Some might say, ‘What’s the point in winning these games?’ I think Marc Staal said it best the other day. You don’t teach losing at any level. It’s about competing every game no matter what. Or in hockey terms, every shift.
The Rangers continue to play hard for coach David Quinn. Today, they easily shutout the lifeless Flyers 3-0 in the City of Brotherly Love to earn a win in the final game of the season series. Philly had dominated the series by taking the first three. But a day after getting eliminated by the Canes, they clearly were not into the early NBC matinee.
Even if Gritty was rolled out and later shown on the scoreboard with Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg, who had about as much excitement for the popular Flyers rookie mascot as the team had in playing. I agree with what Eddie Olczyk said during the telecast to Kenny Albert. It’s hard to get up for a game a day following playoff elimination. Sean Couturier told Pierre McGuire “it sucks,” before the game.
Be that as it may, the Rangers did what they were supposed to. No. They didn’t tank like some of our fans want. I understand that a worse position in the final standings would give them a higher percentage for winning the April 9 NHL Draft Lottery. However, it’s not an exact science. There’s no guarantee. We saw the Devils win the lottery two years ago to move up to first overall and land Nico Hischier. Sometimes, you get rewarded for honest play. Interestingly, nobody is tanking. Hasan cited the tweet by Devils play by play man Steve Cangialosi last night.
It’s funny. But if you compare our team to the other bottom feeders, their record is worse. Yet fans are still complaining because of course. The 3-0 victory gave the Rangers their first two game winning streak since mid-January when they reeled off three in a row over Carolina, Chicago and Boston from 1/15-19. So, the fans that are upset are wrong. Shocking as usual. For the month of March, they went 4-8-3. I’ll repeat. They were 4-8-3.
You can never satisfy everyone. Especially Debbie downers who have forgotten the most important part of rebuilding. Building a winning culture. Thank God for Quinn, who’s instilled a real work ethic that’s resulted in big improvements from a few young players including Pavel Buchnevich, Alexandar Georgiev and Ryan Strome.
Buchnevich scored number 20 in the win to continue his hot streak. That’s a seven-game point streak (4-4-8). Since March 3 versus Washington, he has eight goals and four assists. How has he done it? With the kind of hard work combined with unique skill the maturing 23-year old forward has. He’s a different player. It bodes well for the future.
Georgiev continues his evolvement in net by stopping all 29 Flyers shots for his second career shutout. Both coming this season. He’s been impressive since the All-Star break. He made 55 saves against Toronto on his 23rd birthday last month. He stoned the Leafs again last week with 44 stops in a win up north, and was superb in making 44 to highlight Friday’s home win over the Blues. So, Quinn stuck with him. He rewarded his faith by evening up his record at 13-13-3. Okay. So technically, it’s not .500. But Georgie is improving. Not so fast Igor Shestyorkin. It’s a good problem to have moving forward with Henrik Lundqvist here for at least two more years.
Strome has been just as hot as Buchnevich. He continued his strong play by scoring another goal and assisting on one to give him two multi-point games in the last three. He’s up to 17 goals as a Ranger. In fact, it matches his best output that he accomplished with the Islanders in ’14-15. That’s still his best season. He posted a career high 50 points (17-33-50) over 81 contests. In 59 games with the Blueshirts, the 25-year old forward has 31 points (17-14-31). Solid production that’s become more consistent recently. That’s the key.
Brady Skjei also got his seventh goal from Strome and Brett Howden in the third to put it away. That leads all Ranger defensemen. The seven markers are a career high. He’s quietly made strides in his third season following a poor start. The just turned 25-year old is becoming more of a leader. Something that’s necessary with the Rangers the league’s youngest roster. Their average age is a shade over 25.
As poorly as Philadelphia played, they got plenty of power play time in the second due to Brendan Smith repeatedly taking minor penalties. He took all four of the Rangers’ penalties including two in succession. That included a weird sequence where as he was coming out of the penalty box, he touched the puck before stepping on to the ice. A no no. It is interference. He could only shake his head.
But Georgiev was sharp throughout. His rebound control was excellent. The Flyers created opportunities on their power plays. However, Georgiev saw everything and ate up a couple of low offerings from Shayne Gostisbehere. No Flyer screened him. They definitely missed Wayne Simmonds, who’s now a Predator. He was great at getting in front and tipping shots or making life difficult. Georgiev’s best save came on James van Riemsdyk when he stoned him on a breakaway. He stayed calm and patient to thwart a good finisher.
Buchnevich’s goal was nice. It came in the first from Mika Zibanejad and a grinning Chris Kreider, who created the play. He gave Buchnevich the business on the bench for getting that 20th goal. The KZB Line is much better than last year. All three players are harder on the puck and it makes them tougher to stop given their skill.
Strome had a nice finish past rookie Carter Hart on a good pass from Howden with only three seconds left in the period. Just a nice all around play. Smith got the secondary assist. He played with them up front.
Skjei put the Flyers out of their misery on a good play by Howden that Strome was involved in. Overall, it was a well played game by the Rangers. They got the deserved reward.
BONY 3 STARS:
3rd 🌟 Pavel Buchnevich, Rangers (notched career best 20th goal)
2nd 🌟 Alexandar Georgiev, Rangers (29 save shutout for 2nd of career)
1st 🌟 Ryan Strome, Rangers (17th as a NYR, and a helper)