Notes from the Rangers' win over the Hurricanes.
- I thought in many ways this was one of the best games the New York Rangers have played in a long time. Sure, they still only managed to punch one goal home in regulation, but the offense looked good overall. I know, the boys missed a ton of glorious chances, but those chances didn't exist in the three losses prior to this game. That means the team is creating chances. Baby steps.
- In other ways there were still issues with the way the team played. Another very difficult first period -- why can't the Rangers open games the way they play in the second period -- and some sloppiness in the final minute caused the Rangers to give up the first goal, again. Amazing how a win masks those problems, though.
- Derek Stepan. He had an amazing game. Forget the goal -- which was a result of hard work and getting to the right areas of the ice -- he was everywhere. He was creating plays, working hard in the corners, taking care of his assignment defensively and -- of course -- continuing to be one of the Rangers sole sources of offense.
- Michael Del Zotto, seriously, Michael Del Zotto. Where are the haters, again? One of the best games he has played all year. But don't take that as a sign that he hasn't been playing well, he's been really, really good for a long stretch of games now. Monday's effort was really huge, though.
- One of the best games J.T. Miller has played all year. I know we've talked about how calm he is with the puck, but his shootout winner was all the proof you need if you didn't believe me. He goes in, loses the puck, doesn't give up on the play, wrangles it back in and smoothly finishes for the extra point. A perfect finish to a broken play. Most veterans would have panicked there, but this 20-year-old stood his ground.
- Henrik Lundqvist was great. I tend to look at a goalie's save percentage when the other numbers are a little out of whack. Lundqvist's? 91.2%. That's better than his career average. He hasn't been the problem during this streak at all.
- This is a big confidence win. Don't underestimate how much a team can get down on itself when things aren't going their way. And early on that was evident. When it rains it pours. It seems like that saying is more true in hockey than anything else. Rick Nash misses the net on a clean breakaway, Brian Boyle botches a perfect Del Zotto pass and puts it just wide, Marian Gaborik and Nash can't finish with seconds left. A win like this can help put an end to that. Half the game is mental, after all.
- Speaking of, Gaborik -- back on his favored wing and on the top line -- was OK. Nothing too good, although he did have a few nice chances. I would give him more time up top before I made a decision about trading him. Let him prove that it was just the wing switch -- which has probably played a huge role in his struggles.