- After 20 minutes of hockey last night the New York Rangers looked listless, couldn't string two passes together, were getting crushed in possession and found themselves down 2-0. In between periods I tweeted the following:
Injuries to Ziba and Buch aside, this has been about as bad a 20 minutes as the Rangers could have envisioned— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) November 22, 2016
- After the game ended I tweeted this:
This is a big statement game from NYR. After abysmal first 20 they dominated the final 40 games despite being down 2-0. Great showing.— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) November 22, 2016
- So what happened? There's been quite a few games this year where the Rangers have had horrible first periods before going on to dominate the rest of the game (wins over Boston and Edmonton fit this bill); which is exactly what happened in Pittsburgh. The Rangers came out in the second period -- which has been their period this year after all -- and crushed the Penguins. They took control of the possession game, started generating scoring chances, took care of their own end a little more and worked their way into control of the game. By the time the third period came around it was the second night of a back-to-back Rangers who were dominating a Penguins team into submission, not the other way around.
- In the end it turned into a statement win. Spare me the "Penguins weren't fully healthy" nonsense too, since the Rangers are missing two of their best forwards. The Rangers are just as short handed as anyone else in the injury department; even if they have more talent to deal with said injuries. The Rangers were down 2-0, on the road and playing against a very good team. The Rangers got kicked in the mouth in the first 20 minutes and then found themselves again. It was a big deal and should give you confidence about this next paragraph.
- Part of what brought the Rangers to their collective knees last year was an inability to get back into games when their defense inevitably let them down. It was a cycle that went one of two ways. 1) Get an early lead, squander it with bad defense and have no way to dig yourself out of the hole, or 2) give up an early goal with bad defense and have no way to dig yourself out of a hole. This year's team, even injured, has enough quick strike power that they're never truly out of a game. They proved that against the Penguins.
- So the goals the Rangers did end up getting were a little lucky. J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes scored goals they didn’t even know went in to give the Rangers a one-goal and two-goal lead respectively. I’ve been talking a lot about how this post-Canada trip has looked very similar to last year and some might point to last night’s lucky goals as a sign of last year’s luck. This is way different. The Rangers dominated the expected goals, scoring chances and won the possession game. Here’s how I justify those: Jimmy Vesey got stoned on an opportunity that should be a goal nine times out of ten. Miller scores on an opportunity that shouldn’t be a goal nine times out of ten. Sometimes they even out.
- Against Florida the Rangers top pair rode the back of the train. Against Pittsburgh they dominated. Dan Girardi LED the Rangers in possession with a 68% corsi. When was the last time that has happened? Ryan McDonagh was right behind him with a 66% corsi. That duo dominated the Penguins top guys all night.
- With Mika Zibanejad out Brandon Pirri is taking on a bigger role. With a 61% possession game and nearly 16 minutes of ice time I loved what I saw.
- Michael Grabner is tied for THE NHL LEAD IN GOALS WITH 12. I mean, seriously? Who expected this from him. Honest question here: If Grabner scores 30+ goals this year the Rangers — who won’t be able to protect him in the expansion draft — have to trade him, no? And if they go down that road, what can they get for him?
- Josh Jooris -- who I’ve been really impressed with — will get a long look with Zibanejad out, too.
- Hayes is a primary point machine, by the way. Such a lazy player, though. Sad that he’s lazied his way to 18 points in 20 games.
- We’ve talked about this on the podcast a lot, but Nick Holden is slowly become a very solid bottom-group defenseman. Keeping him off the top pairing makes the most sense here.