Rangers Vs. Blue Jackets: Friendly Turns To Feisty In Rangers Win

Kirk Irwin

Notes from the Rangers win over the Blue Jackets.

- I'm not saying this team is perfect, but this team is so much better than they were in the beginning of the year. Remember when I kept saying "these are not the real New York Rangers" when the team was struggling? And remember how most of you didn't believe in me? Yeah. These aren't exactly the real Rangers yet, either -- Rick Nash is still injured and there are still some bumps and bruises -- but this is much more like what this team really is.

- After a 2-6 start to the year the Rangers are now 8-8. A lot of you didn't think that could happen. As a group, they've figured out some of their problems. They're defending so much better -- and, to be fair, the goaltending has been better too. That's nine straight games with two goals or fewer allowed. The offense is finding it's way, too. In the last four games the Rangers have scored 15 goals. .500 has never felt so good.

- More importantly, the Rangers are finding ways to win games this year, when last year they were finding ways to lose games. The Rangers were gassed in the third period, which made sense. They were coming off an emotional win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, a late flight that got into Columbus after midnight and another emotional contest on Thursday. That third period looked like a lot of the third periods from last year -- where the team was basically clearing the zone as a defensive strategy. Thankfully that hasn't been the norm. And the Rangers got the two points. That wasn't exactly the norm last year, either.

I asked on Twitter last night if I was the only one who didn't have the warm and fuzzies. Look, I appreciate everything Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov did while they were Rangers. I loved all of them. I wish them nothing but success -- until their success impacts the Rangers' success. But they don't wear my sweater anymore, so I don't root for them anymore.

- Is anyone still rooting for Fedor Tyutin after that headshot on Taylor Pyatt?

- Playing against him for the first time, I can see why so many teams hated Dubinsky when he was on the Rangers. he does a lot of the little things you want out of a player like him (think Ryan Callahan but without the same offensive instincts), but there's also extra stuff. Swatting at Cam Talbot when he has the puck, going after J.T. Miller all night because he went after Tyutin after the headshot, the chirping and the scrums. Nothing wrong with it, that's his game, but you can see why guys hate it.

- Gaborik? Kind of invisible last night, no? Give a ton of credit to Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi for shutting him down, but those are the performances we got a lot of last year. He's a dynamic goal scorer, a game changer when he's on, but when he's off it's hard to notice him. Still, I love everything about Gaborik as a player. And if (this will probably never happen) he wanted to come back to New York this summer for the right price, I'd take him in a heartbeat.

- OK, enough about the enemy. McDonagh has been so good this year in his own zone it's easy to forget how much he's contributed offensively. He scored a goal (more on this in a minute) and got an assist on the power play. Most of his assists this year have come from shots at the point on the power play. And his puck movement when he's up there is pretty top notch. He didn't get much power play time under Torts, but offense was a big part of his game in the collegiate ranks, and he's showing that off this year. Four goals and five assists so far.

- That McDonagh goal, something went wrong there. He's too smart of a player to risk an icing in a game like that -- where the other team has all the momentum -- to shoot that puck. But he did, and it went in and in the celebration he was shaking his head head and laughing. I wish he was mic'ed up there. I really do.

- Cam Talbot. What a second option he's been. To not have played for a week and to be that sharp is impressive. He's been spectacular. Good for him. He waited a long time for this moment and he's taking it by the throat.

- Can you say enough about Callahan. That's a great goal (being in front of the net all the time helps there) and he added an assist too. What a game from him.

- Another great game from Carl Hagelin, who scored a goal and was gifted another. He was all over the ice, and was a big factor in getting the Rangers out of their little defensive shell in the third. He's been so good since he came back.

- Another fantastic game from Chris Kreider. He played 20 minutes, didn't find the scoresheet but you notice him every time he's on the ice. Every time. He makes things happen, he's forechecking, hitting, creating turnovers and his defensive game has improved dramatically. In the second period the Blue Jackets came into the zone on a 3-on-2, with the trailing defenseman (I think it was Tyutin) following the play and sitting wide open. As the pass back to him was made Kreider lunged forward with his stick and popped the puck loose to kill a scoring chance. Little plays like that show how far he's come. What a player. What a player.

- Mats Zuccarello (assist), Derek Stepan (assist) and Brad Richards (assist) all have really solid games, too. I think Derick Brassard also played well. So did John Moore and Derek Dorsett to be honest.

- Thank God for that visor, eh, Marc Staal? Another great game from him.

- I'm not sure J.T. Miller is going to be up here much longer. He got burned (bad) on the Jackets' second goal, and you can see it killed him. He hunched over and slammed his stick on the ice. I love that emotion out of him, but I think he needs a little more seasoning (like Kreider did).

- Rangers don't play again until Sunday, so they have some time to get some rest. They've earned it, and they should be proud of themselves.

Thoughts, guys?

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