Before I get to the review, I want to repeat my request for volunteers, not just for reviews, but to write guest posts on any subject, especially anything that looks at systems or advanced stats. Also, this is not fight club. Tell everyone you know to come here and participate.
1. This is one of the easier games for me to review because outside of the goals, there isn’t much for me to say at all about the first two periods. If watching the Senators game was watching paint dry, the first two periods against the Hurricanes was the second coat.
2. The larger narrative about their lackluster performance in the first two frames is that they are just not generating enough offense. Too often they are looking for a long pass (I refuse to use the term “stretch pass”) which Carolina, as well as many other teams over the past 10 games or so, eliminates by setting up a neutral zone trap. Alternatively, the Rangers would try to skate into the Carolina zone with possession, which is normally an admirable endeavor, but not when the defense is literally set up to stop such a play. Generally speaking, a controlled entry is a higher percentage play than dump and chase, but when the entire defense is waiting at the blue line, trying to skate through them isn’t going to work. This was especially true on the early PP entries, which were just awful. 12 shots through the first two periods, at home, including only 5 in the second, is just unacceptable.
3. And the struggles for the Rangers were infectious. Did anybody else notice Sam struggling even more than usual? Must be a HOF hangover. Or maybe he was nervous to be in the presence of coach Bryce.
4. For as good as Carolina’s game plan was and how well they worked to execute it, that team sure does stink if they could lose a game when the Rangers only played for a sum total of 25 minutes.
5. So let’s get the first three goals out of the way. The first goal was just a nightmare for Holden. After some extended zone time by the Hurricanes, the puck went into the left corner where Miller went to retrieve it. Holden did well to provide Miller with an outlet towards the middle of the ice and Miller makes a good play to find Holden there. Holden one touches the puck up ice, softly, right to a waiting Victor Stalberg at the top of the circle who one-times a shot high. The puck comes around to the right point where Tennyson keeps in by firing a low percentage shot towards goal. Holden blocks it in the slot with his skate where it falls neatly to Stalberg at the top of the slot and his shot is deflected by Holden’s stick through the five hole, 1-0. There wasn’t really anyone behind Holden, so letting Tennyson’s shot get through to Lundqvist probably is an easy save and also a whistle for that tired group.
6. When Stempniak signed in Carolina, did he transfer his spurned Ranger powers to Stalberg? A simple dump later in he period and he blows by Skjei and Klein who were standing still at the blue line for a good opportunity that Lundqvist did well to save.
7. A few minutes later, the Rangers can’t clear the zone again, leading to a battle in the right corner. It’s three Rangers (Klein, Skjei, and Kreider) against two Hurricanes, plus Hayes is nearby for an outlet. Should be an easy retrieval and clear. Not so. Stalberg emerges with the puck moving towards the goal. Klein disposes the Stalberg, but in doing so, puts it on the stick of McClement, the other Hurricane who was down low. Now Klein is the only man between McClement and the goal, with Stalberg behind him and three Rangers (Skjei, Kreider, Hayes) standing still on the wall. Nash admirably tries to get back to take Stalberg. McClement puts a weak one towards the goal that Nash blocks with his skate while falling down and the puck comes to a wide open Stalberg who buries his second, 2-0.
8. The rest of the period was more of the same. The Rangers were stuck in second gear and we’re lucky to be down only 2.
9. You would think that maybe the Rangers would come out with some jump to start the second, but no. Staal takes an early high sticking penalty. The Rangers actually get a little momentum off of the kill but don’t turn any of their zone time into meaningful offense.
10. After generating only two shots on goal through the first ten minutes of the second, Kevin Hayes (who was not good) carries in and falls trying a dumb spin move. The Hurricanes player pushes the loose puck into the corner, where Vesey works it around to Nash. Good hustle by both of them to get down low so quickly. Nash picks out the perfect pass to Holden, who had come down into the slot. Holden fans a bit on the shot and it’s blocked by the Carolina player (not passed by Vesey) right back to Holden. He takes a stride to his left and Ward goes down flailing, his stick on the ice his only remaining defense of the goal. Holden gets it up and over, 2-1. Good for him to get that first one back. Starting tomorrow he needs to shave that pedostache.
11. You would think that might spark the team some, but no. Instead they downshifted to first. The Hurricanes were at least still in second gear. Speaking of twos, only two more SOG for the Rangers the rest of the period.
12. Finally, the third period. And it started with Rick Nash. With everyone on both teams still lolligagging it at both ends of the ice, Nash collects a loose puck at the Rangers blue line and just splits and blows by the two Hurricanes defenders (Faulk and Hainsey) all the way in on Ward, fires a backhand that gets a deflection off of Faulk’s stick, off the crossbar and in 2-2. That was vintage Rick Nash.
13. HAV Nash-O-Meter: in the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Well, in the game of guys stuck in first and second gear, the guy going in third and fourth gear stood out as the best player on the ice, on either team. Nash has been playing very well lately, at both ends of the ice. And what do you know, when he is going hard, he usually finds himself on the scoresheet. Now that he isn’t going to end up in Vegas, in two years he will have a serious choice of just cashing in for one more big deal or taking a little bit of a discount and being a key addition on a Stanley Cup contender. When he’s on, it’s really a pleasure to watch.
14. Well the Rangers are finally working a bit, but especially two guys who were skating pretty hard despite limited opportunities. Oscar Lindberg easily had his best game of the season. He was effective defensively, one time snuffing out a breakout singlehandedly with a smart play in the neutral zone. He hit other guys like crazy, including absolutely demolishing Hanifin with a clean check after an awful power play(bad entries discussed above). He gets assaulted by Hanifin and another Hurricanes player after the whistle and somehow he gets a roughing penalty for it. That’s the kind of penalty you’re more than happy to see him take. After all the talk of grit and toughness on the blog yesterday, that was awesome to see.
15. The other player I spent a bit talking about yesterday was Jesper Fast, and he had a great third period. He was good on the penalty kill, too. In the second period he had a two on one with Stepan and got the puck to Stepan who missed the net. In the third period, his hard work led to a really long spell of possession and time in the Hurricanes’ zone. I think Lindberg was involved in that as well. I chuckled to myself that despite the long spell of possession and the aforementioned two on one, he still didn’t have a SOG. Then he came out from behind the net and had a good chance that was stopped by Ward.
16. Someone else who was buzzing in the third was Jimmy Vesey. So it was fitting that when Ron Hainsey had a meltdown and got four minutes when he could have had only two, that Vesey could cash in on the PP. The Rangers finally get a good entry and set up in the offensive zone. The puck comes to Skjei at the blue line in the middle of the ice. His hard, low shot gets through and Ward has a big rebound that comes to Nash in the right circle. He skates across the goal mouth and gets Ward to flop wildly to stop his shot. But when the rebound comes to Vesey, Ward has no chance and Vesey buries it, 3-2.
17. Lundqvist, who was solid throughout, battled well for contested and loose pucks, and kept the door shut for the rest of the game, including another chance for Stalberg, after which the two had a chat.
18. So, all in all, the Rangers played about 25 minutes of this game and came away with the win. There are definitely problems with this team right now, and it’s good for them to get the two points while they figure things out, provided that they recognize there is a problem and they figure it out.
My three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash
2. Jimmy Vesey
3. Jesper Fast
Your three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash
2. Jimmy Vesey
3. Henrik Lundqvist