For nearly two full periods the New York Rangers weren't playing their style of hockey. They were getting outworked in the corners, they played panicked in the defensive zone and they didn't hit the double-digit marks in shots until the tail end of the second period.
But this Rangers team is talented enough to survive a stretch like that, and put a team home with just 20 minutes of solid play. And while it's not ideal, and the Rangers seriously need to focus on starting off games with a little more jump, it's pretty remarkable what this team can do.
Marian Gaborik scored two goals and added an assist (giving him 601 career points), Artem Anisimov notched a goal and an assist and Derek Stepan gobbled up three assists in a decisive 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Give Henrik Lundqvist (who earned the Broadway Hat) a ton of credit for keeping the Rangers in the game early despite the team's slow start.
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There are other positives to take from the win as well. Michael Del Zotto played an inspired 21 minutes of hockey last night, and defended very well in his own zone. Give Dan Girardi the same props, except he did it for eight more minutes, compiling nearly 30 minutes of ice time once again.
Carl Hagelin scored another shorthanded goal (his second of the season) and isn't just proving he belongs in the NHL, but is proving he deserves more ice time. John Tortorella can't ask for much more from the speedy winger, and the Rangers have been benefiting from his play.
And what about Stu Bickel? The defenseman made his NHL debut last night, and not only picked up an assist on Hagelin's goal but also played a very solid 12 minutes of hockey last night. I'm still not thrilled with Bickle or Tim Erixon's ice time (Erixon only played 10 minutes), since the bottom pair getting less than 15 minutes is forcing guys like Girardi to pick up the slack, but so be it. It's the nature of the beast with all these injuries, and for right now, the other options are limited.
Basically, the Rangers are doing what they have to do to win games. I put games like this to the "last year test," where I try and think about whether or not last year's Rangers would have won this game after the slow start. My honest guess? Probably not.
Last year's team didn't have vintage Gaborik, who is just three goals away from hitting last year's mark of 22. Last year's team didn't have Brad Richards -- who despite no points in the win over the Devils has been a critical part of the Rangers' offense. Last year's team didn't have guys like Stepan and Anisimov filling the secondary scoring roles along with Ryan Callahan.
In the end, the Rangers are winning big games. It's almost expected at this point. And don't all elite teams expect to win every game they play?