Rangers 4, Bruins 3 After Shootout

I could rant about how the Rangers let up on the forecheck and offensive zone pressure after going up 3-0. I could go off on sloppy defensive zone coverage in the final two minutes that allowed Boston to score two late goals with an extra attacker. 

It was an ugly final ten minutes of regulation and John Tortorella is going to make sure the entire locker room is aware of how unacceptable that was. But realistically speaking, over the course of a season a blown lead like this is going to happen to even the best teams. What's ultimately important in the long run is two things. First, the Rangers came into Boston and completely outplayed one of the better teams in the league to the point of frustration for 50 out of 60 minutes. What we can also take away is the mental fortitude of the Rangers, who very easily could have collapsed much like they did in the infamous Montreal game of a few years ago. Instead, they applied the pressure again in overtime, got the job done in the shootout, and can ultimately move on with the two points. It shouldn't have gotten to that point, but it did. And what's done is done. Hopefully it serves as a learning experience and reinforces the need to stick to the gameplan for all 60 minutes. In the end, it's two points, and six wins in the last eight games for the now surging Rangers. Let's go through some of my post-game thoughts.

Rick Nash: It seems that Gaborik and Nash take turns on being the best forward on the team. Right now appears to be Nash's time. For the second game in a row he was, in my opinion, the best forward on the ice. The play he made to assist Hagelin's opening goal is something that maybe four or five other players in the league are capable of pulling off. Allen Iverson would have been jealous of how badly he broke Ference's ankles with the inside-out deke, and the vision and poise he possessed to move the puck to Hagelin while basically faceplanting was incredible. The statsheet doesn't speak much of Nash's effort tonight; three shots, a minus-one rating, and one assist. But stats don't translate very well to importance in hockey. He made the best assist we're going to see this season, rang a shot off the post, and made Rask look silly in the shootout. 

Carl Hagelin: After a slow start to the season he is really picking up his game. He had a wide open net to shoot at thanks to Nash's effort, but getting into a position to score is as important as anything. He really utilized his speed tonight and Boston struggled to contain him on their backchecks. The Rangers' offense is at its best when  they're putting high pressure on the opposing team, and Hagelin's speed and tenacity make him as integral to that as just about anybody on the roster. Hagelin is never going to be a superstar or gamebreaker. He just does his job well. Go after the deep pucks, battle hard, and put a few pucks in the net along the way. 

Dan Girardi: It's hard to really single out defensemen because we just have so many productive ones. Staal and McDonagh were fantastic as usual and Del Zotto and Stralman were also solid as well. Tonight I'll highlight Girardi's play because, since his return, equillibrium seems to have returned. His presence means that Tortorella doesn't have to force a Del Zotto or Stralman into a less comfortable situation. He was The Blockness Monster tonight, breaking up all sorts of passes and shots; especially in the slot. The entire Bruins lineup blocked nine shots tonight. Dan Girardo alone blocked seven. That seems almost impossible but it's what the statsheet dictates. On top of that he gets an assist, three shots, and four hits. Girardi was at his best tonight.

Derek Stepan: Welcome to the 2013 NHL season. Boyle was chosen as the forward Tortorella decided to make an example out of, but in truth Derek Stepan could have been in the pressbox instead. He seems to sense the urgency, though, and has been much better the past few games. Tonight was his best game in a while. He was decisive in choosing to shoot but at the same time was patient enough to draw Rask enough to the near post to open the far post shot. Joe Micheletti briefly mentioned this tonight and it's probably the biggest difference between Derek Stepan when he entered the league and Derek Stepan now; In his rookie season, Derek Stepan was statistically the worst center in the NHL on faceoffs, winning only 38.5% of them. Tonight he was 9-for-17 in the circle (52.9%) despite going up against a great center in Patrice Bergeron many times. For the season, he's now at 51.9%, which is above average. That's an incredibly steep improvement and is a big reason why John Tortorella has decided to keep him in the middle despite flirting with him as a winger the last couple of seasons. 

Did The Rangers Screw Up A Line Change Tonight?: Yes.

That's about it. Again, ugly end of the game but ultimately you have to give some credit to Boston for that last ditch effort and you have to also be satisfied with how the Rangers played for 90% of the game tonight on the road against a very good team. Six wins in the last eight, including three straight. After a turbulent start to the season, the Rangers have finally caught their bearings, have recaptured their identity, and are starting to gain serious momentum. 

Thanks to the win tonight the Rangers are now 5-0-0 for games this season in which Kevin DeLury does not write the post-game article. I'm not endorsing anything, but just for educational purposes I feel you would be interested in knowing that Carbon Monoxide is toxic, easy to make, and effective. Again, educational purposes only.

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