- I keep trying to think about why the Rangers have been so successful to start the year, at least in terms of reality vs. expectation. Sure, the Rangers should have beaten Ottawa because their defense is somehow as bad as their offense can be good, but the Rangers have beaten a slew of quality teams this year in ways that had nothing to do with luck. Some of it has to do with Henrik Lundqvist, but a lot of it has to do with guys like Anthony DeAngelo, Brett Howden, Neal Pionk (from the offensive side of the puck), and Fredrick Claesson taking on bigger and perhaps more unexpected roles.
- But really, it’s a bunch of things, and a lot of them were on display last night. Chris Kreider has been an animal all year, scoring his team-leading 13th goal of the season in which he’s amassed 21 points in 25 games — on pace for a career year in both categories. Kreider’s been engaged in the long-wing stretch game a lot — where he was lethal under AV — but he’s also getting involved a lot more around the net as well — where he was sometimes utilized under AV. His game-winner Monday night came off a brilliant wait-and-feed from Filip Chytil, who has six points in his last eight games.
- Kevin Hayes has also been a part of it, and is making the upcoming decision for Jeff Gorton much harder — as Tom pointed out in this fantastic article. After a slow start to the year, his assist Monday night gives him 17 points through the first 25 games, and his play with the puck has been everything we expected once he got out of the two-way center role he was forced into.
- To the game directly, I thought it was another very good showing from Vladislav Namestnikov, who has really come alive since being given a bigger role in this offense. He took a shoulder to the chin with 10 seconds left in the game and (my speculation) looks like he’s going to miss a game or two. That’s a problem for the Rangers, which is an enormous compliment to Namestnikov considering where he was six weeks ago.
- Ryan Strome has brought a lot to the table since coming to the Rangers, mainly in the possession game. I knew there were risks to Ryan Spooner’s game when the Rangers inked him to the two-year extension, but Spooner’s net negative was bigger than I even thought it was going to be. Since coming to the Rangers, Strome has added three points in six games, but it’s been more about his ability to get into the zone and work the puck without losing it that has made the difference. I also think the points are going to start coming once he figures out this offense a bit.
- For his return from the press box, I liked that game a lot from DeAngelo. It’s funny, DeAngelo moves the puck so much better than Pionk with the man advantage, the entire unit flows better, and I think the group is more dangerous, but Pionk has been far more prolific at putting up offense on the power play than DeAngelo has. At 5v5, however, DeAngelo has been far and away the better player, on all sides of the ice, and it’s not even close.
- Not sure how Claesson — who has been the team’s best defenseman — sat last night. Based on ice time I think Brendan Smith will be getting the cut Thursday for Claesson’s return.
- The kids line of Tim Gettinger, Lias Andersson, and Steven Fogarty saw a combined total of about 17 minutes. They haven’t earned the bank yet, I guess, but when they came out in spots I didn’t think they were bad. Andersson had the puck bounce off him after a Strome shot for his first goal of the year. Doesn’t matter how they come, just that they come.
- For as good as the Rangers were at times in the game, I think David Quinn needs to realize that his defense probably isn’t good enough to put the landing gear down and shell late with a lead. Once Ottawa pulled the goalie they victimized the Rangers’ defense, scored one, and held the puck like a 5-on-3 with little pressure. Yes, Ottawa’s big guns are very, very good, but some of that falls on the Rangers not being prepared for that type of strategy, too.