associated with that type of injury, so I would say he’s lucky to just have a broken bone. Poor guy took a forearm shiver to the back of the head moments before, too. I’ll talk more about his actual game below.
5. Now, for the game. In the first period, both sides started slow. The Rangers, playing the let down game that is typically associated with the first home game after a long road trip; the Panthers playing their fourth game of their road trip; terrible ice because of the Knicks game earlier in the day… it was a “methodical” pace.
6. In the first period, the Panthers gave up the neutral zone, much to the chagrin of Gerard Gallant. Even so, they collapsed towards their goal to make it difficult for the Rangers to get solid scoring chances from it.
7. Just under 7 minutes to go in the first, the Panthers back off of the Rangers as Staal has the puck behind the goal. They allow him to skate it out himself before he passes it to Stepan at the Rangers’ blue line. The Panthers allow Stepan to skate right through the neutral zone. Just after gaining the Panthers’ zone, he passed it to Kreider coming up the left wing, totally unmarked. He fakes pump fakes a shot, Reimer bites big time, and then Kreider puts a snap shot short side over Reimer’s shoulder, 1-0. Not a good goal for Reimer or the Panthers. Just awful all around. Good on Kreider to finish it, though.
8. This was one that Hayes would probably want to forget about. First period, two on one break for Hayes and Miller, Hayes goes back to his form of last year of trying to stickhandle it into the goal. Just about the worst two on one I have ever seen. Second period powerplay, he and Vesey can’t figure out how to break it out of the zone, leading to a turnover and a series of chances shorthanded, and ultimately to a Skjei penalty, which led to Yandle’s PP goal. He just wasn’t doing a lot of the little things that had made him so much better this year. In the third, it was a bit better as he drove to the net more consistently, but his improved two way play was still missing.
9. The power play looked too much like last year. A bunch of statues passing around the perimeter, no shooting. That especially goes for Zibanejad and Pirri, the two snipers who made the PP successful earlier this season by just firing it everytime the puck touched their stick.
10. In listing my castoffs, I forgot to mention Marschessault. He had a Pouliot in the second period.
11. On the power play after the Pouliot, the Rangers had a great chance squandered by too much passing, leading to one last pass to Nash that Nash wasn’t able to handle. Then the aforementioned Hayes/Vesey breakdown and Skjei penalty. Panthers go on the powerplay following Skjei’s penalty taken while on the power play, and Yandle rips one top corner on the short side through traffic, 1-1. Not a great goal for Lundqvist, but it definitely follows the Rangers’ MO of allowing former players torch us. After the game, Valliquette tried to defend Lundqvist with some stat about how screened he was resulting in an .870 save percentage, so maybe I’m being too harsh.
12. Third period, some passing by Zuccarello’s line, including a total wish pass by Zuccarello, no look behind the back towards the goal…and it goes in off of Zibanejad’s skate, 2-1. It truly is better to be lucky than to be good. On this night, Zuccarello was both.
13. Shortly afterwards, Skjei took another penalty, this time for interference. It’s a shame, because until he took his first penalty, I thought he was having another strong game. On the ensuing power pay, Lundqvist had his best sequence of saves of the entire night. He rebounded later with some good defensive plays in the third period and overtime, and nearly set up Stepan for the winner in OT.
14. Listening to Sam and Joe talk platitudes about Shawn Thornton made me want to puke. This is a thug who is lucky that he wasn’t prosecuted for his cheapshot on Brooks Orpik.
15. Say what you will about Fast as a player, and I know reader BDL will, he sure is great at deflections. In the second, he knocked a shorthanded feed from Grabner out of the air and on goal, forcing a great save from Reimer. In the third, he nearly scored on a great deflection just after the whistle blew on an offside. I’m actually surprised that the linesman would blow the whistle on that play instead of let it unfold, and if the Rangers scored, let the Panthers challenge.
16. Moments later, Skjei tracks Trochek into the Rangers zone and completely eliminates him using his skating alone. But the Rangers can’t get the puck out, and Ekblad unleashes a shot from the right point that is deflected by Miller and past a helpless Lundqvist, 2-2.
17. Josh Jooris was pretty good in making his return to the lineup. Certainly good enough to keep Oscar “The Machine” Lindberg out if everyone was still healthy. But Zibanejad’s injury will get Lindberg back into the lineup, for now.
18. McDonagh was using his legs again to great effect. Staal also made his presence known on the offensive side of the puck, even hitting the net with one of his shots. He had a solid game.
19. Just wanted to take a second here to talk about Jagr. I love Jagr. What a player. What a career. Seriously one of my all-time favorites. And did you see how much he played in this game? Lundqvist absolutely robbed him when it was 2-2. If that was Jagr in his prime, that puck is in the goal before Lundqvist can even figure out what happened. Father time remains undefeated.
20. Daily Nash-O-Meter: flubbed a pass on the second period power play that eventually ended up in Skjei’s penalty. Had a glorious chance in the third stopped by Reimer’s paddle, although some elevation would have helped. He had a good forecheck during a late penalty kill. He’s just not doing enough on either side of the puck. I know it’s a bit early to be thinking about expansion, but I don’t see how the Rangers can afford to protect his cap hit for next season.
21. Zibanejad is still passing too much. Sure, he scored the goal off his skate, but that’s not him shooting it. He had a few stuff in tries during the third period, but he’s a sniper. He needs to be firing, especially on the PP. It looks like he will have a lot of time to think about it after crashing hard into the boards in OT.
22. Did McDonagh play all five minutes of the OT? Seemed like it, at least.
23. Zuccarello was buzzing. All three zones. Doing the little things, too, forcing turnovers, breaking up passing lanes. What a player. Still our best forward. Easily the best Ranger in the game.
24. Lundqvist was very good, Yandle goal aside, but for a couple of seasons now, I feel like he’s been pretty bad at shootouts. Good thing they don’t have those in the playoffs. He was strong on rebounds and with his rebound control. His kick save in OT stands out, as it displayed a level of awareness and intelligence to kick the puck into a soft area, all the way out of the zone, so that Stepan could get to the bench and get a stick to replace the one that broke on the faceoff. And the glove save on Jagr is worth mentioning again.
My Three Rangers Stars:
- Mats Zuccarello
- Ryan McDonagh
- Henrik Lundqvist
Your Three Rangers Stars:
- Mats Zuccarello
- Mika Zibanejad
- Chris Kreider