There’s a hoary bromide to the effect “Let the Devil take the hindmost.”
Not that the Rangers particularly care about bromides or hindmost, but they certainly do care about the New Jersey variety Devils, and they took good care to blanket them with an assortment of goals on Sunday night at The Garden.
The final result of the teams’ first meeting this season — 5-0 for the New Yorkers — now stretches coach Alain Vigneault‘s winning streak to a Trifecta; and ditto for goalie Antti Raanta, alias Mister Zero, the new Seventh Avenue hero.
What makes it so ironic in a sense is that the victories are being accomplished without some important steel in the Rangers superstructure.
To the surprise of some — but not The Maven since I called it yesterday — Raanta started for the Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist on the bench for the third straight game. With New York notching the W only underlines the point that it was the right move to start the backup once more.
OVERVIEW: Winning their third straight minus key components proves the strength of New York’s depth. Subs who played last night included Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen, each of whom beat out Josh Jooris, who was claimed on waivers by Arizona yesterday. With Chicago at The Garden tomorrow (Tuesday) once again, Vigneault must decide whether Lundqvist should be rested for a fourth consecutive game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
1. RAANTA REIGNS: The back-up was front and center. A huge save on Vernon Fiddler early in the second was a goal-saver and game-saver. From that point on, Antti’s forwards and defense thoroughly throttled the visitors — at even strength and shorthanded. When he was challenged, the Fine Finn took care of business with aplomb.
2. SCORE FIRST: Chris Kreider put the Blueshirts ahead late in the first after the Rangers dominated most of the period with avid forechecking, speed and more speed. With that momentum, the Seventh Avenue Skaters simply captured the momentum and never let it go.
3. LADY LUCK: It appeared as if New Jersey had the lead in the opening minutes with a goal after setting the home club back on its heels. But upon further review, it was deemed that the puck was kicked into the net and the goal was disallowed. On the Devils side, some insisted that Adam Henrique‘s motion was a “hockey play” and there never was any deliberate kicking motion. The play was debatable and in the end, the Rangers won the debate.
4. HUSTLE: Once the Rangers got their bearings they out-hustled the visitors in key areas, especially the corners. That, ultimately, led to the go-ahead goal and the late second-period shorthanded score.
5. PENALTY KILLING: The Blueshirts blanketed successive Devils second-period power plays so effectively that New York had the offensive chances while New Jersey was totally off-balance. Starting the third, the Rangers again smothered New Jersey’s power play attackers. Ergo: no goal, again!
6. FACE-OFF WINS: When New Jersey had a power play the Rangers invariably won the opening face-off, iced the puck and disrupted the visitors’ attack.
TURNING POINT: Right at the start the desperate Devils needed a goal; thought they had it but the red-light was extinguished on further NHL review. From there, the Rangers dominated over 200-feet of ice; never allowing the foe a genuine chance to take control of the game.
1. CHRIS KREIDER: He got the goal parade going and it grew into the third period.
2. BRADY SKJEI: The ever-so-promising rookie achieved his first-ever NHL goal which essentially sealed the deal.
3. J.T. MILLER: A short-hander against the Devils power play can be game-deflating and Miller’s was precisely that.
4. ANTTI RAANTA: What’s better than one shutout? How about two in a row and a compelling reason for allowing the sub-goalie to make yet another start.
NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: It would be helpful if the Blueshirts took a few less penalties. More discipline would eliminate shorthanded situations. But the way Raanta has been playing, it really isn’t that big an issue, if it is one at all.
WHAT THEY SAID:
RAANTA: “The guys are playing well in front of me. Usually, I’m able to see the puck. If I’m not they clear the sticks away and they’re always the first to the rebounds.”
MARC STAAL: “Raanta is real confident; controlling the puck. As for the team, we’re giving the opposition a lot less and we’re taking care of our own (defensive) end.”
ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “Raanta is playing — and the guys in front of him are — playing really hard and well. That’s what we expect.”
Does Vigneault keep playing Raanta?