Notes From The New York Rangers' Playoff Clinching Win Over The New Jersey Devils

Mar. 19, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Here are just some notes from the New York Rangers' 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

- My word is it sweet to clinch against a division rival. Especially the Devils. Especially after the way the game started. The Garden was rocking all night, the Rangers came out flying and ended up earning a huge win.

- Speaking of the hot start, was this the Rangers' best start of the year? It has to be up there. The intensity was there from the start, the Rangers were quicker to the puck and they simply worked harder. Of course, they had their moments of boneheaded plays and stupid mistakes, but the Rangers closed the door when they needed too.

- I don't know how to categorize Henrik Lundqvist's game Monday night. He made two stunning saves and then let in two stunningly soft goals. Sometimes that's going to happen, and it was good to see the Rangers win a game in which they didn't get phenomenal goaltending.

Join me after the jump for more.

- I though yesterday was a great game from Tim Erixon. Not only did he play three more minutes than his previous start against the Colorado Avalanche (he finished the game against the Devils with 12:29) and looked far more comfortable. Something Erixon does that most rookie defenseman don't do? He shoots the puck from the point for a deflection when there is no shooting lane. He did this twice last night; one of them was deflected just wide, the other Brad Richards deflected on net forcing Martin Brodeur to make a great save. Hopefully we see more of this from him, and maybe this performance earns him some power play time.

- How happy do you think the New York Rangers' brass is with Carl Hagelin right now? He finished yesterday's game with two assists and, once again, used his speed to get to loose pucks and create some chances. I don't think there's a bad thing you can say about his game. He's quick, elusive, has good hands and has a nose for the net despite his size. With his two apples he now has 37 points in 54 games -- which gives him .68 points a game, good enough for a 56-point season pace if he were to play all 82 games -- when do we start at least mentioning him in the Calder race? I'm not saying he should win, but he should at least be talked about.

- Speaking of small players, Mats Zuccarello everyone. A goal in his second straight game, and a game-winning one at that. Twitter blew up when Zuccarello scored, with everyone gushing over his offensive talent. Let me be the first to tell you that his goal had nothing to do with offensive talent. Any play in the NHL (even Mike Rupp) could have scored that goal from that position. However, not every NHL player would have even been in that position to score the goal. Zuccarello has a nose for the net, he knows where the dangerous areas of the ice are and he goes there. That's why that was a great goal, and one you won't see many players score. He played another fantastic game against a big, strong team last night, and is really proving that he should stick with this team into the playoffs.

- Speaking of Rupp, this is why I want him in the lineup during the playoffs. He's not going to give you goals or assists, and he might only play five minutes a game, but having him on the bench in a seven-game series against a division rival would pay off in the long run. There will be a bigger story on this as the playoffs draw closer, for now, just take it for what it's worth (an opinion of mine, you might disagree, and that's fine).

- Also, let's give major props to Derek Stepan. A goal (which clinched the game) and the primary assist on the first goal of the game. After two scoreless games, this was a big showing from Stepan. He's grown a lot this year, and is proving every game why the Rangers have marked him as untouchable. With 10 games remaining this year he already has a career high 31 assists and 47 points. He might hit the 20-goal mark again this year, and he could also hit the 40-assist mark with a monster finish to the year. I think he finishes somewhere in between with 55-58 points.

- Let's also give Brandon Dubinsky a stick salute. Another big game from him. Here is to him keeping it going. Although he did take a really stupid penalty late in the second period.

So there are my notes guys. Thoughts?

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