As the late, great Yogi Berra liked to say, “Nothing’s in the bag until it’s in the bag.”
Translated to hockey terms, when the upscale Rangers visit downscale teams such as the Coyotes in Glendale and (on Saturday) the Avalanche in Denver, there’s a strong tendency to believe that four points (out of a possible four points) is a virtual guarantee.
Conversely, any National Hockey League coach will counter with an equally hoary bromide to the effect that “Any team can beat any other team on any given night.”
That, in a seashell, should serve as a reminder that the Blueshirts did what they were supposed to do on Thursday night at Gila River Arena.
The 6-3 triumph — like any road game — is not designed for an Oscar, Emmy nor even The Prince of Wales Trophy. What matters are the two points. Period.
Ergo: Mission Accomplished.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- PUMPING PUEMPEL: General Manager Jeff Gorton‘s acquisition of Matt Puempel is one of the finest, unsung NHL adds of the season. Matt’s first career hat trick — goals three, four and five of the campaign in New York — reinforces the Rangers depth. All were completed on the power play.
- POWER PLAY: The decision last night was sealed by four power play goals out of seven tries. Not a bad percentage. The PP quartet of red lights was a Rangers first since Feb. 4, 2010 against Washington. So far this season the Blueshirts have at least two power play goals seven times.
- RIGHT WITH RAANTA: For the umpteenth time Antti Raanta demonstrated that he’s A-1 caliber and could be a starter on at least half the NHL teams. He gives the Blueshirts confidence that few other teams obtain from a backup goalie.
- ANOTHER FIRST: The Rangers have scored the first goal of the game in 22 of 38 games this season. And when they do get the initial tally — as they did in Glendale — they’ve posted a 16-5-1 mark.
- HOLDEN THAT TIGER: Another underrated “Gorton Get,” defenseman Nick Holden, continued to display his versatility with a goal and an assist. That included a power play goal. He had a plus-2 rating in 22:27 of ice time.
TURNING POINT: Puempel’s power play goal in the third period fired up the Visitors and secured the win. Likewise, Raanta’s saves early in the finale reinforced the defense, especially a huge save on Radim Vrbata.
BEST DRESSED: Coach Alain Vigneault won the unofficial attire prize wearing a suit, shirt and tie in varying shades of blue. After all, he represents the Blueshirts.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- MSG ANALYST JOE MICHELETTI: “The Rangers were winning the races for the puck.”
- MSG ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “Raanta is a goalie who battles his way out of a hole.”
- REPORTER ANNIE CAMMARANO: “Raanta and Puempel clearly were the Rangers stars. Antti made the saves when they needed to be made. Meanwhile, Matt’s hat trick says it all about his value on the Rangers bench and on the ice. Also, Kevin Hayes delivered three assists including two on the power play. All in all, the Blueshirts took care of business.”
NEXT GAME: SATURDAY AT COLORADO: 8 P.M. TV, MSG 2.
BOTTOM LINE: The crumbling Avalanche are there to be taken and if the Rangers play their balanced game, this should result in four out of four points on this road trip before returning to The Garden next Tuesday against the Sabres.