THE NEW YORK RANGERS HOCKEY CLUB
Atlantic Division and
EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPS
Tuesday Night Final:
New York Rangers 5
Philadelphia Flyers 3
RANGERS WIN #51
What the Rangers couldn't do Sunday against the Bruins, they took out on the Flyers Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Needing just one point over the remaining three games to clinch the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference titles, the Rangers powered up against the Flyers with four goals in the first period on their way to cementing their position as the Beast in the East.
And more in the spirit of division rivalries, the Rangers have just completed a season sweep of the Flyers in their series; six games and six victories; to include the great Winter Classic win.
In Tuesday's game, the first three goals of the first period were all delivered by the Rangers secondary scoring corps. Ryan McDonagh, Brian Boyle, and Artem Anisimov spread out their goals over the first eighteen plus minutes. When the second season starts, the Rangers will need every goal these skaters can muster.
Ryan Callahan quickly added another goal just after Anisimov's net finder, for a 4-0 Blueshirt lead. But there was no way Philly was going to let that continue without a fight. And because this is the Flyers we are talking about, I mean fighting in a literal sense. In the first period at least, that was the only response Philly could offer.
After two periods, the Flyers started making a game of it with two goals. But the Rangers managed another score when Marian Gaborik found net for his team leading forty-first goal of the season. The Rangers took a 5-2 lead into the second intermission.
At that point, I'm thinking - Look Out! - because the Flyers have already started to lower the level of sportsmanship. The most recent Flyers/Penguins melee flashed in my mind. For after the second period and into the third, the scent of Broad Street Bully musk was no doubt starting to permeate the building. But not much transpired however. If anything, the Rangers were continually goaded into penalties which kept putting the Flyers on the power play; eight times in all. The good news is the Rangers were successful in killing seven of them.
Philly scored midway through the third period on nobody in particular's first goal of the season. And with five minutes left in the game, the Rangers had just killed off another penalty while still nursing a 5-3 lead.
Henrik Lundqvist made it stand up. Over the course of the game, he was typically brilliant again. And he needed to be. Philadelphia peppered Henrik with forty shots on goal. Lundqvist made thirty-seven (many fantastic) saves to earn his 39th win of the season, which is a new personal career best for the Rangers' goalie. The win comes in his 61st start, which over the previous five seasons, is still below his average number of starts. Minus one season in which he started sixty-eight times, he averaged seventy-plus over that span.
As mentioned with his 41st goal, Marian Gaborik continues to score consistently. Brad Richards helped set up two Ranger goals. And Ryan Callahan scored his 29th goal of the season. I won't lie to you - I want Ryan Callahan to score 30 goals this season, in a symbolic "Captain" sort of way.
Offensively speaking though, the best news of the night no doubt has to be an improving power play. They stunk up the Garden Sunday night. But in Philly, the special team unit scored three times in six chances. And since March, they've been making decent strides. It goes without saying how imperative it is to have an effective power play in the playoffs.
Although the Garden crowd was denied on Sunday, the Rangers went down the turnpike and gained their fifty-first win of the season, which ranks second in their club's history. The all-time club record is fifty-two wins. They also earned their 109th point of the season which they've now accomplished for the third time in club history. With two games remaining, they have an outside chance to surpass the all-time club record in wins and breaking the club record of 112 points in a season.
So if you felt gypped over Sunday's game, don't. If you attended any game this season; even just one; you still saw the team that just authored one of the greatest seasons in TEX's Rangers history in person all the same.
Lastly, and somewhat unrelated to what the Rangers have accomplished in the Eastern Conference, I can't help but think back to when Joe Thornton called the Rangers the SOFTEST team he ever played. As his own team perilously holds on to the Western Conference's eighth playoff spot, the New York SOFTIES have now officially clinched the One Seed in the East, not to mention, they will wind up finishing with among the highest rate of fighting majors in the NHL.
Good luck with that eighth spot tough guy.