Let's take tonight and the previous game against the Sabres for what they were; easy wins. The Sabres have already given up on their season while the Hurricanes are missing half of their roster due to all sorts of injuries. Nonetheless, the Rangers took care of business and put away two teams that should be put away. After underwhelming performances against the Devils and Flyers, who aren't great themselves, there were no promises the Rangers were going to play quality hockey now. And lets be frank; the Rangers deserved a few cupcake games after the ridiculous western road trip against some quality teams they endured to start the year. Good performance from a number of players tonight. Let's review it all:
Henrik Lundqvist: We can stop worrying about him now. Whatever ailments were previously hindering him are long gone and he had back-to-back quality games to prove it. Coming off the shutout against Buffalo, Lundqvist saved 27 pucks on 28 shots. The one goal that beat him was somewhat of a fluke shot. The scoreline doesn't reflect that the Rangers were flat in the first 10 minutes of the game and Lundqvist had to be sharp. A nice little cameo from Cam Talbot, but the King has taken back his throne, which is rightly his.
Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello: It makes plenty of sense that this line would work. Stepan and Zuccarello have a phenomenal hockey IQ and good hands. Kreider is an athletic freak-of-nature and works hard to create all sorts of space for himself and, by proxy, others. Still, only recently did someone figure out to group these three together, and credit to Vigneault for doing so. Zuccarello and Stepan were non-factors up until the Detroit game, when this line was formed. Since that point, the two have combined for 11 points. Stepan broke his goal drought with a hat-trick, of all things, tonight, while Zuccarello had three assists. Kreider, also with three assists, now has six points in six games this season – twice the total he had in 23 games last season – and seems ready to stick at the NHL level for good. With Nash and Callahan out the Rangers desperately needed to find offense elsewhere. This trio has stepped up to the plate.
Carl Hagelin: He has been a breath of fresh air ever since he returned to the lineup, but he was the primary catalyst tonight before the game completely got away from the Hurricanes. Two quality goals from Hagelin, with both displaying his speed. He totaled five shots, was phenomenal in the defensive zone, and was tenacious on the forecheck. Carolina's defense was completely helpless in trying to keep up with him.
Ryan McDonagh & Dan Girardi: The two were deployed against the Staal brothers (yes, they're brothers!) and did a very good job of limiting their scoring chances. Though Eric and Jordan did combine for eight shots, the two were never afforded any truly dangerous scoring chances. If you stop these two then you take away most of Carolina's firepower. Quality showing from the Rangers' top pairing.
Brian Boyle: Along the same lines of McDonagh and Girardi. Despite starting his shifts in the offensive zone only 13% of the time while starting 40% in the defensive zone, AND playing most of his minutes against the Staal brothers and Semin, Boyle managed a positive Corsi and Fenwick. He won 60% of his faceoffs as well. The season in which he scored 20 goals is long gone, but all the whining about him being "soft" or "awkward" won't change the fact that he's does the job of shutdown center very well.
Derek Dorsett: Oh, Derek Dorsett. You do good things, like forecheck, provide a general physical presence, and even create some offense; four shots tonight. But all that is worth little if you're going to pursue personal vendettas and put the team at a disadvantage. He was well justified in being upset with Hurricanes defenseman Ryan Murphy after he made an awkward hit at Dorsett's knees, but that does not forgive him handing the Hurricanes a powerplay, which they converted on and which put them back within reach of the Rangers. He's a decent skater and actually produced 12 goals with the Blue Jackets in his last full NHL season. He has the potential to be that Brandon Prust kind of player, but he needs to follow in Prust's footsteps and learn how to harness his energy into productive shifts instead of ones that harm the team.
Overall, a strong showing from the whole team. They put away weak team in convincing fashion. After such a miserable start to the season, the Rangers have now won four out of the last five games and have not let in more than two goals in the last six. All despite missing the team's two best forwards in Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan. If the team can continue on this path and string some wins together consistently then the miscues to start the season will be forgotten. Next game will be a much tougher test, though, when they host a hot Anaheim Ducks team on Monday.
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