Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rangers beat Caps – Now Lead the NHL (but Klein is hurt)

Just take a look at those standings.  That’s not the division – that’s not the conference – that’s the whole NHL.  And right at the top sits our New York Rangers, winners of 3 straight, 8-1-1 in their last ten, now – the number one team in the NHL.

Honestly – I’d rather be the team chasing than the one chased – because I think trying to stay number one is emotionally exhausting and the reward – one possible game 7 home game – is not worth all that expended energy.  But Vigneault has his team playing like champions right now and we will gladly take it as far as we can.  Of course, there are 6 other teams within 2 points of us – but it’s a great moment in time and it deserves a long look and acknowledgement. 

Last night – the Rangers – on zero days rest – without Henrik Lundqvist - on the road – facing a rested and ready Washington Capitals team – once again found a way to win.  The unstoppable Alex Ovechkin managed to score one goal – on the powerplay – and extend his lead over Rick Nash as the NHL’s top scorer – but the Rangers won the game – 3-1 with speed, tenacity, and dominance in all three zones. 

The defense extended to all 6 men on the ice.  The Forwards, the blueliners, and of course the suddenly dominant Cam Talbot – who will cause and interesting dilemma for Vigneault when Lundqvist recovers.  At this point – can you really sit Cam again for weeks at a time?  I think he’s earned at least a game a week at this point – which could cause trouble as Hank needs to work himself back into shape. 

There was a time not that long ago when the Rangers and Capitals were slugging it out for 7th place in the East and 3rd place in the Metro, and Lundqvist was our everyday goaltended.  But now – our best player is sidelined with a strained blood vessel in his neck and with our backup goaltender starting the Rangers are up nine points on Washington and surging.

The bad news is Kevin Klein.  He blocked an Ovechkin shot with 46 seconds remaining and headed straight to the locker room.  The Rangers reported that he had x-rays on his left arm.  Crap!  Let’s hope he’s okay.  Kevin is a huge part of our success this season.

Cam Talbot has allowed one or fewer goals in 4 straight road games.  And that, believe it or not, is an all time Ranger record.  Last night Cam saved 0.966 percent of the shots that came his way.   Holtby played well – stopping 0.906 – but the Rangers were just better.

Hagelin got the first goal – a short range rebound put-back that came after a flurry of Ranger shots and rebounds.  After Ovechkin tied it on the powerplay, J.T. Miller put the Rangers ahead to stay later in the first period with off a defensive zone turnover by the Caps that Hayes grabbed and made the perfect cross ice pass to Hags streaking in to Holtby’s right.  Miller beat the Capital’s goalie and it was 2-1.

And that’s how it stayed until late in the third when the Rangers broke it open.  With less than 3 minutes to go – Chris Kreider intercepted a cross ice pass and started streaking toward the Cap’s goal on a semi-breakaway.  Marty St. Louis kept pace with him on his left and when Kreider passed it, Marty tipped it by Holtby from point blank range. 

The Rangers had their 3-1 win and, for one moment at least – the rest of the league is looking up at them.

What Did We Learn?  We learned that the Rangers are the best team in hockey today (very good) – and that Kevin Klein might be injured (very bad).

Uh, A Little Help?  Two huge assists for Kevin Hayes.  And singles for Kreider and Boyle.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No.  We were 0 for 3 and caps were 1 for 3.

Where Do We Stand?  At the top!  19 Points above 9th place with 16 games left to play. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Some much needed rest before back to baclk games this weekend – starting with Saturday in Buffalo.  (A night for Skapski anyone?)

Non-Sequitur of the day:  Please hockey gods – make Kevin Klein okay.

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