- There are a few built-in excuses for how a team can go from a dominant performance against one of the best teams in the league to a miserable performance against one of the worst. Back to backs, Rangers got in late last night, groggy from the international flight, etc. But that first period should be all you need to see to know this team has some major flaws still.
- For as good as the Rangers were against Chicago on Thursday, they werevthat bad against Toronto. I don't even want to give you the numbers, that's how poor of a showing it was. Yes the Rangers found a way to win -- and I'm sure that's a narrative that's going to be thrown around quite a bit today -- but against a team as bad as the Maple Leafs you might "accidentally" find a way to win more often than "willing yourself to."
- And all those figures should tell you is how incredible Antti Raanta was. Just superb from the drop of the puck (well, outside of one being kicked in that was ruled to have not been kicked in, but I digress). I joked that I didn't realize Henrik Lundqvist changed his number to 32, that's how good Raanta was.
- Although I will say: J.T. Miller (and there's going to be a few notes about him in a row so be ready) relentlessly hounding the puck after the Rangers blew the lead was an incredible thing to see. And the pass he mad to Mats Zuccarello (and then the pass HE made to Derek Stepan) for the game winner was a thing of beauty. None of that happens without Miller's forecheck, though, and what a play it was to use his body to separate the puck and grab control.
- Miller finished the game with three assists (the first time in his career he's had a three-point night). Every single one of them was spectacular. The pass to allow Stepan to break in on the Zuccarello goal was a thing of beauty. So was his play on the game-winning goal. I mean, honestly, look at this:
Real American Hero J.T. Miller creates the go-ahead goal for the Rangers pic.twitter.com/sLqRb370c8— Ryan Ohanesian (@ryanohan) February 19, 2016
You can't teach that kind of skill. On the podcast -- you're listening to that, right? -- I told Mike I thought Miller was a "much more skilled Ryan Callahan." All the hustle and the grit of Callahan with skill to go with it. It makes him so dangerous.
- The fact he's blossoming before our eyes is an amazing thing, too. Mike said this on the podcast as well: With Miller you don't fee like he's playing above himself, you watch him and you think this is what he can and should be. That's a pretty big difference from a guy who will regress down to earth eventually.
- Final Miller note: He's becoming more and more expensive by the day. I doubt Jeff Gorton changes the Rangers bridge deal policy -- although Miller sort of doesn't fit the mold since he signed his qualifier -- but I wonder if the Rangers won't take a risk with him and try to lock him up long term this summer. He's just 22, he's only going to get better.
- Zuccarello and Derick Brassard (who has a career high in goals at this point) were both fighting over who would score in the empty net. Both were fighting to try and NOT score, mind you.
- The hit to the head on Ryan McDonagh -- just senseless and disgusting -- is going to be a big sticking point from this game forward. Rangers fan across the world are holding their breath that McDonagh was held out because of precautionary reasons and not because he got his second concussion in two weeks. I don't want to speculate on this because head injuries are so hard to pin down and every one is different, but two concussions in as many weeks has to be a significant setback for the brain. And if the Rangers have to shut him down the rest of the year to make sure he's fully healthy then they need to do it.
- That hit is also why I get no annoyed at this whole: You need enforcers to make sure that doesn't happen. Tanner Glass was on the ice both games McDonagh took a cheap shot. No deterrence whatsoever. And it's not his fault, either, because enforcers don't deter anything. Ever.
- With McDonagh out of the game after the first (he played just six minutes) Vigneault danced back to his Dan Girardi - Marc Staal top pair. Staal was particularly horrid last night, and when you couple that with Kevin Klein having one of his worst games in two months it's a bad situation. Girardi and Staal both played over 25 minutes, Klein and Keith Yandle (who had yet another power play assist, who knew) came in at 21. The penalty Yandle took in the third was nasty though, he needs to cut that out.