It all went accordingly for Keith Kinkaid and the Rangers in a rematch with the Bruins at Boston. Buoyed by a tone setting message delivered by Jacob Trouba to Patrice Bergeron on the first shift, Kinkaid stopped all 18 shots while the Rangers thoroughly dominated a flat Bruins in a 4-0 shutout. That ended a three-game losing streak.
Let it be known that Game 26 of 56 was the best effort of the season. After three miserable defeats, the Rangers responded to the return of Artemi Panarin by turning the Bruins into ‘Ruins literally. That’s how badly they outplayed the Boston hosts. It didn’t matter that Jaro Halak started once again. He had no help from his team, who opted to take the afternoon off. Had their been a crowd, they would’ve heard it.
This was a beat down minus any fights. Or a TKO by submission. It also was the coming out party for K’Andre Miller. Having slumped recently with inconsistency, the rookie defenseman stood out in this one. Not only did he score a goal that proved to be the game-winner in the early going. But he was dominant defensively with partner Trouba, who delivered one of his best games since joining the Rangers a year and a half ago. The dynamic duo combined for a goal, assist, 10 attempts, eight hits, five blocked shots and a plus-four rating in over 23 minutes of work.
It was a welcome sight. Normally, the story has been the top pair of Adam Fox and physical partner Ryan Lindgren. However, they got plenty of help from the second pair. Miller and Trouba were so good that it allowed David Quinn and assistant Jacques Martin to work in Libor Hajek and Brendan Smith without too much pressure. A strong top four can have a positive impact.
Making his second start over three games, Kinkaid was sharp throughout to record his first shutout as a Ranger. He didn’t have to stand on his head due to how well the team played in front of him. However, he made the key saves when called upon. None bigger than his great stop on a Brad Marchand one-timer during a Bruins power play. He got across and shut the door to keep the Bruins best player off the scoreboard. That was huge.
Prior to opening face-off, MSG Network revealed the healthy scratches with Panarin finally returning after a nine-game absence. Surprisingly, Julien Gauthier sat out along with Brett Howden, who remarkably had played in 113 straight games. Leave it to Joe Micheletti to put a spin on Howden finally sitting.
Howden hasn’t scored a goal and has two assists. The bottom line is as much as he hustles and helps kill penalties or win face-offs, it’s not enough to justify playing him every day. They better hope Nils Lundkvist is as good as advertised. I don’t know enough about Karl Henriksson yet. Just that he’s considered a two-way center who Sweden missed at the recent World Junior Championship won by USA.
As for Gauthier getting the day off, I didn’t understand that at all. He’s improved recently and been noticeable. But for whatever reason, Quinn decided to reinsert Phil Di Giuseppe and stay with Brendan Lemieux, who I’ve become increasingly frustrated with. His hit from behind on Trent Frederic near the benches was unnecessary. A ridiculous penalty taken by an irritating player who hasn’t been up to par.
Of course, she’s right. Emily knows hockey. But like I said, he wishes he had an ounce of his father’s talent. At least Claude backed it up. I really didn’t care for that hit. Nor did I like Lemieux mixing it up with the Bruins at the conclusion of a dominant first period. Why even do that? Don’t wake them up. Lucky for him, the Boston malaise lasted the entire 60 minutes. They must’ve forgotten their Ovaltine.
As far as the lineup went, here’s how it looked:
As both Sam Rosen and Micheletti noted, the Rangers are almost back to full strength. Only Jack Johnson and Anthony Bitetto are still banged up. They’re finally a healthy team. Given that Hajek can fill in fine for Johnson or Bitetto, they’re basically back where they need to be. The only key missing player is starting goalie Igor Shestyorkin, whose mild groin strain might keep him out a bit longer. That’s not too surprising given the tricky nature of groin injuries. They shouldn’t rush him back. The postseason is a reach despite what Rosen and Micheletti say while waving the Rangers pom poms. The less said about it, the better.
At least the telecast was watchable thanks to former captain Ryan Callahan doing his second straight guest appearance in studio with host John Giannone and Steve Valiquette on Zoom Conference from his home office. It was much better. Having Callahan provide insight and work with Valiquette gave the broadcast more balance. You can only take so many of Vally’s charts. Plus you have a popular Ranger who had a good career here before finishing up with the Lightning. Captain Cally knows the important details during games and has been a welcome addition to NHL Network where Ken Daneyko also doubles when not working Devils games. NHL Network has gotten much better due to the variety of former players they have. It starts with Kevin Weekes. They are a good watch for in game updates and more. I hope we see more of Callahan on MSG.
Where to start on today’s game? The Rangers showed up ready to go while the Bruins must’ve thought the game was optional. Either that or they didn’t set their alarm clocks. They stunk. You would never have guessed that this was the same team that dominated the Rangers by taking four of the first five meetings. Full credit to Quinn and his staff for having the team prepared. They were aggressive from the outset quickly getting good chances on Halak, who had a strong first period. If not for him, the Rangers could’ve put up a field goal.
Instead, they settled for a Miller goal off a face-off win from Mika Zibanejad. Reunited with KZB line members Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich, he played much better. He won an offensive draw back to Buchnevich, who got the puck to Miller at the right point. The defenseman let go of a good shot with Kreider providing a screen on Halak in front. It found its way into the net for his second goal. The first since before the Tony DeAngelo fiasco. A frustrated Halak felt Kreider interfered, but he did not. He simply stopped right in front and that was enough for the game’s first goal. What else can you expect from the unofficial team captain? He does the dirty work.
The Rangers had to kill off a Smith minor for smothering. My way of describing what he did to Sean Kuraly. Without him, the fourth ranked penalty kill went to work. While the Bruins looked like they were skating in quicksand, our players seemed to be flying. It was the skaters in Broadway Blueshirts that were moving in unison. They took away virtually everything the Bruins like to do. A strong unit led by Kevin Rooney, Colin Blackwell, Zibanejad, Buchnevich, Trouba, Miller, Fox and Lindgren shined throughout the game. The Bruins went 0-for-5 on the power play and were held to just five shots.
Following a power outage of their own, that also included an abbreviated Bruins man-advantage with Alexis Lafreniere off for hooking Urho Vaakanainen (must be fun for Bruins homer Jack Edwards to pronounce). When they played at even strength, the Blueshirts were superior due to limiting time and space from the dangerous top line of Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak. The so-called Perfection Line was anything but. They were hounded by relentless Rangers checkers all day. It was a welcome change from what we’re used to. Marchand played through whatever was nagging him. He was still his rat self later showing frustration by taking a pair of undisciplined penalties. If you can get him off his game, you have a pretty good chance of shutting down the Bruins. It’s my opinion that he’s their best player. As he goes, so do the Bruins.
While Kinkaid cruised to an easy six save first period, Halak had to work harder for nine saves on 10 shots. Given the difference in quality, it felt like more. He made a couple of key stops to prevent an early Ranger rout. Unlike most starts including the previous two where he pitched shutouts, he got no support. As disappointing as Alex Georgiev was on Thursday, the Rangers scored zero goals before he was chased out of the net. They got blanked. Today, they returned the favor to the Bruins. I know we all mocked Smith for his captain obvious quote that if you don’t score, you can’t win. But it proved to be prophetic. Maybe his future career is as a fortune teller. Imagine the perks. Free Chinese fortune cookies with every Smith prognostication.
The second period would start with Lemieux pulling his usual shenanigans. After mixing it up with a few angry Bruins at the end of the first, he couldn’t help himself by boarding Frederic from behind at the conclusion of his shift. It was idiotic. But that’s what you get from the In-Grate One. At times, he can be effective when he sticks to a wiser straightforward approach and draws penalties by agitating opponents like his better Dad. Then there are other instances where you wonder what the heck he’s thinking. He plays on the edge, but still hasn’t figured it out. By now, that shouldn’t be the case. I once supported him. Now, I would prefer not to see him. Though I do want Frederic to get revenge in the final two games at Boston. We’ll have to wait for that. By day’s end, refs Chris Rooney and Wes McCauley had seen enough of each, sending them to the showers.
It didn’t matter that Lemieux took an unnecessary penalty because the penalty kill bailed him out of jail. Kinkaid made one save while the killers did the rest. They really dominated the Bruins power play. They barely got any setup time. It’s a credit to how locked in the Rangers are while shorthanded. They even had a couple of attempts on Halak due to their aggressive mindset. It really is the biggest improvement. Martin is a lot better at the defensive aspect than Lindy Ruff, who never was a great fit in that role. He’s better as a head coach. Although the Devils sure are making life miserable for him lately. That’s an even younger roster than ours.
The game’s second goal was provided off some superb work from the top line. On a good Buchnevich back pass to Trouba at the point, he moved the puck down low for a forechecking Zibanejad. On just a great saucer pass that was basically a timing play with his teammate cutting to the net, he made a soft feed just by the diving Jakub Zboril to Kreider for a sweet finish at 5:42. It broke a four-game goal drought for the Rangers’ top finisher. Kreider is now up to 14 goals with 10 coming in the last 11 games. As a team, they’ve won five of the past six when Kreider scores. The lone exception being his first hat trick of the season at the Flyers. Coincidentally, the next opponent. They better follow this game up with a victory on Monday. The next two are against Philadelphia at Madison Square Garden.
Not long following the Kreider goal that made it 2-0, Marchand took a bad hi-sticking minor on Lafreniere. However, nobody realized that Lafreniere was cut. It was while on the bench that he had blood wiped from his nose that a visibly upset Lafreniere couldn’t believe it wasn’t a double minor. It should’ve been. The Rangers got some looks on their five power plays. They moved Zibanejad more to the slot area for shots while Panarin occupied the off wing. Ryan Strome was in his spot along the right boards while Fox was at the top with Kreider in front. Strome had the best chance, but his low shot was padded away by Halak, who did a good job keeping it close.
The only difference from the opening period was the Bruins’ eagerness to pick up the physical play. Might that have had anything to do with Lemieux? Boston loves to muck it up in the corners and turn it into a dogfight. The Rangers never backed down. They kept attacking at five-on-five where they did a better job. There were no odd-man rushes on Kinkaid. The best chance came with Fox off for hooking (really Lemieux’s penalty). They finally were able to work the puck across for a Marchand one-timer that Kinkaid got across on and stopped. That’s the save they haven’t gotten from Georgiev, who likely will have the next game off too.
Outside of the Marchand opportunity, Boston could establish very little. They were outshot 11-5, meaning the Blueshirts led in shots 22 to 11 after two periods of play. Had their been fans, they would’ve been booed off the ice. That’s how futile they looked. Boston skated without Jake DeBrusk, who after finally ending a long goal drought, was out due to COVID Protocol. They don’t have a great offense to begin with and have relied on David Krejci and the annoyingly effective Nick Ritchie. I’ll get into that guy more later.
At the start of the third period, Marchand suckered Lindgren into a holding minor nine seconds in by skating underneath him along the boards. Lindgren inadvertently took him down for the easy call. It is what makes The Rat so effective. He knew his team had nothing and drew one to see if they could get back in it. But a disciplined Rangers penalty kill wouldn’t allow it. When Kinkaid wasn’t called upon for saves, the four skaters did a masterful job of pressuring the Boston five man unit. In particular, Miller made some superb plays while teamed with Trouba. He’d been struggling of late. This game was an indication of what kind of player he can be. That’s why I believe he has a high ceiling. He’s still learning.
The Boston frustration boiled over when even Bergeron was whistled for an offensive zone interference minor. He set an illegal pick on Zibanejad, who was at his best in this game. Even though he didn’t finish, he set up a pair of goals and his line was on for three goals for. They each were plus-three and impacted the game. Zibanejad also nearly went .500 on draws (13-and-14).
As for the newly minted Kids Line, Kaapo Kakko had the best chance. But his good wrist shot was foiled by Halak, who made 29 saves in a losing effort. He sure was frustrated by the end of it, slamming his goal stick after the Rangers’ fourth goal from Buchnevich. The thing with Kakko is this. He’s played in 85 career games and scored only 12 goals. As much as I like the improvements in his overall game, the former 20l9 second pick has to start finishing. He’s only 20 and I get that it takes time. But Kakko was selected to score goals. If he can’t, then it’ll be a colossal disappointment. Jack Hughes isn’t lighting the world on fire yet either. But he’s shown why he went first and has that extra gear. He also has more pressure.
After failing to capitalize on a power play, Strome finally got his 10th. On a great second effort from Panarin, he found an isolated Strome across the ice for a nice one-timer past Halak at 8:03. Blackwell made it possible with some hustle at the end of his shift to get the puck to the Bread Man. He has such great vision that it was an easy pass for his first point since returning. He looks like the same dynamic player. Despite missing nine games, Panarin did what he does best. Create time and space while finding open teammates. The ultimate team player.
Marchand slashed Miller for another penalty with 7:30 remaining. It was one of those penalties he’ll take when the game isn’t winnable. He isn’t as dirty. But he’ll take liberties with players. That included Hughes in a loss to the Devils a while ago. I would say he’s very sneaky. But this also is one of the game’s best players. The unique combination of skill, grit and speed he combines with his physicality makes him a royal pain in the ass. He’s the kind of player you love if he’s on your side. But hate if he isn’t. No wonder I’m a fan. He doesn’t get enough credit for how great a player he truly is.
With the game all but decided and Sam and Joe yucking it up, they didn’t even realize Buchnevich scored on a quick snapshot from Kreider with 3:48 left. What’s the point of them calling the action if they’re so easily distracted? It’s pretty sad to hear Rosen like this near the conclusion of a brilliant Hall of Fame career. I blame MSG for turning the telecast into a three-ring circus. It’s so ridiculous that it makes me long for the lunacy of the Bruins called by blatant homer Jack Edwards. Micheletti doesn’t help either. This is what Dolan created.
Buchnevich continues to pile up points. With two more, he’s up to a team-leading 22. I still don’t know what they should do with him this summer. With Vitaly Kravtsov arriving soon and it being so crowded at the wing with them expecting more out of Lafreniere and Kakko, Buchnevich might become a cap casualty. If you can use him in a trade for a center, don’t think twice. We’ll have to wait and see how things play out.
Finally, I want to call out Ritchie for his cheap shot on Kakko. Hitting an opponent is one thing. But doing it from behind is another. This guy is my number one target when the teams meet up for the final two times. I’m sick and tired of his act. All he does is run around and take shots at our guys. I know it’s not only the Rangers. I really would love to see either Trouba or Lindgren knock him out.
Oh well. That’s going to do it for this game review. It was a lot of fun to do. Hopefully, they can follow the victory up with one on Monday versus the struggling Flyers.
THREE STARS OF GAME
3rd 🌟 Keith Kinkaid, NYR (18 saves for 1st shutout as a NYR)
2nd 🌟 Jacob Trouba, NYR (assist, +2 in 23:24)
1st 🌟 K’Andre Miller, NYR (2nd goal of season, +2 in 23:36)