Game 75: NYR 3 LA 0, Girardi's return helps team near playoff spot
March 26, 2017, 8:40 AM ET [46 Comments]
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The Rangers song for the year should be a remake of Home on the Range, where the Range is the Road. Because that's where the Blueshirts seem to be the most comfortable. Not the best of a games, but a solid one overall in earning a 3-0 win over the Kings on Saturday.
With almost everyone healthy, AV shifted up the lines, restoring some of the pairings and combinations that made the most sense. The third line needed to get reunited while moving Jimmy Vesey or Pavel Buchnevich made the most sense with Jesper Fast sliding to the third line. You knew Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi would be back together. A bit surprised on Marc Staal and Nick Holden, seeing how they struggled the last month of so before getting broken up.
New York controlled play part of the first period but were unable to breakthrough. Antti Raanta came up big, stoning a breakaway from Jonny Brodzinski, and shortly thereafter, New York broke through. Great work by Zucc to earn the puck, winning a 1:1 battle to get the puck and then after getting back, sending it to Brendan Smith, whose shot went wide and hard off the boards. Derek Stepan beat Brayden McNabb, getting inside position, enabling to put the puck in the net. For all the hate Stepan gets, at times partially deserved, with his point last night, he became the fourth of the past 25 years to have five, 50-point campaigns. Per the NY Rangers PR department,
Over the last 25 seasons, the only Rangers who have posted more 50-point seasons than Stepan are Leetch (8), Messier (7), and Graves (6).
The Kings really carried play after that but Raanta continued to come up big when needed. In addition, many of the shots came from bad angles of to the outside, but LA killed New York in the Corsi battle, just not on the scoreboard. It was 1-0 going into the third, when the suddenly revised power play struck again.
Reckless stick work by Andy Andreoff on Buchnevich, which fortunately didn't cause major damage, gave the Rangers a four-minute power play. The didn't need much of it to score. A rare faceoff win, this one by Zib, resulted in the puck going back to Zucc, who fed McDonagh at the point. His shot looked to be tipped by Zib on the way to the net, and aided by Kreider's screen, beat Jonathan Quick. Then it was parade to the box by New York and up to the penalty kill to save the day.
Rick Nash's weak holding call on Tanner Pearson negated part of the last two minutes of the PP and gave LA a short one. Then Kreider took the first of his three penalties in the period, a hold on Paul LaDue, but New York killed. Just under four minutes later, he got a goalie interference call after getting pushed into Quick but Derek Forbort received a roughing call. Just 33 seconds after coming on the ice, Kreider hooked Drew Doughty as he skated from left to right across the offensive blueline. Coach Darryl Sutter pulled Quick to get a 6-on-4 but Michael Grabner missed an empty net, continuing his evening of futility, before Nash scored into an empty net with just over a minute remaining.
A few quick thoughts:
- AV summed up the game perfectly on his post-game comments: "there were some areas of our game that I liked and some areas where we need to be better. We knew that type of game, heavy forechecking and puck possession game that they play. In the first half of the game we did alright and in the second half it slipped a bit but that was when our goalie came in and our PP got us a timely goal."
- Grabner can't hit the ocean falling off a boat. I believe three breakaways, two of which he missed the net. Then, he also couldn't score on an empty net, though that came from 150 feet away. His speed still creates chances but he has reverted to the Toronto Grabner and not one we saw earlier in the year.
- McDonagh had an never game, as defensively he was out of position a bunch. It's been a bad pattern of his lately and one that has to get cleaned up.
- Girardi was his usual warrior self. He and McDonagh were toasted on puck possession but when he needed to be big defensively, he was. That was the case on the penalty kill, when he gave up his body several times - as per usual - to block shots.
- The penalty kill. Partly no coincidence the return of G helped. But I really liked the active stick work and aggression, especially by the forwards, forcing the action. Recently, the team had been too passive, so nice to see some aggressive play.
- Raanta was huge. Whenever needed, he came up with the key save. It's a tremendous comfort factor to know he is ready and able to step up when either Henrik Lundqvist is out or needs a game off. Now, let's see Lundqvist match his play and get the win tonight in Anaheim.
- Road warriors. 28-9-1. Two more games left on this road trip, tonight in Anaheim and Tuesday against a suddenly vulnerable Sharks team. Get both, lock up the playoff spot and then the seventh spot, enabling AV to rest players periodically for a few games.
- I wonder if anyone sits from last night? Offensively, I doubt it, unless Buch has some swelling under his eye after the stick caught him there or whiplash after he was blasted by Nic Dowd following catching the stick to the face . On D, maybe Staal or even G, but I doubt it.