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Rangers Vs. Devils: Riding The Hot Hand

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NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
  • We might as well get the actual 800-pound gorilla in the room out of the way. I have some thoughts (shocking, I know) about the current goalie situation and it's not fair to throw them into this recap about the game itself. So there's a longer story coming -- either this afternoon or tomorrow -- with my thoughts on everything.
  • Now, Annti Ranta played pretty well, as he did in Chicago. The Rangers have been noticeably more disciplined in their defensive play under Raanta than they have with Henrik Lundqvist. Raanta's past three starts have seen him make 19, 24 and 19 saves respectively. Against Chicago he needed to do some brilliant work to keep things scoreless. Against the lowly Devils? Not so much.
  • Not to take away from him, mind you. Raanta played very well in the first period that could have seen things go in a different direction. Credit where it's due, he's been really good.
  • Final goalie note: So what happens now? You'd have to assume that under the umbrella Alain Vigneault has opened when it comes to the goalies Raanta is going to start since he's the hot hand. That would signify the first time since Lundqvist became the official starter where he didn't miss four games in a row while healthy. I'm curious to see how Vigneault handles this.
  • As I alluded to above, the Rangers have played much better around Raanta than they have when Lundqvist is between the pipes. I will buy that some of the increased possession numbers is because Raanta is a vastly more skilled puck mover, but that's too simple of an answer for all of it. It's Vigneault's job to figure out why the Rangers play differently under one goalie than the other. My guess is it's mental -- the Rangers think they can ease back with Lundqvist in because he's been erasing their mistakes for a decade.
  • You do have to be encouraged by the work the Rangers are putting together these past few games. Four games in a row with positive possession (3-1 in those games), and doing it without Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich. That's not a small feat, although three of those teams (Islanders, Jets and Devils) aren't exactly enormous threats.
  • A huge Blueshirt Banter stick salute to Brady Skjei for scoring his first NHL goal. Sadly this moment made me feel, well, sad, because if he didn't score by the next podcast Beth agrees to lick a Ranger. Now, obviously, she doesn't have to -- so at least take solace that if you do donate to the Patreon that it will go to us and not Beth's bail.
  • Skjei is getting more confident too, which is a really good thing. He's joining the rush more -- a big part of what makes him so enticing as a defenseman -- and adding offense to boot. He's still working through some issues in his own end but considering what else is on the block there ...
  • Between Skjei and Brandon Pirri I don't know which was more relieved to score a goal. Pirri was going on 13 games until he slammed home his power play marker to maker to make things 4-0. I'll assume he's a dedicated listener to Bantering The Blueshirts because last week I told him he needed to shoot more and this week he was quoted as saying he ... needed to shoot more. I'd say it's too much of a coincidence to be anything other than his undying love for us.
  • Final podcast mention: Mike asked us as the end of last week's show what we're all positive for recently. Mike said Marc Staal's improvement and goals. Beth said Chris Kreider' scoring and getting going again and I said the same thing only about Jimmy Vesey. So what happened? Both Kreider and Vesey score. Boom goes the dynamite.
  • Kreider, specifically, has had a pretty monster last six games. Four goals and three assists, including opening the scoring against the Devils. He's look a lot more like October Kreider of late. Maybe he was hurting when he came back.
  • Throw Vesey in here, too. The Rangers desperately needed goal scoring with some key players out, and Vesey and Kreider can help a lot if they get kicking at the same time. Vesey had an eight-game stretch where he didn't score but has since found the twine with relative consistency.
  • J.T. Miller scored a much-needed shorthanded goal to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead aaaaaannnnndddddd then blocked a shot and hurt his hand. Can he play in bubble wrap? I think he should have to play in bubble wrap.
  • Mats Zuccarello has absurd vision. That pass he made to Kreider for the opening goal was silly, and the amount of work he had to do to get him the puck was even sillier.
  • As much as I don't like him on the power play, Nick Holden's little explosion of offense has been a wonderful surprise. A lot of people were calling for him to be benched in favor of Adam Clendening early this year. I know this because I was one of them -- although to be fair, my first selection was Dan Girardi which I assumed would never happen. Since then he's turned into a solid bottom rotational guy. Putting him on the first pairing wasn't good for anyone, but with a lesser role he's done some nice things.