Rangers Continue Streak As Lundqvist Shuts Out Caps Again

It’s no secret that Henrik Lundqvist likes to play against certain teams and not against others. Fortunately, since we tend to see them in the playoffs, he likes playing against the Caps. That said, I didn’t know what to expect from him tonight after what we’ve seen so far this season. What did we get? Vintage Henrik as he got his third straight shutout (including game 6 and 7 of playoffs last year) against Ovechkin and company.

I said tonight would be a good game (and predicted a win, if I remember correctly) and the good news started before the puck even dropped as Carl Hagelin was cleared for contact starting with tomorrow’s practice. If everything stays on course, he could come back for game 11 as planned. Even with how well the boys looked tonight, they could still use him.

Speaking of which, the Rangers looked great right from the start, winning faceoffs and getting shots on net. Then eight minutes in we got 4-on-4 action as Brouwer and  “Eric” Staal took roughing penalties. Yes, Doc Emerick said it was Eric in the box. Unfortunately for the Rangers, a trade wasn’t made and one of their better defensemen was in the penalty box instead.

Fortunately the Rangers got out of that unharmed minus the fact they took an actual penalty right as it ended. The guy in the box? Anton Stralman, who I had been planning to write was having a good period until that point. The Rangers won the opening faceoff back to Girardi who…I don’t know what he did but he flubbed the puck and it ended up staying in their zone for the next minute when Taylor Pyatt took (a light) penalty.

Before we get to Pyatt, I need to discuss Dan for a minute. I don’t know what his issue was in the first period but every time a defenseman made a mistake it seemed like #5 was the one doing it. I am a huge fan of Girardi but he does not look like the Girardi I know and love. I know people will say it’s the system but it’s not. Tonight it looked like his stick was the issue. Maybe he changed sticks and hasn’t gotten used to the new ones? (Yes I know how ridiculous that sounds but his stick was causing issues tonight.) I don’t know what it is but he better fix it. Fast.

Back to the game, I have no idea why Pyatt and Fast were killing a penalty together but they were and Pyatt went to the box giving the Capitals a 55-second 5-on-3. I honestly have even less of an idea how the Rangers survived that as well as the ensuing 5-on-4 but they managed to get out of that mess and the period unscathed.

Early in the second period, the Rangers were given a power play. Yes I called it a power play. They didn’t score on it but they actually looked like they were on the main advantage getting five shots on net. FIVE SHOTS. Yes they were all on Holtby. Maybe there is hope for this thing after all.

The Rangers continued to dominate even after the power play ended until a little after the halfway mark when Stralman headed back to the penalty box. Unfortunately it was a penalty he had to take as otherwise Laich would’ve been in all alone on Lundqvist. Thirty seconds later, the Rangers got a shorthanded chance with Stepan seemingly holding onto the puck until he hit the boards. Apparently by waiting that long he was able to draw a slashing call on Ovechkin. I’m still not sure he did the right thing by waiting but it worked.

Then a little less than a minute into the 4-on-4 the puck came back to John Moore on the point and he rifled one past Holtby to give the Rangers the lead. Kid, we need to see more of that from you. If we do, you will definitely get power play time on a regular basis. (He got some tonight because Del Zotto was out but I will reiterate that goal came at even strength.) The goal turned out to be his first career game winner meaning a certain hat was on his head after the game.

Less than two minutes later, Ryan Callahan does what Ryan Callahan does best – scored a ridiculous hand-eye coordination goal. The goal was beautiful. But he needs to work on the celebration a little bit:

Or maybe not. Love how he screamed at the Caps fans and then, while you can’t see it completely here, started laughing. Seeing our captain smile like that always puts a smile on my face.

Both of those goals were set up by none other than Brad Richards, who now has 7 points in 6 games and had a tremendous game tonight. He was noticeable every time he was on the ice, no matter what zone, and always in a positive way. Again, I knew he would bounce back but I don’t think anyone expected this. I truly do believe he will keep it up too. There is nothing better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) then a hockey player with a chip on his shoulder. You don’t mess with those guys.

While the Rangers had some chances, “Jordan” Staal took a shot that Holtby never saw but managed to save, the Rangers weren’t able to add to their lead before the end of the period. (Yes I am going to mention every time Doc said the wrong Staal. This isn’t difficult. Only one of them are playing. If you are going to mess it up, don’t use a first name. He didn’t mixed up the Moores and he had to use first names there.)

The third period looked like it might get bad as early in the period, Troy Brouwer caught Stepan with an elbow to the head and down went Stepan.

As you can see, he was able to get up on his own but he definitely got his bell rung and went straight to the locker room. For some stupid reason he returned a few minutes later although he only had 4 shifts throughout the rest of the period. That said, for some reason the last one was the last minute of the game. Yes he’s a defensive forward (although Vigneault hasn’t been using him to kill penalties) but I still wouldn’t have had him there considering the situation.

After the game, Vigneault said he didn’t like the hit saying “principle point of contact” was the head. (Good job getting the league’s attention. According to Pierre McGuire he was giving it to the refs the entire third period but in a polite way.) Stepan, of course, felt otherwise:

Good to hear but let’s just hope symptoms don’t appear tomorrow.

The Caps did get some chances in the third but Lundqvist and the Rangers were up to the task getting their third straight shutout against their “rivals”. (It’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry” so I’ll use that term.)

The NBC announcers kept saying how they looked more like the Rangers everyone is familiar with tonight and I agreed. I wonder if the boys went to Vigneault and said “we know you have a lot of coaching experience but we know these guys, we got this” as it honestly looked like a completely different team. Maybe they just needed to be back on the east coast. Whatever it was, I’ll take it. Because it means I get an excuse to use this video again:

I miss Marty already…

 

(Thanks to one of our St. Louis writers, Victoria Geisz, for the great picture above of John Moore)

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Rangers Forcing Game Seven Costly For Lundqvist

Thank goodness one of these guys knows they are supposed to shoot when they have a wide open lane to do so. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

Thank goodness one of these guys know they are supposed to shoot when they have a wide open lane to do so. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

How about that game? I apologize in advance if this recap makes no sense as I am still trying to remember how to breathe after that game.

The first period was typical Rangers as they started with four straight shots and then let Washington take the next five followed by three blown power plays which included almost a minute of 5-on-3. As the buzzer sounded I figured we lost the game in that period. I’m not one of those fans who assume the team is always going to lose but I figured those chances would come back to bite us. The crowd shared my nonchalant reaction by neither cheering or booing as the team left the ice.

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Rangers On Brink After Overtime Loss

Any time you want to show up to this series would be nice... (Photo: Melissa Andus)

Any time you want to show up to this series would be nice… (Photo: Melissa Andus)

Have I mentioned I hate the Capitals? Actually I take that back. I don’t hate the Caps because no matter how much I try I just can’t. I hate the Rangers team I have to watch when they play the Caps. Because they should be able to beat them…and they just can’t.

The Rangers looked good in the first shift of the game. They looked even better in the second as Derick Brassard got the puck behind the net and passed to Brian Boyle who was right in front and able to bury it just 53 seconds into the game. Yes you read that correctly. The best part? The boys didn’t back down after that as they played a great road period throughout the first 20 minutes including two power plays that actually looked competent. Unfortunately they couldn’t capitalize but they had zone pressure and great chances.

Of course they almost gave it up in the final 30 seconds of the period but managed to get out of the period unscathed. They weren’t so lucky in the second as everything they did well in the first disappeared as soon as the puck dropped to start the period.

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Caps Better Team But Rangers Take 4-3 Victory

This man is definitely a keeper if he plays like he did tonight. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

This man is definitely a keeper if he plays like he did tonight. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

Going into this series, I thought these two teams were similar. They both were expected to be contenders but barely made the playoffs, with the Caps getting a higher position because the Southeast really is a horrible division. The Caps were better up front, the Rangers were better on the back end and while Lundqvist is a better goalie, Holtby becomes a brick wall when he sees the Rangers. Pretty even, right? Yet watching this series, I’m beginning to wonder if I was wrong. That maybe the Rangers truly are a team who deserves to just make the playoffs and the Caps are one who should have home ice in the first round. It looked that way tonight. Fortunately the score doesn’t always show the way it looks.

The Rangers started the game with all the momentum on their side. They had the crowd, who was even more pumped when they heard Marc Staal was in the starting the lineup. The first shift or two didn’t look bad. Then Washington took a penalty and it was all downhill from there.

The penalty was on Ovechkin. My first concern was him coming out of the box and going on a breakaway. Of course, after having a semi-competent power play, the Rangers bobble the puck and it squirts out of the zone as Ovechkin comes out of the box. He didn’t get a clear cut breakaway and Del Zotto was able to stop him from getting a clean shot. A minute later, the Rangers got pinned in their zone and the Caps took advantage to take the 1-0 lead.

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Caps Draw First Blood With 3-1 Victory

This man was definitely the #2 star for the Rangers tonight. Sorry Lundqvist was the only reason the visiting team was even in the game. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

This man was definitely the #2 star for the Rangers tonight. Sorry, I still have to place Lundqvist as #1 even if he wasn’t perfect. (Photo: Melissa Andus)

So it’s the playoffs and the Rangers are playing the Capitals. I really don’t have much to say about the series that we are all too familiar with. In regards to the Rangers roster, it was the same as the one that played against the Devils this past weekend meaning that three guys made their NHL playoffs debuts – Derick Brassard, John Moore and Kris Newbury. You would never have known the first two had never played a playoff game.

As for the game, I’m sure the talk in the Rangers locker room before the game was weathering the early storm. I’m pretty sure that didn’t include taking a penalty 34 seconds in, especially the one they took – too many men on the ice. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen that one. Amazingly, they managed to kill it but momentum was set as the Caps continued to control play. In fact, it took almost eight minutes for the Rangers to get their first shot on net. By that time, the Capitals already had nine. Somehow the score was still 0-0.

With five and a half minutes to go in the period, and the Rangers having just two shots on net, the visiting team was given a “gift” as they got a chance on the power play. I say it was a gift because it was a horrible call (Beagle was called for boarding and as Joe Micheletti said “did you know players can’t hit the boards on an icing call?”). The power play didn’t look great but it wasn’t a power kill as the boys did manage more shots than they had during the first fifteen minutes with three on the power play.

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Bring On The Caps…Again + Taxi Squad Arrives

So we meet...again... (Photo: Bridget Samuels/flickr)

So we meet…again… (Photo: Bridget Samuels/flickr)

With their win against the Devils yesterday, the Rangers were guaranteed to finish no lower than seventh and could finish sixth depending on what the Senators did. Seeing who was in third, I assumed the Rangers would go from not sure if they would make the playoffs to finishing the season in sixth place. I was right. So what does this mean? The Rangers get to play the Washington Capitals for the fourth postseason in five years. (The only year they didn’t play each other the Rangers missed the playoffs.)

Of those four postseasons, the Rangers and Caps have met three times (inlcuding this year) in the first round. As I’m sure everyone knows, the Caps won the first two series in seven and five games. Last year, meeting in the second round, the Rangers finally defeated their foes in seven games. So expect the series to go for a while. I will probably change my mind after watching game 1 (which we still don’t know when is) but I’m taking the Rangers in six. Yes I know the Caps are playing well right now but I think the Rangers can beat them. I just hope we don’t have to go through game three and five of last years’ series again.

Speaking of the playoffs, with the Whale missing theirs, it was a given that a bunch of players would be recalled to practice in case the Rangers needed players during their playoff run. This years squad includes two goalies, two defensemen and six forwards as the Rangers announced this morning that Cam Talbot, Jason Missiaen, Stu Bickel, Dylan McIlrath, Ryan Bourque, Micheal Haley, Brandon Mashinter, J.T. Miller, Brandon Segal (whose wife just gave birth the couple’s first child, a girl), and Christian Thomas were recalled. Haley is expected to practice with the Rangers and travel to DC but the rest will practice on their own and only join the big boys if needed. Curious why Haley is actually being recalled. (Is there another injury? A replacement for someone else? Guess we’ll find out soon…)

Rangers Only Gain One Point In Tough Game With Caps

Welcome back Arron Asham! I know you aren't a bad player, but it's bad when you are the one igniting the team and it isn't by fighting... (Photo: Melissa Andus)

Welcome back Arron Asham! I know you aren’t a bad player, but it’s bad when you are the one igniting the team and it isn’t by fighting… (Photo: Melissa Andus)

All night I listened as the Rangers outhit and outshot the Capitals through the final 40 minutes of the game. That’s great. They didn’t outscore them and not only gave away a valuable extra point, they gave a team that is chasing them two. This season, they just can’t keep doing that.

For those who haven’t heard, the Rangers roster changed slightly since the boys last game. Jeff Halpern is now in Montreal, Stu Bickel is in Connecticut (where he had 6 shots on goal during the Whale’s win earlier today and played in all situations including the power play) and Kris Newbury is with the big club.

As for the lineup, Arron Asham came off of IR to return for the first time in over a month (last game was 2/19 vs. Montreal) and J.T. Miller missed his first game since being called up due to his left wrist injury (and possibly the fact that he told the media what the injury was; just kidding).

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