The pre-season Stanley Cup favorite New York Rangers opened their 2013 campaign last night in rousing fashion with a 5-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at MSG.
And yes, technically, the NHL began recording wins and losses that count in the overall standings 10 games ago, but his was the first game of the season by the real Rangers. That bi-polar mess of slop-hockey and non-coverage that took place during the first 10 matches was something of a warm up. Last night was a display of hockey by the real New York Rangers team we have expected to see this season.
The game started in glorious fashion for the Blueshirts when Carl Hagelin was able to re-direct a Rick Nash shot past Mathieu Garon just 31 seconds in. A great power move by Rick Nash off the wall led to Hag’s re-direct. This has become a go-to move for Rick Nasty and the Rangers haven’t had someone come off the wall and cut to the net that strong since Jaromir Jagr lit up MSG. Although Nash’s numbers are low, his game is good. He is involved, works hard, and he is dangerous in the offensive zone. The numbers will eventually come this year for the big guy.
Following that goal, the Rangers decided to give us another taste of the bi-polar Blueshirts. They decided to play zero defense the next 10 minutes or so. Luckily Henrik Lundqvist is starting to play like Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist was stellar, stopping three odd man rushes, including a breakaway stop on Vincent Lecavalier. “I think I’m starting to get close to where I need to be.” The King said after the game and this is really good news for the NYR. Probably even better news than the Rangers hanging a 5-spot on TBL.
After that hairy, defenseless stretch by the NYR, Ryan Callahan picked off a terrible D zone pass by Matt Carle who was being pressured by Darroll Powe. Cally burst into the Bolts zone and threw a beautiful fake backhand forehand finish on Garon and after that, the real Rangers finally showed up.
Carl Hagelin made it 3-0 with his second of the game when the Red Sea parted for him. Actually, the Tampa D (most likely in awe of Hag’s prettiness) kept backing in on Garon until Hagelin was all alone on the Tampa netminder. The Michigan/Swede beat the keeper with a definitely non-pretty shot, a shot so not pretty in got Garon pulled.
His replacement the, according to Sam Rosen on the MSG broadcast, “young Swedish defenseman, Anders Lindback” didn’t fare much better than Garon.
However, the Rangers did have one slight hiccup. After a simply atrocious line change (come on Torts!) the Rangers were very scrambly in their own zone before Vincent Lecavalier ended that horrific shift and put the scrambly Rangers out of their misery slamming one home from the slot.
That mishap aside, the Rangers turned it on again. Aaron Asham made it 4-1 with a snipe on a 2 on 1, yes we just used Asham and snipe in the same sentence and Rick Nash closed out the scoring in the final seconds of the match with a softie by Lindback. If anyone on the NYR deserves a softie its Nash. He has worked his butt off and has had numerous chances that have not crossed the line for #61. Perhaps this is when his floodgates open.
The Rangers are now 6-5 and winners of their last two games. The forecheck was tenacious. The D, after the first 10 minutes of the game, was tight and Hank is starting to find his Vezina-Best Goalie on the planet form.
Like a freight train in the distance, you can hear the real Rangers coming.
Blueshirts back in Beantown Tuesday night vs. the B’s.