And Rangers Beat Goes On

Rangers 7, Canucks 2 

At the rate the Rangers beat is going, the Blueshirts figure to advance from “Among The NHL Elite” level to being THE elite team in the 30-club circuit.

Completing their Western Canadian three-win hat trick by overwhelming the Canucks, 7-2, in Vancouver, the Blueshirts return East for a test in Columbus on Friday before homecoming night against the Panthers on Sunday.

No matter who coach Alain Vigneault starts in goal nor how he juggles his lines, it’s a good bet that the Rangers will conquer the foe. And their record (13-4-0) underlines that point.

OVERVIEW: This destruction of the Canucks was payback for the Rangers last loss — in The Garden — but demonstrates how all New York cylinders are working. It started in goal with Henrik Lundqvist at his very best when he had to be; especially in the first period. Then it moves on to a solid and productive defense — even a goal by newcomer Nick Holden. And, once again, all lines were in high gear.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

  1. GRIT PLUS: For starters, the Rangers battled for 60 minutes. They may not have been artistically perfect, but they never relinquished the fighting spirit. Grit and desire blended for the win.
  1. THE KING REIGNED: Lundqvist was in game-stealing mode at the start, enabling him — and his team — to outlast Jacob Markstrom at the other end. This could qualify as His Majesty’s best game of the campaign so far.
  1. TEAMWORK: After Kevin Hayes passed up a hat trick possibility, the unselfish move inspired MSG Network’s Joe Micheletti to opine: “This is a close-knit group who think only about the team and nothing individual.”

Steve Valiquette and Ron Duguay break down Kevin Hayes' two goals in the Blueshirts' rout of the Canucks.

  1. OFFENSE-DEFENSE: The outpouring of goals — J.T. Miller (2), Hayes (2), Brandon Pirri, Mats Zuccarello and Holden — is part of the pattern, but the forwards also were defensively responsible.
  1. BALANCE-SPECIAL TEAMS: All four lines were effective, while the penalty killing and power play were efficiently working. The combo emphasizes why the Rangers are so difficult as a foe.
  1. KILLER INSTINCT: Despite giving up a tough goal late in the second period, which reduced the score to 3-1, the New Yorkers returned for the third period with a vengeance with Hayes and Miller scoring to bury the home club.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT:

  1. DICTATING FIRST PERIOD: Although the Blueshirts finished the opening period ahead 1-0, the Canucks fired 17 shots at Lundqvist. Had Henny not been at the top of his form, the one goal lead might very well have been a one goal deficit — or more.

Steve Valiquette and Ron Duguay look at how the Blueshirts were alert in both the offensive and defensive zones.

  1. MORE CONSISTENCY, PERIOD-BY-PERIOD: Rather than leaning on The King to steal a period for his mates, it would be more satisfying if the Rangers came out of the gate a lot more effectively than they did in the opening frame.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIFIC PLAYERS:

  1. BRANDON PIRRI: This amazing pick-up — or Florida discard, if you will — is so versatile. Against Vancouver, he moved to center and played big minutes. His five goals for the season overshadow his face-off ability.
  1. MIKA ZIBANEJAD: His scoring is welcome, but even when not lighting the red bulb, Mika makes his presence felt. Once again, he played an all-around game while chipping in a pair of assists. MZ has been A-OK in all three road games.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

J.T. MILLER: “We’re getting every line to chip in which makes us hard to stop. And we’ve been doing it since opening night.”

CONCLUSION AND NEXT GAME: On Friday, the Blueshirts wind up the road trip in Columbus (7 PM, MSG). Ex-Rangers coach John Tortorella has his Blue Jackets playing strong hockey. He’d like nothing better than to sock it to his former outfit. This game will tell a lot about how elite the Rangers are but we do now know that they are ELITE.