It wasn’t a Picasso or Renoir. It didn’t have to be. The most important detail from Saturday night’s game is the Rangers got the win. They sure didn’t make it easy.
At the end of the day, they’re two points better in the standings which indicate they’re first in the Metropolitan Division. That’s all that matters. Following a go-ahead goal from rookie defenseman Cam York, who of course scored his first career NHL goal versus the Rangers to keep with tradition, they answered immediately. Filip Chytil’s game-tying goal helped swing the momentum.
Chris Kreider continued his great first half by getting a piece of an Adam Fox shot for his team best 24th with 6:30 remaining to help lead the Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Flyers at Philadelphia. That was enough to close out a tough five-game road trip that included stops at Vegas and the California trio with a 3-2 record. Road Warriors they are. They’re now up to 15-7-2 away from MSG. Impressive considering they’ve only played 15 home games where they’re 10-3-2.
No matter what, this team finds ways to win games. Even on a night they looked tired, the Blueshirts persevered to get the ‘W.’ On a night Gerard Gallant returned behind the bench along with Ryan Reaves and Julien Gauthier, the Blueshirts got it done.
In rallying for a 3-2 win in the final 10 minutes, they moved their record to 25-10-4 for a Metro best 54 points. That’s two more than Carolina, who also won earlier yesterday. They’ve played four less games and remain the favorite to win the division. Their .743 win percentage and 23 regulation wins are good indicators. The Caps, who also won over the Islanders, are third with 51 points in 38 games. They have fewer regulation wins (19).
It’s those three teams competing for the top spot with the Pens lurking behind. Their 2-1 overtime win at San Jose ended a short losing streak to give them 49 points in 37 games. They have 18 wins in regulation. It’s the Rangers, Canes, Caps and Pens that have separated themselves from the pack in the Metro. The rest are on the outside of the playoff picture. Let’s not waste anymore space on them.
It was important to get a win over a bad Flyers team that’s now lost seven in a row. The Rangers don’t want to be the team that loses to them. Even after the dismissal of former coach Alain Vigneault, Philly is struggling mightily under Mike Yeo. They have enough good players capable of playing better. But are still a mess. Look how they lost tonight’s game.
It started off on the right foot for the Rangers. With Claude Giroux off for hooking, the top power play went to work. Artemi Panarin got the puck up for Fox, who quickly moved it across for Zibanejad in his office. His one-timer easily beat Flyers starter Carter Hart at 5:54. The power play goal gave him nine goals over the last 11 games. He’s now up to 14 on the season. That is second behind Kreider. His seven power play goals also rank second behind Kreider. It would be nice to see Zibanejad get voted into his first All-Star Game. I cast two votes for him, Steven Stamkos, Roman Josi and Troy Terry.
Not that I care about the All-Star Game. I’m not too fond of the three-on-three format. It’s too gimmicky and is a cash cow. I get why the players love it. The winner splits the money. Call me old fashioned. I loved the traditional format. Whether it was East versus West or North America vs the World, that was fun. I also enjoyed the Skill Competition more that included the old targets where Ray Bourque used to dominate along with Mark Messier and Jeremy Roenick. Plus who didn’t love the hardest shot? Al Iafrate could absolutely rocket it.
Okay. Enough of the glorified exhibition that’ll take place in Vegas. They already revealed the rosters. Now, there’s a vote in where fans can determine which four players make the cut. There are some good choices including Nazem Kadri. I wonder how much people will be into it. It doesn’t lack excitement. But the jerseys could use a bit more creativity. I preferred the cool colors of the 90’s.
I sure spent a lot of time on the All-Star Game. As for the rest of the first period on Saturday, a Ryan Strome forced pass handcuffed Chytil at the Flyer blue line. Had it been a higher percentage pass, maybe they get something going. Instead, the poor Strome pass lead to a turnover and Flyers goal that tied things up.
After Chytil lost the puck, Scott Laughton started a quick transition up for Travis Konecny, who had Patrik Nemeth scrambling back along with rookie Braden Schneider. His shot rebounded off Igor Shesterkin right to Oskar Lindblom, who was able to steer it in for his fifth at 11:45. It was a quick hitter for the Flyers with Lindblom able to beat Schneider to the loose change.
The game remained tied during the second period. Despite the Rangers controlling play with 12 shots to the Flyers’ seven, they couldn’t get a puck past Hart. He held his team in. The play was mostly at five-on-five. Each side had a power play they couldn’t cash in on. I did notice our one man-advantage where the first unit did zilch. It was the second unit that included even K’Andre Miller and Gauthier that produced a good shot from Jacob Trouba that Hart handled. He also denied a tough Chytil high offering from the slot.
With Hart having stopped 19 of 20 shots while Shesterkin was 12 of 13 through two periods, it was anyone’s game entering the third. To be blunt, it was the best one the Flyers played. They were the aggressor. Capitalizing on sloppy turnovers from our side, they were hemming the Rangers in. Shesterkin came through with some big saves. That’s why he’s one of the best goalies this season.
The way the Rangers mishandled pucks and struggled to defend in their end, it was only a matter of time before the Flyers went ahead. Sure enough, Konecny turned around Reaves and then made Miller look like a statue to force Shesterkin into a tough save. The clear came right to York, who had looked good throughout. He let go of a wrist shot that snuck past Shesterkin through traffic for his first NHL goal with 9:49 left in regulation. The goal was unassisted.
While I was killing both Reaves and Miller for their ineptitude, the Rangers got it right back. It hadn’t been a good game for Strome. However, off a rush he found Panarin wide open at the side of the Flyer net. The patient Panarin centered for a cutting Chytil, who buried his fourth of the season to even the score. The goal came just 37 seconds following York’s goal. It was a momentum-turning goal.
Before that scoring play, it looked like the Flyers would win and spoil the conclusion of the five-game road trip. But Chytil was able to finish to extend his point streak to four straight since being shifted over to right wing. A place he should stay. I suggested it last year. He isn’t a center. Playing the off wing opens it up for him to use his speed and create. He’s also fitting in with Strome and Panarin. A positive.
With momentum back on their side, they would then get the winner. It came less than three minutes later. On a poor defensive sequence from the Flyers, they allowed a Kakko forecheck down low. He wisely got the puck up for a Fox low shot that somehow Kreider redirected past Hart for his 24th at 13:30. He’s been money this season. Especially on deflections. A terrific play by a skilled player, who ranks fourth in goals only trailing Leon Draisaitl (26), Auston Matthews (25) and Alex Ovechkin (25).
There isn’t much else to say. It’s been a remarkable run so far. Kreider has led the way in the scoring department. He has done it by example by putting in the hard work in front. He has played better overall as has been evidenced by his defensive improvement including on the penalty kill where he scored his first shorthanded goal the other night. O Captain! My Captain!
The Rangers still had to close it out. In a third where they were outshot 15-7, Shesterkin made the key stops en route to his second win in a row since returning. He stopped 26 of 28 shots. His teammates did enough to protect the lead late.
There was also this misguided Tweet from well respected former Islanders Stanley Cup champion Butch Goring. I don’t get it. It seems he’s mad and sad over the Rangers’ resurgence.
For someone who’s become a good color analyst on the Islanders telecasts, this seemed out of character. It lacks class. Some might say it’s classic Islanders. A former player no less who was very successful for them after coming over from the Kings to help their dynasty.
Why would he troll our fans? Ranger fans are annoying on their own and sometimes a bit insane. But we are extremely loyal. This doesn’t make sense. All Goring did was troll himself and become the butt of jokes. No wonder he trended on Twitter. Just ridiculous. Not very professional.
Whatever. In closing this post, I’d like to point to the 30 Days Of 30 the Rangers have been airing on MSG. That of course refers to Henrik Lundqvist, whose number 30 jersey will be retired later this month against close friend Mats Zuccarello and the Wild. They also boast former backup Cam Talbot, who Lundqvist had a good relationship with. January 28 will be here soon enough. It’ll be a celebration.
More than that, getting to watch these old games, it’s brought a smile to my face. It makes me recall a different time at The Garden. A better time to be a fan of this Original Six club who’s broken Rangers hearts plenty. But seeing games like a heavyweight match from 2008-09 against the mighty Pens or the Devils from ’13-14, who Lundqvist shutout to pass Ed Giacomin for a franchise record 50th in a 2-0 road win in Newark, has made me appreciate how damn special Henrik was.
We were lucky. The 2000 seventh round pick delivered on the promise former European scout Christian Rockstrom saw. Special is how I’d describe Lundqvist. He loved playing and most of all winning these games. I wish he could’ve beaten Brodeur in 2012. Maybe we’re talking about a Cup. The rivalry between the Rangers and Devils was at its best with the pair of opposite number 30’s in net. There was an unbelievable game where nobody scored at a home game after 65 minutes. It was so well played. Even though the shootout went to Brodeur and the Devils, that was one of the best regular season games I’ve seen.
It was strange seeing Jaromir Jagr in a Devils number 68 jersey. There he was driving the play with his team trailing on a Rick Nash goal that he banked in off Brodeur. Jagr was still a force at his advanced age while Brodeur gave the Devils a shot at the comeback. But a sprawling Lundqvist made 3 big saves including on Jagr before Derek Stepan scored into a vacated net for the 2-0 win.
The reaction from Lundqvist said it all. He celebrated it from his knees. Career shutout 50 to pass Giacomin. For better than a decade, he provided us with some memorable moments. It’s why the name “Hen-rik, Hen-rik!”, will be chanted once again at the end of the month. The greatest Rangers goalie to ever play. This is coming from a Mike Richter fan. Number 35 holds a special place in my heart for ’94 and his virtuoso performance to help USA win the World Cup in ’96.
It’s nice to see Shesterkin grabbing the mantle. The Rangers have been fortunate to boast some great goalies. That can always be discussed. If Igor can ever win a Cup, he’ll be mentioned among the greats. I’m still very much a Hank guy. He is class personified. He has scored a gig with TNT part time as he has with MSG where he’s a perfect fit at breaking down games.
If you haven’t caught some of the games they’ve shown of No. 30, please do so. It sure brings you back.