Notes from the Rangers' win over the Devils.
- Just like Monday, in a lot of ways, this was the best game the Rangers have played in a long time. It was the second of a back-to-back, going up against a hated rival on the road and the Rangers found a way to grind out a 3-2 win. Those were the types of games the Rangers were winning last year. And that was the way they were winning them. Timely goals, a little grit and some solid defense. This is another nice boost for their confidence.
- And just like Monday again, there were some issues. Sure, the offense scored three goals, but the power play wasn't very good, the Rangers were on their heels for most of the third period and the defense didn't seem to be able to keep the crease clean in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Remember after the loss to the Penguins where I said the Rangers needed to tweak the system? While the Rangers won last night, that third period was scary. Open things up a little more, press a little more and the Devils won't be sitting in your zone most of the period. I'm not saying turn it into a run-and-gun game, but a little more offense would have alleviated the pressure a little.
- Then again, Lundqvist was insane. He stopped pretty much everything. The first goal is one he would love to have back - although the Devils got very lucky the puck fell right onto their stick after two consecutive blocks - and there was nothing he could have done about the second goal, but he made some monster saves that kept this game tied before Rick Nash buried the Devils.
- Speaking of Rick Nash, that was another vintage Nash game. Active all over the ice, making things happen and scoring the game winning goal. He hit the post with an opportunity to put the game away and was creating space and chances all night. When he is humming you can see how dangerous that top line is. You simply can't stop him, he's too big and his hands are too soft, guys just have to try and get the puck away from him, which, of course, they can't.
- That wasn't Michael Del Zotto's best game of the season, but people will say it was because he put up a goal and an assist. He's been that good for a lot of the year, just without the numbers. People killed Del Zotto for at least the first two months of this season. Right now? He's probably one of their most important players. Playing big minutes, getting tough and nasty when he has to be, creating offense and taking care of his own zone.
- Same goes for Derek Stepan. His pass to Del Zotto for the first goal was nice, but him never giving up on the play was even nicer. That's the type of player he is. He makes defensive contributions that I think often get overlooked, and he's been one of the few guys the past few weeks who has been consistently creating offense for the Rangers. He's a big part of this team's success, whether you like it or not. He's second on the team in points, by the way, with 20.
- Good to see Carl Hagelin get a goal and start getting his confidence back. It had been awhile, and the Rangers sure do miss him when they're slumping. His speed creates chances that simply don't exist for many players, and his ability to utilize his speed effectively makes him one of the most dangerous players on the ice. Plus, he falls into that "secondary scoring" category, so it's always nice when he pots one home.
- J.T. Miller played another fantastic game. The confidence this kid oozes is hard to comprehend sometimes. I think Sam said it best last night "that doesn't look like a 20-year-old out there. He went into the corners, was visibly angry at himself for taking the penalty that allowed the Devils to tie the game at two and tried to make things happen. He was also much, much better in the defensive zone. That's been an issue for him all year, and he was good last night. At some point - and it may not be this year - he will start finding some offense. And when he does, watch out.
- Both Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards looked good and then bad in spurts. Gaborik missed the net on a 2-on-1, Richards fired high on a 4-on-2. You have to hit the net on those chances. You know how I always say a win masks a team's problems? Well, if the Devils win that game you look back on those two moments and fans are crushing them both. Instead the Rangers won so no one notices it.
- Quick note to the Devils fans who think Lundqvist dove: You try taking an elbow to the head without knowing it's coming and tell me how you react. Yeah, it was the wrong call. But the Devils got a gift power play right after. And those complaining about the Stepan high stick? A penalty was called on the Rangers not ten seconds later, a play which never would have happened if they whistled Stepan for his penalty. In the end the Rangers took four penalties to the Devils two. Let's not act like the officials cost you the game.