It would have been easy for the Rangers to accept defeat, even before the puck was dropped last night. But instead, the Blueshirts went into Chicago and had a hard fought, gut-wrenching win over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, 3-2. It was the Blackhawks’ first regulation loss at home in 17 games. Yes, 17 games. It had all the makings of a game where the Rangers would come so close but disappoint, but they ended up surprising us all.
Don’t look now, but the Rangers are on a bit of a roll. The team is 6-2-1 in their past 9, and finally moved two games above .500 for the first time this year. It took them nine tries, but they can finally say that they are more than one game over .500. Let’s hope that Friday’s game against Dallas does not set them back to the inescapable one-game-over-.500 record. Seriously though, time is running short for the Blueshirts to really make a run. I know that I have been saying it all year, but with 10 of the teams’ next 13 games on home ice, it is time.
Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding last night. He made 35 saves against the high-powered Blackhawk offense and gave the Rangers the best chance to win. After letting in the Blackhawks second goal on a shot that Hank has to save, he really settled in. I am sure all Rangers fans were thinking here we go again when the Hawks tied it up, but Lundqvist and the Rangers stuck with it. Lundqvist was especially good down the stretch, where we saw a vintage Rangers effort with every Blueshirt going down to block shots and Lundqvist making great saves.
Mats Zuccarello continues to impress in the offensive zone. He has become so good at holding onto the puck and creating for the Rangers, especially on the power play. While Crawford should not have allowed his goal in, it was another creative play by Zuccarello. He also set up Brassard with a terrific pass for a tap in, but Brassard shot it into Crawford.
Nash, Callahan, Richards and Hagelin all had good games for the Blueshirts, which is key. While Nash did not register a point, he has noticeably picked up his game over the past few. He is skating better and creating much more havoc than earlier in the year. While Nash has struggled with his concussion this season, even he acknowledged that he needs to get to the inside more often. Callahan played his best game since being back from injury. He assisted Richards opening goal and skated hard to the net on the play to create an uncomfortable 2-on-1 for the Blackhawks. Hagelin had a huge goal with just over two minutes left to break the 2-2 tie, and he did so by going to the net. It is funny how whenever Rangers players decide to go to the net, something good happens. Hm.
I thought Girardi played excellent last night. On the whole, the defense had a Tortorella-esque game, as we saw players sacrificing their bodies throughout this one. Especially late in the game, we saw Girardi and other players make big time blocks because they were willing to sacrifice themselves. It takes that type of effort every night if the Rangers want to separate themselves from the middle of the pack.
Again, Rangers get back at it on Friday night at MSG vs. the Stars. Then, on Sunday, the Blueshirts face the red hot Flyers at the Garden, which will be a fun one. There is no doubt that from here on out, every game is huge for the Rangers.