It was a successful return for Keith Yandle. Facing his former team, he had an assist and got a nice video tribute during a stoppage in the first period. Most importantly, the Rangers took care of business howling past the Coyotes 4-1 at Gila River Arena (seriously???).
Four different Blueshirts scored. Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider (yes!!!!!) and Kevin Hayes all tallied in the Rangers’ fifth straight win allowing them to sweep a back-to-back. Antti Raanta was splendid making 39 saves. In fact, he was 4.6 seconds away from a shutout before Coyotes captain Shane Doan steered home a rebound of a Kyle Chipchura shot off a rush. One that frustrated Ryan McDonagh, who wanted the shutout for Raanta.
When it was over, a smiling Raanta laughed it off as teammates congratulated him. In three starts, the new Rangers backup goalie has allowed two goals on 85 shots. He’s now 3-for-3 all coming against Western Conference opponents. He shutout San Jose on Oct. 19 and yielded one goal in a win over Calgary on Oct. 25. It continues to be a match made in heaven for Raanta and the Blueshirts. He’s more than replaced Cam Talbot, who has moved on in Edmonton as the starter on a rebuilding team.
Unless you’re a slanted Corsi blogger emphasizing puck possession and Fenwick charts to bash easy target Dan Girardi, there’s not much to complain about. The Rangers are off to a great start winning 10 of their first 14 games. At 10-2-2 with 22 points, they continue to lead the Metro Division. They’re two points up on the Caps who of course got a last second Nicklas Backstrom goal against the hapless Leafs before Alex Ovechkin won the game in a shootout. The same rival they took care of 5-2 earlier this week.
It was nice to see someone other than Oscar Lindberg score. Fast isn’t gonna finish much. He’s a checking forward who plays on the fourth line. He got rewarded going to the net. On a Girardi point shot which of course won’t be mentioned in other blogs, Fast neatly redirected the puck past Mike Smith for the only goal in the first.
After a good start, the Rangers were hemmed in a lot by the speedier Coyotes who didn’t play the night before. Arizona had some close calls but also bad luck. Anthony Duclair prevented a sure tying goal when he accidentally got in the way of a shot headed in. It was nice to see our former prospect helping us. The Yotes also hit two goalposts with each shot going off the far post. Raanta’s best friend.
It wasn’t Smith’s night. He allowed a wacky goal to Miller just 2:07 into the second. Dan Boyle threw a pass in front that Kreider touched followed by Miller who barely got a stick on it. The puck then took a funny bounce going through a startled Smith at such a slow speed it was like a knuckle ball. Or as most of us puckers would refer, a knuckle puck from the classic Mighty Ducks movies. The bizarre goal was Miller’s second.
Then Kreider finally got some luck for a change. Snake bit so far with only one goal despite plenty of chances, he took a Derek Stepan outlet and fired a routine wrist shot from the circle that eluded Smith five-hole. That made it 3-0 and ended Smith’s night. He allowed three goals on 17 shots. Anders Lindback replaced him. He fared better permitting just a Hayes power play goal while turning aside 12 of 13.
The problem for the Coyotes is they were already down four. A bit too hard to do against this Rangers team. Once they have a lead after two periods, they are about as lock down as it gets. Seth Rothman tweeted out a stat yesterday about them only losing one game when leading after two periods. They are up to 158-1-9 in their last 168 games since Feb. 6, 2010. Inside Hockey’s Rothman had more on the club’s recent success in the second part of back-to-backs.
As for the third, it was mostly uneventful. The only interesting part was Martin Hanzal having a goal reversed. Originally, he was credited with batting a puck out of mid-air that would’ve made it 4-1 with still over half the period left. However, conclusive replays on MSG showed that Hanzal’s stick was over crossbar height when it connected. After a few minutes, Toronto reversed the refs decision. A good call. And one time we actually agreed with them. Miracles do happen.
If only they could’ve gotten a shutout for Raanta. He so deserved it even making a save from the seat of his pants. But a late Lindberg penalty led to a Coyotes rush and Doan power play tally at 19:55. Unfortunate. But still it’s another two points.
The Blueshirts have accomplished what Alain Vigneault wanted. A quick start. That’s crucial in a good division. Building a cushion is nice. Rack up as many ROW’s and points as you can now. The Canes visit MSG Tuesday. A Staal reunion as Sam Rosen mentioned. They actually came back to beat the Senators with Jordan Staal scoring with less than four seconds left in the 3-on-3 derby.
In all honesty, that should be two points. But they still have to play it. Figure Henrik Lundqvist to be back in. The Blues visit Manhattan Thursday. Then it’s at the Leafs on Friday the 13th. Raanta should be back for that one. All in all, a lot to be happy about if you’re a true Blueshirt.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Kevin Hayes, NYR (PPG-4th of season, 5 SOG-2-2-4 in last 3, 7 pts in last 7)
2nd Star-Chris Kreider, NYR (2nd of season, assist-maybe he’ll get hot)
1st Star-Antti Raanta, NYR (39 saves, 2 GA on 85 shots in 3 wins)