Call it a Great 8, a Skate for 8 or whatever clever pun you can come up with, but whatever you want to call it, it’s an 8 game win streak for the New York Rangers. The Rangers are playing their best hockey of the season and winning games in a variety of ways. During this streak, they have blown out teams, won shootouts, played strong defensive games, got the powerplay going and getting production from all different players. More impressively, the Rangers have shook up their lines. Despite the different game flows, the end result has been the same – 2 points and a W.
Derek Stepan was tonight’s hero, recording his third hat trick of his career, and his first this season. This hat trick came after Rick Nash’s hat trick, handed to him by statisticians & the NHL, after the final result in the Washington game on Tuesday night. This marked the first time since 1994, a magical year for the Rangers, that the Blueshirts tallied back-to-back hat tricks.
For the cross-river rivals, the NJ Devils, they are in a complete disarray. Following the firing of coach Peter Deboer, the day after Christmas, the Devils decided to employ a three-man coaching staff, made up GM Lou Lamoriello, Adam Oates & Scott Stevens. Despite the change, the Devils were defeated 3-1. The Devils are a team of transition. After many straight years of being a Cup Contender, and having a constant performer in Martin Brodeur, the Devils are in the bottom of the standings and Marty is now gone. It’s similar to the Yankees, a team that was built for deep playoff runs, and with Jeter as their anchor. The times have changed and the Devils have to find a way to evolve.
Goaltending has always been a hot topic on this site. King Contract, Henrik Lundqvist, played one of his better games of the year, making 19/20 saves. Makes you wonder if Cam Talbot would’ve got the Rangers the shut-out, and not make you sweat out the third period until Stepan’s Empty Net goal, but that has been Hank this season. Nothing is ever easy. I do question Hank playing so much as of late, as the Rangers should be a playoff team and you have to hope that Hank is ready to win 16 more games once the regular season is over.
For King Contract, his .950 save percentage was welcoming and kept the Rangers alive. The Rangers were stoned by Devils goalie Corey Schneider, missing on several chances. The Devils mustered up several attacks, with Hank turning back shots every which way. You would like to see Hank make the save on Steve Bernier’s goal, because you could see it coming a mile away. Ranger fans have every right to be excited about an 8 game win streak, but a lot of W’s have came across bottom of the standings teams. Let’s see Hank do this against Tampa. The Rangers won’t have the luxury of facing the Devils, Oilers or Hurricanes in the playoffs. It’s just great to see them beat the teams they should beat.
The Rangers are still making up ground due to Hank’s terrible performance in the first 33% of the season. The Islanders and Pittsburgh still remain above the Rangers, but with both teams losing on Saturday night, the Rangers continued to move steadily ahead. The Rangers will see a lot of the Islanders in January, and those will be even more heated games than usual. It is pertinent for the Rangers to get home ice advantage in the playoffs. You can argue that’s what saved them in the first round against the Flyers last year.
Two faces missing for the Rangers during Saturday’s win were JT Miller & Matt Hunwick. Both were scratched in favor of Lee Stempniak & John Moore. There’s only so many people that can play, but I felt Miller & Hunwick have played great during this recent win streak. Moore is the odd man out to me, but with Marc Staal possibly being trade bait, he needs ice time as well. Hunwick as made Moore easily replaceable. Stempniak was coming back from the mumps, but has been a healthy scratch before.
For Miller, I can see Stempniak and Fast taking ice time away from him. Anthony Duclair is playing great in the World Juniors, and the Rangers do not want to cut him, as he won’t be eligible for the team for the rest of the season, if he’s cut. I don’t see the value in Tanner Glass, in the same way coach AV does. However, it seems that Miller/Fast/Duclair/Stempniak will see their playing time affected the most.
Martin St. Louis kept up his strong play, having a goal possibly taken away from him, due to Stepan’s deflection. MSL would get another assist as well. The trade for MSL was one of the best Sather ever made, despite giving up draft picks he may have not had to sacrifice.
Being in the building, this was one of the least heated Rangers/Devils game I’ve ever been to. Ticket prices were astronomical on the secondary market, due to it being a rival game, a Saturday night, tourists in town and kids home from college. I didn’t see as many Devils jerseys as I usually do, perhaps because they suck this year and their fans didn’t think spending $200 on shit seats was worth it.
I’ve written about this before, and you can go to http://doisports.blogspot.com/2014/10/will-nhl-lose-young-generation-in-ny.html for that column, but the Rangers have priced real fans out of MSG. If one of my good friends didn’t have season tickets, that he gives to me for face value, I wouldn’t be able to attend as many games as I do. It’s just ridiculous what the Rangers charge, but the fans pay it so the Rangers will charge it. I really feel that the Rangers, despite all the charity work they do, are pricing out the younger generation from attending games. Despite an 8 game win streak, Hank playing one of his best games this season, a hat trick, and being a playoff team, MSG is as quiet as its ever been.
In previous columns, I have discussed how much the new MSG layout is horrible. It’s great if you have bridge seats, but if you’re on that main 200s-400s level, it is miserable going to point A to point B. You’re squished in, the bathroom lines are 20 minutes long, the beer lines are 20 minutes long, and forget it if you want to get your kids something to eat. If you go to the Rock in NJ, there are bathrooms at every section, spacious rotundas and merch/food stands everywhere. The Garden is way too cramped. Even the seating in the main 200/400 level is all out of wack, with some rows only being one way in, one way out and no bathrooms at the top of the 200s. Who designed this, Mike Milbury?
Perhaps the building is so quiet not only because real fans are priced out, but the fans that can afford to go, have to run to the bathroom and concessions with 3 minutes left in a period to beat the rush and being trampled over. I’m surprised this isn’t a fire hazard.
Couple of quick thoughts:
Thanks for not selling our tickets Jeff! My friend could’ve made a pretty penny on these tickets. However we are diehards and want to be there. We saw history, with Lundqvist’s 325th win in his 600th game and Stepan’s hat trick.
– It was great talking to another fellow Cam Talbot nutjob like myself while smoking a cigarette in the staircase! ICWT!
– I think the Rangers expected more production out of Dan Boyle this year.
– Kevin Klein continues to be the Norris winner of the Rangers. He made a huge hit, denied his man the puck several times and made several clears.
– AV continues to mix-match. This is a coach who really knows his team and has trust in his decision making.
– Hayes could become the face of this team one day, but he needs to work on faceoffs.
– Rick Nash better be a first line All Star this year.
The Rangers, already on a 8 game win streak, can really make some magic here. The Rangers go for NEIN NEIN NEIN against the second to last place Dallas Stars on Monday night. The Rangers then take on the Panthers, in a game where the Rangers will finish off the year on the road, but with many Ranger fans present. The Rangers then return home for a match-up against the last place Buffalo Sabres, before embarking on their biggest test of the season – a three game west coast trip against the Ducks, Kings & Sharks, before returning home for a game with the Islanders. Of course, each game is bigger than the last, but that west coast trip & the game with the Islanders, will be the biggest test for the Rangers this season. The Rangers have gobbled up points against the teams they should be beating. The true litmus test will be that four pack. Let’s hope the Rangers are on a 11 game win streak by the time they take that 6 hour flight to Hollywood.
Ranger fans like myself have a lot to be excited about these last three weeks. I don’t want to put the horse in front of the cart just yet. However, you got to like what you’re seeing, especially after the way the season started. It’s hard to compare last years team to this squad with the roster changes and the fact that the Rangers started the first 9 games on the road, but you have to expect the Rangers to be in the thick of the Stanley Cup playoffs come April.
Beating the Devils is always a good win for the club and I was happy after seeing Hank give me so many 4 and 5 GAA shit shows this season, in person, to see him win a gritty game like this. All my Talbot talk aside, Hank needs to be ready to go come April.
I’ll be back Monday night after the Rangers head to Dallas. Being a devout Giants fan, let me be the first to say – FUCK DALLAS!
Let’s Go Rangers!
@NYCTHEMIC on the twitter!