By Brian Monzo
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The Rangers came out Tuesday night at MSG against the toughest challenge they’ve had to face so far this season. The best team in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were in town with a healthy Sidney Crosby — as well as a healthy Evgeni Malkin — on Versus in front of a national audience.
It was the Rangers’ chance to prove that their start isn’t just a fairytale. Their chance to prove they are a top team in the league. When the buzzer sounded and the Rangers walked away with a 4-3 win, the NHL was shown that the Blueshirts are perhaps the real deal.
A ton could be said about the game last night, but there were three things that mainly contributed to the Rangers’ win over the Penguins:
Rangers set the tone early
Against the Flyers on Saturday, Brandon Prust dropped the gloves four seconds into the game, then again after serving that penalty.
He brought the aggression.
Last night, Sean Avery and Tyler Kennedy had a minor scruff 16 seconds into the game. Then after serving minor penalties, they came out from the box and scrapped. Avery helped set the tone that the Rangers are going to be physical and are not going to back down. And they did just that.
I know some people love it and some people hate it, but fighting is part of the game and moments like that are sometimes necessary. Avery immediately ignited the crowd.
Best players being the best players
One thing coach John Tortorella preaches is that if a team is going to succeed, its best players need to be just that.
Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik are the Rangers’ best players, and they played like it. Gaborik, who has been dynamic all season, set up Ryan Callahan for the game-tying goal with a nifty deke and pass, and scored what would turn out to be the game winning goal. Gaborik now has 11 goals, and is playing the best hockey he ever has as a Ranger.
Richards has been everything he was advertised to be. Coming over as the top free agent of the offseason, there was a ton of pressure on Richards to perform. He has been tremendous so far. He scored the Rangers third goal last night, and assisted on Gaborik’s goal. Richards has been thriving in the New York scene, and is perhaps the main reason the Rangers are 13-5-3 this season.
Young role players continue to step up
The last three games, rookie Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell have been money since their call up last week. In three games, both players have a goal and two assists, and have added an unexpected amount of speed to the team. Mitchell has some NHL experience, playing a few seasons with the Maple Leafs. Hagelin is just out of college and has been ridiculously impressive in his first few NHL games. He shows no nerves on the ice, he is confident with the puck and looks like he could be the goods.
Whether it be Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer and now Hagelin, the Rangers young assets continue to be superb.
If the Rangers can find a way to get Brandon Dubinsky to score some goals (1 goal in 21 games now), the team could really become a force in the East. Also, as reported earlier this week, Marc Staal has started lightly working out, and if he can find a way to get on the ice sometime next month, it would basically be like a mid-season trade.
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Your thoughts on the Rangers’ big win against Pittsburgh? Let Monzo know in the comments below…