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Rangers Vs. Devils: Stepan Up At The Right Time

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Chicago Blackhawks v New York Rangers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
  • That was a bizarre game in almost every sense of the word. The Rangers went through spells where they were easily the most dominant team on the ice, and then stretches where they were by far the worst. Overall the possession game was pretty evenly split between both sides, but, uh, it was strange all around.
  • In those moments where the Rangers were on their heels, Henrik Lundqvist saved the day. He was pretty remarkable all night, and was the sole reason the Rangers walked away from this game with any points at all, let alone two. I love when he stares down the crabs.
  • A few players were consistently dominant at forward. J.T. Miller an Kevin Hayes have an on-ice bromance going on that’s turning into something lethal. On a handful of occasions both players were involved in setting the other up for chances. No finishes, but that duo gaining chemistry is a big deal.
  • Throw Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash into this mix, too. On three separate opportunities Nash lowered his shoulder and drove to the net like a monster. He didn’t finish any of those chances, either (noticing a theme?) but it was great to see.
  • Zuccarello in particular was active in all three zones, and he was doing his super annoying “I’m not going to let you do anything” forechecking thing that I love so much. It turned into a turnover, which he then used to eventually feed Kreider with a pretty little pass that finally beat Cory Schneider.
  • Marc Staal and Nick Holden were the defensive standouts. Kevin Klein had his moments. Alain Vigneault seems resigned to using a pure Holden and Ryan McDonagh combo in overtime these days, but as I look up and down the lineup I don’t see anyone (who plays regularly) who should really push either of them out.
  • I have no issues with Brandon Pirri watching from the press box for a few games, but not if the guys replacing him (Marek Hrivik and Matt Puempel) are going to play around seven minutes a night. Hrivik is good in his own zone, so I’m not sure why he needs to sit back even in defensive moments. Also, Jesper Fast -- who was a 27% corsi last night — played the MOST even strength minutes of any forward. I mean, really?
  • And that’s with Jimmy Vesey taking a seat in the third plus overtime. Not sure why a guy who has 10 goals can’t find the ice down late -- even though he got shelled himself.
  • Speaking of: Let’s talk about the Devils’ second goal. So many people placed blame on McDonagh for losing his man rather than Dan Girardi for the turnover. So I want to explain why me blaming Girardi isn’t “cherry picking” but reality.

The play starts here. Girardi has a wide berth from the trailing Devil to get the puck behind the net. McDonagh is the half circle trailing the play and the eventual goal scorer is in red.

McDonagh does trail Miles Wood (red circle) on this play when he eventually scores. I’m not debating that at all. But the above is a normal play. There’s no reach why McDonagh has to assume Girardi is going to turn the puck over here. So when he cheats to get out of the zone, and then he has to rush back to cover Wood, I can’t put blame on him.

  • But, when you keep using Girardi like a top-pairing defenseman these things are going to happen. Vigneault is playing with fire and he got burned, no be it.
  • On the final sequence, the Rangers actually had the right personnel on the ice and things worked out! McDonagh waited for Derek Stepan to open up, gave him a hard pass and Stepan rifled it bar down. It was glorious, and it broke the Devils back.
  • Well, for a few moments. Overtime was exactly what the NHL envisioned when they did 3-on-3 OT. The entire thing was a back and forth insane period of hockey that had everyone on the edge of their seats. It’s something of a gimmick, but my goodness is it exciting.
  • Zuccarello is filthy in the shootout. Actually, all walks of hockey, but also the shootout. What. A. Move.
  • That’s a big win for the Rangers. It’s also a fun win when Lundqvist and Stepan shut down the crabs.