1st Star - Home ice advantage (The allure of MSG is back, baby!)
2nd Star - Sean Avery (For not pulling a Charles Oakley at MSG tonight)
3rd Star - Glen Sather (For keeping Dolan from doing to the Rangers what he's done to the Knicks)
Post Game Cocktail Recommendation
For all the Northeast Rangers fans who had to dig out of the blizzard today, I give you a Damn the Weather.
Gif of the Game
Not sure why, but I absolutely loved this little stick spin Hayes performs after his ridiculous assist on the Grabner goal. Reminds me of a gunslinger in the Old West spinning his gun on his finger before putting it back in his holster after winning a quick draw.
More Than Just Goals
It's easy to point to goals and assists when it comes to the success of the Miller-Hayes-Grabner line. But these three work hard for their success as seen in these two sequences tonight.
Here's JT Miller laying out to not only deny a certain neutral zone turnover, but create a transition chance for his linemates...
While that hustle play didn't result in a goal, this forecheck and cycle did...
Miller is able to get in behind the Predators defenseman to keep the puck alive allowing for this...
Tremendous cycling by Hayes and Grabner has the Predators defense scrambling which leaves McDonagh all alone below the circle and ultimately a fortuitous bounce goal.
These three complement each other so well. The whole is really greater than the sum of its parts with this trio. They're so locked in, it's almost like they can read each others minds out on the ice. It's a beautiful thing to watch.
Big Save Lundqvist
With the Rangers down 2-0 and looking for a spark, they found it in their All World goaltender as he made these two huge saves back-to-back literally minutes before Grabner got the Blueshirts on the board and back into the game...
Easily the turning point of the game. If the Predators are able to score on even one of those, the MSG Faithful could have just packed it up and headed towards the exit because this game would have been over.
While the concern with an almost 35-year old goaltender is trying to keep him fresh for the playoffs and although Saturday night vs. the lowly Avalanche is the perfect opponent to get Raanta a game (it would be his first start since he was injured on Jan. 14th), AV has to ride Lundqvist. He is currently in the midst of his best stretch of the season and it would be beyond foolish to mess with whatever mojo he's got working right now.
What To Do With Grabner At The Trade Deadline
There's been a lot of talk recently about what the Rangers should do with Michael Grabner at the trade deadline. There's no doubt that he is at peak value as a commodity and the Rangers would hate to lose him for nothing in the expansion draft. However, the NHL released this nugget about how teams can use a little known strategy to retain exposed players (via NBC Sports)...
"For instance, the Golden Knights may acquire a draft pick, prospect or future considerations from another NHL team in exchange for their agreement to not select a particular exposed player in June’s expansion draft."
So basically, the Rangers can trade Vegas a late/middle round pick to coerce them not to select Grabner in the expansion draft.
I know Grabner has an unsustainable 21% shooting %, but that has more to do with his speed fitting perfectly into AV system than lucky bounces. It would definitely be in the Rangers best interest to give up a draft pick to protect Grabner.
Thanks Mr. Underwood!
With a minute to go and the Rangers clinging to a 4-3 lead, the Predators' Mr. Carrie Underwood found himself in front of an unoccupied Blueshirts net with the tying goal on his stick...
With this Rangers offense, they're never out of a game. Unfortunately, with this Rangers defense no game is ever easy.
As has been the case too often this season, the Rangers found themselves staring down a two-goal deficit, but thanks to some timely saves and the Miller-Hayes-Grabner line they were once again able to climb out of a hole.
What concerned me was even though the Rangers were able to bury two third period goals, the Predators dominated play as they out shot attempted the Rangers 29-14 in the period (62-46 for the game). While I appreciate the resiliency, if the Rangers want to make any noise in the postseason they're going to need to do a much better job closing out games.
Interesting night for Adman Clendening, who showed you why he should be getting more playing time, while at the same time showing why he doesn't. Here's why he should...
Not only is he better defensively than given credit for (got to love the Girardi snow angel), he provides offensive instincts that the current defensive corps just doesn't possess. It's not too often you see a Rangers defenseman leading the transition game.
However it wasn't all puppy dogs and ice cream for Clendening...
He's got to be better in front of the net. Heavier teams will eat him for lunch. Clendening also had a minuscule 36% Corsi For, so for a defenseman who's supposed to be driving possession, he found himself pinned in the Rangers zone far too often tonight.
Of course Girardi has to sit out with an injury during his best stretch of hockey in two years. Hopefully he'll return soon.
Wow, Kreider continues to go to the net and he continues to score goals. Funny how that works.
Four wins in a row and seven in their last nine games. I'd say the Rangers are officially on a roll.