Make Friendships Great! Ryan Strome congratulates Tony DeAngelo on his career game that included a hat trick and five points. AP Photo credit New York Rangers via Getty Images
I’ve been sitting here for a while on the couch contemplating what I saw tonight from Tony DeAngelo. I don’t go to many games. Fortunately, I got to witness a brilliant performance from the improving Rangers defenseman. DeAngelo recorded his first career hat trick and a career high five points to highlight an exciting Rangers 6-3 home win over the Devils at an energized Garden.
As great as it was to see DeAngelo complete the hat trick in the second period on a superb Chris Kreider screen, my favorite moment came in a five goal first period. While on a power play, he made a perfect slap pass from his end off the boards that a flying Kreider retrieved to skate in and beat Devils netminder Mackenzie Blackwood with a filthy backhand on a great deke. Here’s how it looked:
Seeing that play develop live from up top in the second to last row of our section, I knew with the speed Kreider had he would score. He is terrific on such set plays due to his explosiveness and ability to go to his patented forehand deke, backhand finish. His go to move on such breakaways. He used the angle perfectly to fool Blackwood, who wouldn’t finish the game. He was chased from the Devils net after DeAngelo became the first Rangers defenseman since Reijo Ruotsalainen did it on Mar. 17, 1982.
If you are curious, Brian Leetch never recorded a hat trick in the regular season. However, he did get three in a virtuoso performance against the Flyers in Game Three of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semis. I remember it well because it was a game they should’ve won. Despite the hat trick from Leetch, they lost the game in sudden death.
It is pretty cool for DeAngelo to put up a five point game. Not many Blueshirts have done it from the back end. He joins Leetch as only the second Rangers defenseman to record five points. That is the franchise record for one game. Not bad for a player who went through some hard lessons last year under coach David Quinn.
“It was cool,” DeAngelo told Rangers beat writer Vince Mercogliano of getting the hat trick. “I said it in between periods. I’d never had a hat trick before — even in juniors. Maybe when I was a young kid, but that was cool.”
It started with a great backhand saucer pass for a Artemi Panarin one-time blast past Blackwood to the far side for a 1-0 lead.
“The pass he made to Panarin today on the first goal — that’s an all-world pass,” sidekick Ryan Strome said following another good night in which he had two assists including a beautiful set up for Jesper Fast that put the finishing touches on the victory. “That’s on the backhand, and he’s a defenseman below there.”
It wasn’t all positive for the Blueshirts, who allowed the Devils to pepper rookie goalie Igor Shestyorkin with 49 shots. Making his second straight start, the 24-year old Russian was more composed despite the heavy workload. Even after allowing a shorthanded goal to Kevin Rooney on a rebound that tied the score up, he didn’t allow any bad ones. On that goal, it was a lost draw and DeAngelo didn’t take Rooney, who got his first of the season. A Ranger tradition that continues.
Rather than allow that goal to effect them, they bounced back 1:41 later when DeAngelo scored his first of the game from Mika Zibanejad and Kreider at 9:47. A John Hayden undisciplined interference minor on Kaapo Kakko resulted in the play of the night. Off a Zibanejad defensive face-off win, DeAngelo got the puck and surveyed the ice. Then, he sent a great slap pass that banked right to an onrushing Kreider, who blew in and beat Blackwood for his 14th with 7:44 remaining to make it 3-1.
As good as they were offensively in chasing Blackwood with five goals on 25 shots after two periods, the Rangers still have a lot of work to do to improve defensively. Unlike the win against Colorado that saw Shestyorkin stop 29 of a more manageable 32 shots, he got the gauntlet from a relentless New Jersey team. Even without rookie Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt, they didn’t give up like that last game which was the prelude to former coach John Hynes getting fired. Funny enough, he just took over for Nashville, who evened up their record on a night Pekka Rinne joined Ron Hextall, Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, Evgeni Nabokov and Mike Smith as goalies to score an empty net goal.
A Brett Howden miscue lead to a Blake Coleman goal off a redirection of a Damon Severson point shot that Travis Zajac set up. On the play, Coleman appeared to get away with a crosscheck in front before scoring his 14th to make it a one goal contest before the first ended.
Interestingly enough, a fan seated next to me took the over on the 6.5 total. He was pretty pumped up about the five total goals in the wild period. Even as his Devil friends razzed him after their team scored. It was good back and forth banter. I rather enjoyed it. He also had no love for the skittish Pavel Buchnevich, who somehow fell on a breakaway. He also came close to scoring following the criticism, but the refs correctly ruled that he hit the goalpost. The puck never crossed the goal line. That’s Buchnevich in a nutshell.
The Devils were able to tie it up almost nine minutes into the second period. This one was controversial and bizarre. On a strange play where the net came off while Shestyorkin stretched out to try to prevent the puck from going in, it looked like no goal live. There was a lot happening on the play. You had the puck thrown towards the net with Jacob Trouba battling Coleman in front. Plus the circumstance with the net.
What we didn’t realize is that during a stoppage, the play was under review. You know my sentiments on Toronto. I’m not going to get into it. When they came back from the break, they ruled it a good goal due to Trouba accidentally shoving Coleman into the net. It is some weird rule about continuation. I have no idea what or how they applied it. Here’s how it looked:
Hearing Joe Micheletti explain it, Trouba accidentally kicks the puck following a Severson shot. As upset as I was at the time along with most of our section along with perplexed fans, they felt the puck would’ve crossed the line even if the net didn’t come off. I hate the rule because it seems confusing. Let’s just call it a bad break or bounce. Either way, a goal originally credited to Coleman became Severson’s fifth from Nikita Gusev and Zajac at 8:56.
Rather than let a tough call get to them, the Rangers responded well by scoring the next two goals within a 2:54 span. DeAngelo was involved in both. He got his second when he used some traffic in front to beat a screened Blackwood from Marc Staal and Buchnevich at 12:08. The third goal would come on the power play. Adam Fox drew a hi-sticking minor on Nico Hischier. It only took 11 seconds for Panarin and Strome to feed DeAngelo at an open point. With a great Kreider screen on Blackwood, he fired a perfect laser high and inside the goalpost to complete the hat trick with 4:58 left in the period. Hats poured on the ice as DeAngelo was congratulated by happy teammates at the Ranger bench.
The big night prompted this Tweet above from DeAngelo’s proud sister Vienna. What I love is how appreciative she is of the fans who support her brother. Those would be the more knowledgeable fans who don’t act like whiners with an axe to grind due to a nonsensical agenda. How about enjoying what Tony Dee is doing. He’s up to 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points in 43 games. The 36 points ranks fifth among all NHL defensemen. A game like the one he had was a joy to view live. I couldn’t be happier. Quinn went out of his way to praise him in the postgame.
Good for him. After all the questions surrounding his contract status coming into camp, DeAngelo bet on himself. He took the qualifying offer. He is gonna make a ton of money this summer. Which brings a intriguing question for the organization. What will they decide to do? Now that Kreider is playing well (16 points over last 15 games) along with Strome and DeAngelo, the Rangers are facing a hard choice very soon. Before you all answer that trading Kreider for a first round pick and prospect is the answer, have you seen our forwards? If they subtract either Kreider or Strome (even both), the crop up front becomes even weaker. They are paper thin already with Kakko struggling in Year One and Filip Chytil only showing glimpses.
Defense is actually the team strength. But if they make the tough decision to move on from DeAngelo due to what he could get in arbitration, that kind of production isn’t easy to replace. Neither is Kreider’s leadership and combination of speed, skill and net front presence. He is a locker room leader. Trade him and it can’t just be a first and an unproven prospect. They need NHL talent. So if Boston comes calling, the ask should be Jake DeBrusk and a one. That goes also for Pittsburgh, Colorado and maybe St. Louis (Robert Thomas).
This is all about maximizing the value. If all three players continue to perform well, that’s good. The organization also has another conundrum due to Shestyorkin looking good so far. Some of the saves he made in the third period were superb. None better than the glove stop point blank on a Devil power play to keep his team up two. The “Igor, Ig-or”, chants were fun to take part in. He only finished with a cool 46 saves in his second start.
With the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues on tap in St. Louis Saturday night at 8 PM, what does the coaching staff decide? Would they really give him a third consecutive start against arguably the top team in the league? Or do they go back to Henrik Lundqvist to keep him fresh while facing stiff competition? What about Alexandar Georgiev? It really appears that his days are numbered. As long as Shesty proves he belongs, I have to believe Georgiev goes soon. The problem is goalies don’t have much value. A third round pick is the likely return. Maybe trade with a goalie starved team like Detroit. That would be a higher third.
With Shestyorkin shutting the door on the Devils, some excellent teamwork between Panarin, Strome and Fast put the exclamation point on the win. Panarin made a good outlet to Strome to cause a two-on-one. He patiently waited before sliding the puck across for a quick Fast one-timer past Devils reliever Louis Domingue with 7:04 remaining in regulation. It was Fast’s seventh. After a three assist effort against the Avalanche, that gives him four points in the last two games. Fast is up to 7-11-18 for the season. He seems to really fit in with Panarin and Strome. His career high in goals is 13 and points is 33. Both established in ’17-18. It would be nice to see him surpass both in a contract year. He’s another player the team must decide on.
Walking out of the main entrance for a change due to having to park seven blocks away on 25th Street on the Seventh Avenue side, it was nice to soak in a win. The long walk back to the car wasn’t bad. We passed Fashion Institute Of Technology. There were some cool paintings. Never mind that I parked next to the literal garbage bag disposal. Yikes.
I’m not complaining. I gotta be up early too due to a doctor’s appointment. Guess it’ll be a quick turnaround. I won’t mind. It’s always more fun to do a winning recap. Especially when you run into old friends like Anthony from our old Section 411 before MSG became the World’s Most Renovated Arena. I’ll never buy another beer as long as I go to games.
But I’ll always enjoy the relationship formed over two decades. Now, it’s the Roaring 20’s. We’re talking 25 years since my first game. It never gets old. Even if the arena is very different. It’s all about having fun with the people you know. Until next time.
Battle Of Hudson 3 Stars:
3rd 🌟 Chris Kreider, Rangers (Since scoring on my birthday 12/8, he’s got 16 points in 15 games including goal and 🍎 tonight)
2nd 🌟 Igor Shestyorkin, Rangers (improves to 2-0 as a starter by stopping 46 of 49 shots including 18 for 18 in 3rd)
1st 🌟 Tony DeAngelo, Rangers (1st NYR defenseman with a hat trick in regular season since Reijo Ruotsalainen, 5 points (3-2-5) tie single game franchise mark with Brian Leetch for a defenseman)