Rangers vs. Flyers: The Hank & Hayes Show
The Blueshirts bounced back from their excruciating loss to Buffalo with a nifty 5-2 win over the Flyers in Philly.
Henrik Lundqvist loves him some Wells Fargo Center. The King made 30 saves, including spectacular shutdowns of Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, declawing the Crab People for another day. He kept the Rangers alive throughout a 1st period in which the team showed a near-religious commitment to entering the Flyers zone without possession (if at all), then backstopped their resurgence in the next two frames.
While Hank was on his game, Kevin Hayes had Steve Mason’s number. In the second period, his 2 on 1 rush ended in a faked backhand pass to Jesper Fast that he then put neatly past Mason.
But it was Kreider’s goal 5 minutes into the third that really seemed to re-ignite the Rangers. After a pass from Derek Stepan, Kreider snuck the puck past a diving Michael Del Zotto and through the five-hole. (This was a relief; the first period left me worried that #20 was going to do that thing he sometimes does after a hot streak, which is swoop around endlessly and ineffectively, like a surly falcon.) Michael Grabner ended his dry spell six minutes later: he caused a turnover that set off a sequence of Hayes to Girardi, Girardi to Miller, then Millzee with a gorgeous pass back to Grabner, who tapped it in.
That was when the murmurs of a Lundqvist shutout started, and basically when they ended, since Jakub Voracek scored on the power play a minute later. But Hayes wasn’t done for the night. He pulled the trigger during another 2 on 1, sending a gorgeous shot past Mason’s shoulder. (Come to think of it, Del Zotto snow angeled for this one, too.) This was answered by a rifle from the right by Voracek, but Grabner’s empty netter sealed the score at 5-2.
Adam Clendening, in for an injured Marc Staal, got off to a rocky start, but seemed to find his footing. While I hope Staal is OK, it would be nice to see Clendo get a few games in a row — it can’t be easy to play your best after weeks on the shelf. Except for sending a Flyer flying straight into Lundqvist, even Girardi had a pretty good night, including a secondary assist and a delicious hit on Simmonds. (As for Klein, lets just say that Hank knocked him down on purpose at one point.) The pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei was a joy to watch; wouldn’t mind seeing that more often, either.
After the game, Pierre McGuire asked Lundqvist, “Are the Rangers a good team?” Lundqvist responded, “That’s a good question.” The team that beat the Flyers tonight was not the same one that lost 4-1 to Buffalo — BUFFALO! — yesterday. But is it a team that can stop (or even slow down) the Blue Jackets on Saturday? I’m not sure. However, as someone pointed out on Twitter, breaking the Blue Jackets streak would be a very Rangers thing to do. It all depends on which version of the team shows up.