Tuesday Night Final
Henrik Lundqvist - 53rd career shutout
Rick Nash - scored NHL leading 12th goal
NEW YORK RANGERS: After a team meeting, Blueshirts put forth finest effort of young season. Now what?
On the heels of a team meeting following lackluster losses to the Oilers and Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers turned in their best performance of the season Tuesday night against the Metropolitan Division's top team.
The Penguins entered the game as the division's top scoring team, and its stingiest. But on this night, that mattered little, as Henrik Lunqvist posted his 3rd shutout of the season, and the 53rd of his career, in the Rangers impressive 5-0 victory over Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden.
Rick Nash scored his league leading 12th goal of the season. Martin St. Louis also scored, and now has 4 goals in his last 5 games.
In all, five different Rangers scored to bring the team total up to 44 goals this season. That's still 11 goals fewer than Pittsburgh. And despite allowing 5 goals, the Penguins have still given up the fewest goals in the conference.
For the moment, the true measure of the Rangers will be how they perform against the Pens, Lightning, Canadiens, and Bruins (presently the top 4 teams in the conference, with each exceeding 20-points thus far this season). Therefore, the Rangers are now 1-1 (lost to Habs) against the conference's top contenders.
After hosting Colorado this Thursday, the Rangers will be in Pittsburgh for a Saturday rematch, and then come home on Monday to host Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, and the Atlantic Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning (who lead the conference in goals scored).
We'll reassess the Blueshirts then, because how much this game weighs in their future endeavors remains to be seen, lest we forget why they entered Tuesday's game languishing in the second division.
Chief among the reasons are that for the second straight season under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers are still searching for an identity. The newest Rangers have been particularly quiet, and as usual, the team continues to demonstrate a lack of physicality. Blame Glen Sather. I do.
Of course, injuries have also been a monkey wrench in the spokes as well. Just when they got Derek Stepan back, they lost their Captain, Ryan McDonagh.
Regardless, their overall defensive play this season has not been what we've come to expect from the Rangers. They now have 44 goals for, but 46 goals against (the 4th most in their conference).
The Rangers also actually scored on the power play Tuesday. But, let's face it, Alain Vigneault was brought here in large part to improve the power play, and to date, he hasn't. Through 15 games this season, Tuesday's PP goal was only their 5th of the season, and only the 4th game in which they've actually scored on the power play. Their 13.2% PP mark ranks 24th in the league.
In fact, despite winning the Eastern Conference title last season, the Rangers scored fewer even-strength, and PP goals last season than they did the previous season under John Tortorella.
And while I'm at it, what's wrong with Cam Talbot? He's only started 4 games, but they were four bad games. Now that Henrik Lundqvist is on the other side of 30-years old, the King will need proper rest. Having confidence in Talbot is paramount towards that end.
All that said, there's no taking away Tuesday night's fine performance from the Rangers.