Rangers Vs. Oilers: Well, That Was Pleasant
Notes from the Rangers' win over the Oilers.
- Sometimes games like that are hard to evaluate, mainly because of the level of the other team. But in today's NHL, and especially at this time of year, you need to take advantage of the weaker teams on your schedule. You need to beat up on the smaller guys, if you will. The Rangers didn't against the Flames on Friday. They did on Sunday against the Oilers, against an admittedly weaker team.
- Still, two points are two points. The Rangers jumped back over the Flyers -- who originally leaped over the Rangers thanks to a ridiculous hand pass call and final-second tying goal -- and now lead Philadelphia by two points for second place. Keep in mind the Flyers do have two games in hand. More importantly, however, the Rangers moved six points ahead of Columbus (the Blue Jackets have two games in hand as well). I've said it before (although so has everyone) the important thing is to avoid a wild card spot. Let another team handle Boston and Pittsburgh in the first round.
- I know the streak of games without a goal has hit 14 games now for Martin St. Louis, but I do like to look at the bigger picture with him. I believe Sunday night was one of the first games he's been at or close to full capacity after being hit with the flu, and I thought he looked good. When a player is slumping I always look to see if they're still making things happen. St. Louis did on Sunday. Hit a post (or the goalie's mask, not sure which), had a shot trickle through the pads but not far enough to cross the line, and had another opportunity stopped with a great save. He is, as much of the roster has been at some point this season, remarkably snake bitten. But I promise you when he breaks out, it will be a flood.
- The Rangers' other goal scorer, Rick Nash, had a cool two-goal game, and could have easily had four. He had two breakaway opportunities (got stoned on both of them), scored one goal from behind the net and another shorthanded off a pretty feed from Derek Stepan. Nash might actually score 30 goals this year (he has 25) which would be an amazing feat if you factor in all the games he missed due to the concussion and the 10 games or so when he played and wasn't right. He's scoring at a 35-game pace, if you factor out the injuries. And that stat doesn't factor out those 10 not-the-real-Nash games. So, yeah, he's doing his job.
- I know I'm not defending Stepan for Lent, so all I will say is this: I don't understand why some of you don't appreciate him more. Three assists last night, a career-high 52 points so far and that includes his early season struggles. When i asked that question on Twitter I got some amazing responses. "He's the softest player in the league." "He has no hockey sense." "He will never be a number one center." "He's too slow to be effective in this league." "He's a terrible decision maker." And my personal favorite, "Only playoff goals matter." I don't even have a joke for those. They're the joke.
- I know it was a fluky goal, but Derick Brassard continues to contribute. I thought he was active in all three zones, scored his career-high 18th goal and is making things happen. He has 42 points so far, and could crack 50 points with a monster finish. For his struggles out of the gate, that's a Hell of a home stretch.
- Mats Zuccarello had two goals and an assist. The Rangers need him to be him, especially with St. Louis struggling, and he has been. Sure, these were his first two goals in 18 games, but he still makes things happen. And, as I argue with Stepan all the time, assists count, too.
- And, of course, throw your hat in the air for Cam Talbot, who once again shut down another offensively skilled opposing team. He's a nice weapon to have on the bench. He's played in 20 games this year so far, with a few long stretches between starts, and still plays like he's been starting every game. He earns his third shut out of the year, his 12th win and another game to lower his already dramatically low GAA. I really do wonder if the Rangers will trade him over the offseason to a team desperate for a goalie who is willing to pay a lot. But he's also very valuable on the bench. Food for thought.
- I will touch on this topic. I didn't hate the move to put Dan Carcillo on the top line. He only ended up playing 10 minutes, but I understand the thought. Alain Vigneault re-united the third line, didn't want to mess with the fourth line and put St. Louis back on the win with Brad Richards. And, to be honest, while J.T. Miller does create far more offense than Carcillo does, from a defensive standpoint, Carcillo is more suited for the role he played Sunday. And against the Oilers, offense shouldn't be an issue. So, not a horrible move in my opinion.
- Tuesday is John Tortorella time again. Be ready.