Saturday, April 04, 2015

N.Y. Rangers Dance Past Devils For 50th Victory of Season

From the desks of:  

Battle of the Hudson - III

Rangers lead series 3-0
I - NYR 4; NJD 3*
II - NYR 3; NJD 1

Devils     1
Rangers 6

NEW YORK RANGERS: Metropolitan Division Champions Continue March Towards President's Trophy.

All Henrik's horses, and all the President's men....

Killjoy said be careful what we ask for - lest we forget 1992!  He also said not to forget 1970 through 1973 either.

Thing is, Killjoy just can't get that hit Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien laid to the back of J.T. Miller's neck!  That no Ranger responded to the vicious hit makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.   After the game, Coach Vigneault appeared angrier than did any Ranger player on the ice.  But, under Alain Vigneault that's old hat at this point.

These Rangers are not the grunts they were just a few years ago, that subdued teams with the grace of a troglodyte and the force of a glacier.  It's hard to say if that team could have slowed down this present team.

Vigneault's team at least advanced to a Final series; Tortorella's did not.  Both editions, however, were stymied by an inability to score one last goal.

This team is younger, much faster, more skilled, and except for some recent struggles on the power play, more balanced.  I get it.  But, they're smaller.  Unless they grow exceptionally thick beards for the playoffs, I'm nonetheless leery of a glass jaw.

(Although.....) That seems to have played less of a factor this season than in years past, as overall physicality in the conference is down.  The Bruins, Flyers, Devils, Leafs, Penguins..., all were shorter in the tooth this season.  The playoffs, however, are another animal - cute cuddly teams need not apply, particularly Smurfs.

I'm on record saying the Rangers should not have extended MatZucs, and should let Martin St. Louis walk as well.  My point of contention has always been their size, and the way they get pushed off the puck.  However, whenever I bring it up, MatZucs has another good game (with a rather brilliant assist on Rick Nash's 42nd goal of the season against the Devils).

The Rangers are additionally a better team with Martin St. Louis on the ice.  Out since mid-March, the team's drop off in play was noticeable.  The Rangers posted a 4-4 record without him.  They defeated the Panthers in his last game before missing time with a knee injury, defeated the Wild in his first game back, and walloped the Devils on Saturday.  That's no coincidence.

Two very key players moving forward will be Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider.  Hayes, the 22-year old rookie is making a name for himself.  He has 9 goals and 13 assists for 22 points in his last 31 games, while averaging just under 13:00 a game.   He's listed at 6'5", 225 lbs., and playing with growing confidence.

Kreider, 23, is listed at 6'3", 226 lbs.  After averaging just 2 goals per month over the first three of the season, Kreider has averaged 5 goals a month since January.  But, the Rangers need more.  The sophomore winger is just too big, too fast and strong, and too skilled to continue being an occasional, if not marginal presence.

Rick Nash has now scored 40 goals in three different seasons.  He scored his career high 42nd goal of the season Saturday night, 10 years after posting his first 40-goal season while still with Columbus.   His present team high 28 plus/minus is also a career best.  He has played this season with a ferocity not seen since prior to his latest battle with concussion symptoms.

However, while the Rangers were streaking in March, Nash cooled off significantly from his season long scoring binge.  He only registered 3 goals and 5 points for the entire month.  So far, he has 2 goals in 2 games in April which is a very welcome sign.  The memories of last year's playoff disappearance still haunt us all.

Henrik Lundqvist allowed a lone third period goal to the Devils with less than four minutes left in the game.  After losing to Boston in his return to the net, the King has now won 3 straight over the Jets, Wild, and Devils, to improve his season record to a 28-12-3 mark.  In his last 3 games, he has allowed 5 goals on 98 SOG.

The Rangers have another 4 games left to play in 6 nights, which means Cam Talbot could conceivably make one more start this season.

Henrik is now 337-207 for his career, with a .921 SV% and a 2.26 GAA.  In the playoffs, Henrik owns a 43-48 record, with a near identical .922 SV% and a 2.24 GAA.

With a 6-1 drubbing over the Devils Saturday night, Tex's Rangers secured their 50th victory of the season for only the 4th time in their history.  They have reached 107 points.  This is the 8th time Tex's Rangers have eclipsed 100 points in a season.  The Rangers club record is 112 points set by the 1994 Stanley Cup champions.  Eight points remain for their taking, although they would set a franchise record with another 6 points.


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