Rangers 2, Stars 0.
1. I originally wasn’t planning on writing a review, but there is obviously one event from last night that needs to be addressed: Eakin’s hit on Lundqvist.
2. First, let’s look at the hit itself. Lundqvist has the puck near the end boards, mishandles it a bit, and then comes right up against and facing the boards, looking to pass the puck on his backhand to the Skjei, who is on his left. This whole time, Eakin has come down the right wing boards and around the goal to put pressure on the puck. Eakin takes a line along the wall. Lundqvist turns towards Eakin just as Eakin is about to make contact. Eakin puts his shoulder into Lundqvist’s head, and explodes into the hit. Lundqvist is obliterated, left splayed on the ice. His helmet flew off, fortunately without his head still in it. Eakin is given a five minute major for charging (somehow not an illegal check to the head) and a game misconduct.
3. I’m usually a pretty even keeled guy, but the hit was so egregious that I jumped out of my seat and yelled “WHAT THE [FUDGE]!?” Then, while standing in shock for a couple of seconds “Where is the [Byfgulien] response!?”
4. Ultimately, that’s the talking point this morning. Eakin was somehow allowed to skate out without having been challenged at all. Skjei was right next to him when it happened. I get that he’s got a full face shield because of what happened on Tuesday, but he’s at the least got to engage Eakin until someone else can come over and drop the gloves. Use your stick, use your gloves, hell, head butt him with the shield if you have to, but the response should have been immediate. Pathetic.
5. And the rest of the guys on the ice are just as guilty. Vesey is just on the other side of the goal when the hit happens and he skates next to Eakin coming out of the zone. Nothing. I get you’re a young kid, but come on. Get in there. Nash is on the half wall on Skjei’s side and comes back a little bit but then turns to join the rush. Nothing. Nobody else is responding and you’re 6’4″, 220. You’re the veteran and you’re wearing a letter. Set an example of standing together as a team. Nothing. Hayes came back into the zone but turned to join the rush, nothing. And Miller was nowhere near the play, but I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t go back and make Eakin answer the bell. I had been thinking of him as being captain material, like the next Callahan, but a bit more skilled. But you could bet your Aasen that Cally would have been all over Eakin.
6. Worse yet, the rest of the team didn’t respond in kind through the rest of the game. Sometimes, there are things more important than the 2 points.
7. I am reminded of another game in which Lindy Ruff was the coach. November 12, 2011, Bruins vs. Sabres. First period, Milan Lucic gets a breakaway but loses control of the puck. Ryan Miller comes out to play it and Lucic runs him over. The media narrative the next day was that nobody fought Lucic, an intimidating figure (Paul Gaustad got his face punched in the next time the two teams met), but watch the video. At least they get in his face and there is an immediate and big scrum. The Sabres never recovered.
8. I’m not predicting a similar downfall, but a team with so little heart and pride isn’t going to win. We don’t need a face puncher. Anyone talking about Glass should have their hockey fan card revoked. We just need the guys already on our team to have some stones and some pride. When’s the last time you saw a “big as the building” moment? And don’t talk to me about deterrent because I’ll point you to McIlrath and Stepan or Vesey. It’s just about having each other’s backs and everyone stepping up when required. And they failed that test mightily.
9. Some people argue that the response you should take is on the powerplay. First of all, no. You need to be a team and have each other’s back. Remember on 24/7 when Kopecky suckered Del Zotto? He went back to the dressing room and the first question he asked was “who jumped in for me?” (He guessed “Dubi” but was informed it was “Rupper”) He didn’t ask if the Rangers cashed in on the PP. He didn’t ask if they got the 2 points. He just wanted to know the team had his back.
10. Putting that aside, the team did not make the Stars pay. If anything, the Stars were energized a bit by the strong penalty kill. I thought the 5 on 3 was atrocious. For some reason Stepan was the shooter in the rare times they actually looked to shoot. I can’t say it enough the way you’re supposed to run a 5 on 3. Two passes: high to low, then across the goal mouth.
I thought there was some good work around the 3 minute mark of the major, but otherwise, the PP was pretty ugly throughout. And as I said, the Stars seemed to build momentum off of their kill.
11. Now let’s talk briefly about, you know, the game. It was entertaining. Lundqvist was really good, but perhaps let’s wait a few games before declaring that he’s back. Nash was also really good. That goal was fantastic play, all around. The PK was good but the Rangers took way too many penalties. What happened to the team’s improved defensive play, especially in the neutral zone? I was glad to see Zuccarello get off the schneid, even if it was an empty netter. That said, he’s going to have to score them when there is a goaltender in the net as well. Honestly, I’m still so disgusted with the first part that I don’t have much of an appetite to talk about everyone else.
My Three Rangers Stars:
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Nick Holden
- Mats Zuccarello
Everyone who was on the ice when Lundqvist got hit was disqualified. Otherwise Nash would have been 2.