The Tampa Bay Lightning, now 8-1-1 in their last 10, absolutely ran over the New York Rangers on Monday night with an impressive display of speed and skill. That team has a ton of weapons. I won't belabor the point, but former Ranger Anton Stralman made his presence felt all game with his slick zone exits and surgical stretch passing. And they don't even have the services of world-beating defenseman Victor Hedman right now.
The clear gameplan for the Lightning? Close the gap on flat-footed and ill-prepared defensemen through neutral ice, enter the zone with speed and score off the rush. They made the Rangers' beleaguered D look like pylons all night, and the forwards were either too deep in the offensive zone to congest passing lanes, or not backchecking like a team aware of its glaring Achilles Heel.
If the Lightning gained the zone and established sustained pressure, the Rangers were chasing and puck watching all night, leaving Henrik Lundqvist all alone under pressure around his net. Never was it more apparent than on former Ranger Ryan Callahan's two goals, both created by the individual effort of one Steven Stamkos.
The final result? A 5-1 drubbing that saw the Rangers never really sustain much offense (kid line was in the positive in the shot attempt battle!) in a listless effort. Nikita Kucherov (7 goals and 14 points in his last 12 games), Stamkos and Alex Killorn also potted goals for the Lightning. Martin St. Louis had a PP goal against his former team. The Rangers simply got outclassed. [Blueshirt Banter] [Raw Charge] [NY Daily News] [New York Times] [NJ.com] [NY Post] [Rangers Unlimited] [LoHud]
One thing the Rangers did do right is warmly welcome back Callahan, Stralman, and Brian Boyle. There were a few boos in the first, but Tampa made Cally and Boyle assistant captains for the night and all three started on a line together for the first shift. A classy intermission video tribute netted warm applause for three guys that were integral to the Rangers last season, and had many memorable moments in Rangers Blue over the years. [NY Post] [Northjersey.com] [Times Herald] [TampaBay.com]
Playing at MSG again was exciting and bittersweet for the former mates, especially Callahan, who moved on before the Cup run. [NY Post]
The Lightning now boast a league-leading 5v5 GF/60 and 7th best score-adjusted Corsi in the NHL at 53.6%. They sit at second place in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers just try to move on. But Vigneault has a right to be furious about the effort and should expect better than this. [CBS New York]
The Rangers decided not to sign veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle, 36 years old and out of the NHL since 2012-13 (Montreal), after his two game PTO in Hartford. It is worth clarifying that the Rangers did offer an additional PTO stint, and it appears the Kaberle camp declined. So be it. [Newsday] [Pro Hockey Talk - NBCSports]
It was Hockey Hall of Fame Night. A nice Pat Burns tribute and a deserving crop of Hall of Famers, including the greatest goaltender of all-time, the Dominator, Dominik Hasek. Yep...I said it. And I mean it. [NHL.com] [SI] [Globe and Mail] [New York Times] [LA Times] [Buffalo News] [Yahoo Sports]
Who should be in the 2015 HOF class? Is former Ranger Eric Lindros a HOFer? [Pro Hockey Talk - NBCSports]