The New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-0 last night. Is this just a hot streak or have the Blueshirts finally righted the ship?
By Chris Wengert
If you would have told me that the New York Rangers would win 3-0 after watching the first five minutes of last night’s game, I would have said you were nuts.
I should have known better though because it is resiliency that is becoming this team’s identity.
Resiliency and perseverance.
But holy turnover Batman. The Rangers were lucky to escape the first five minutes of that game. Marc Staal was only credited with one giveaway on the score sheet, but I counted three turnovers within a two minute span. Just brutal.
Dan Boyle must have felt left out because he started passing up ducks too. I don’t know what it is, but Dan Boyle continues to pass the puck through the slot when he is being pressured. Cross-ice passes on the breakout are a European strategy that can be very effective, but it has never been a Rangers’ strategy.
Dan Boyle throws the puck through the slot as a last ditch effort, and he’s just lucky that opponents haven’t been taking advantage of these mistakes lately.
And Henrik Lundqvist is a big reason why the Penguins were not able to take advantage of these turnovers last night. Did he have to make amazing acrobatic saves? No, but he challenged the shooters, played his angles well, and didn’t give out tasty rebounds.
Hank wasn’t executing on these fundamentals earlier in the season, and it cost the Rangers some games.
But his latest work seems to be paying off because he has been playing a solid and confident game. You can tell when Lundqvist is playing well because his body language is very telling. A confident Hank pops up after whistles and doesn’t shrug his shoulders.
Last night’s shutout was The King’s third of the season.
About 30 seconds before Kevin Hayes scored I posted this tweet:
Hayes continues to look brutally slow…yet no one says boo about him…GIrardi however….#NYR
— Chris (@19Messier94) February 11, 2016
Hayes then scored, and I inserted my foot into my mouth.
However I still stand by my comment. The Hayes goal, while important, was more of a “right place, right time” goal rather than a hard working goal.
There is no question that Hayes is very talented, which he demonstrated with this goal. He has soft, quick hands that are lethal when he finds himself in the middle of the ice.
But that’s just the problem because Hayes still is not going to the dirty areas of the ice in the offensive zone. Will he execute the occasional pretty pass? Sure, and as a result fans will let him off of the hook for some reason. They sure wouldn’t extend that same courtesy to Dan Girardi.
But if the Rangers want to make a playoff run they will need Kevin Hayes to show more effort. Chris Kreider has started to turn this part of his game around and it shows. Hayes should take a page from J.T. Miller‘s book. Miller’s goals haven’t been pretty but rather the result of good positioning and copious amounts of shooting.
It’s definitely not from pretty stick handling.
So how about that sniper Dominic Moore? Did anyone else laugh when Pierre McGuire said “That’s a goal scorer’s goal” after Moore put the Rangers up 2-0?
It was a great goal too, as Moore could have easily broken up the play trying to pass the puck to a streaking Chris Kreider.
Sidney Crybaby Crosby was quiet last night, but not from a lack of trying. Dan Girardi has taken on the role of the Crosby killer for the Rangers. He effectively uses his physicality to take Crosby out of plays.
The Rangers were credited with an impressive 45 hits on Pittsburgh. Those hits slowed the Pens down and limited their chances in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Knowing when and how to use their physicality will be a valuable asset moving forward.
The Rangers looked solid on the penalty kill, which is surprising given their PK performance the past two weeks. So what was different about the PK last night?
Quick movement and a strong presence in the slot helped to negate a few Pittsburgh chances, however if Phil Kessel pulled the trigger on his misfire we may have been singing a different tune.
This coming weekend is huge for the Rangers. The Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers will both be in town.