3 Stars1st Star - Lundqvist's confidence
2nd Star - Grabner's speed
3rd Star - Buchnevich and Zibanejad's health
Post Game Cocktail Recommendation
With Lundqvist looking like he's fixed himself (for one night at least) I've got to go with the Screwdriver. Get it, because you fix things with a screwdriver. Ah, forget it.
Gif of the Game
The only thing that didn't go right for the Rangers tonight was Scott Arniel forgetting how to chew gum...
AV must be so disappointed.
(H/T to reader John)
Lundqvist Bounces Back
The biggest story line of the last week in Rangersland has been the struggles of Henrik Lundqvist. While tonight wasn't vintage Hank, it must have been a weight off his shoulders to come up with key saves in big spots.
As you can see, he was still a little shaky at times...
That's a harmless shot he normally swallows up. But he left a huge rebound and the pipe bailed him out.
Even on the clutch Kamorov save, he wasn't very compact and that puck could have easily gotten through the five hole which was wide open...
However, as the game wore on, I felt "The King" got stronger and stronger.
Square to the shooter and a quick reaction.
And to me this was his best save of the night...
Challenged the shooter with confidence.
Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a much needed resurgence for Lundqvist.
The Maple Leafs tried everything to slow down Grabner tonight, to no avail. Take a look...
Girardi, deservedly so, has taken the bulk of the criticism when it come to the Rangers defense the last few season. But I'm making it a point on this blog to highlight when he provides a positive impact as well. He's contributed too much towards the success of the Rangers franchise over the past decade to be disrespected on a nightly basis. And tonight, he deserves praise for a solid effort...
And for the analytics crowd, Girardi had a 50% Corsi For (team shot attempts for minus team shot attempts against while he's on the ice) despite being matched up against the Maple Leafs top forwards.
Not only is Buchnevich sort of good at hockey (12 points (6g, 6a) during a current 8-game point streak), he was also excellent in Training Day (caution: explicit language)...
You could tell the Rangers were playing with a sense of urgency from the drop of the puck as they completely dominated the Maple Leafs in the first period. Probably would have been a lot worse if Anderson didn't stand on his head the first five minutes.
Most encouraging was the Rangers not peeing themselves at the first sign of adversity the way they did in the 2nd period vs. Dallas on Tuesday night and the 3rd period in Montreal last Saturday. After the awful giveaway by Clendening cut the lead to one goal late in the 2nd period, it had the potential to spiral out of control. But the Rangers defense clamped down in the 3rd, while Grabner's speed took care of the rest.
It's a shame we had to miss out on Zibanejad for so long. Even though he was kept off the score sheet, I was really impressed with his strength on the puck and well as his defensive abilities. Not to mention he was 14-for-21 (67%) in the faceoff circle. I remember a few years ago it would take the Rangers two weeks to win 14 faceoffs.
And how about this chemistry with Buchnevich on the power play?
How deep are the Rangers at forward? In the last nine games, the third line of Miller-Hayes-Grabner has combined for 32 points (15g, 17a). Remember when fans were criticizing AV for his handling of Hayes and Miller? I think it's worked out just fine.
I never even considered Clendening (1a & 54% Corsi For) and Skjei (1g, 1a & 61% Corsi For) as a potential combination due to being a likely defensive liability. But with AV sheltering their minutes, I thought they were very impressive together. More of this pairing?
Strange season for Zuccarello so far. While he hasn't scored a non-empty net goal in 29 games, (Not for a lack of trying. Man he was robbed a few times tonight), he does have 22 assists in those games. So while it must be incredibly frustrating for him to not find the back of the net, he hasn't allowed it to affect the part of his game which is the most integral to the Rangers success: his playmaking ability.
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