By Brian Monzo
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I understand the big story in sports is Jeremy Lin and the Knicks winning a few games in a row, pulling themselves to 14-15 on the season.
However, if you check out the NHL standings and statistics, you will see Henrik Lundqvist, the King, doing amazing things in between the pipes for the Rangers.
Lundqvist’s latest work of magic was last night’s 3-0, 42-save shutout of the Boston Bruins.
The Rangers struck twice in the first period and played as complete of a first period they have played all season. They battled throughout the second period and added another goal in the third. The rest was done by Lundqvist, making save after save, holding the Bruins down and giving the Rangers 79 points now, nine points ahead of the Bruins in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers now prepare for the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Last night, aside from Lundqvist, two players stood out to me: Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh.
Callahan continues to sizzle. He has six goals in the last four games, and continues to do everything a player can do on the ice. He is a true gamer. He hits, blocks shots, kills penalties and everything in between.
McDonagh has become the Rangers’ best and most complete defenseman. As good as Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal are, McDonagh right now is better. He looks like a natural. He creates offensives opportunities and is never out of position defensively. He makes everything look effortless. Not since the days of Brian Leetch have the Rangers had a defenseman with his complete skills set.
But last night the star of the show was Lundqvist, who continues to make a push for not only the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, but for the Hart Trophy as well.
Lundqvist is 27-11-4, with a GAA of 1.77 and a save percentage of .941. I don’t think I’ve ever seen numbers like this. I was talking to a friend today and I said I truly believe that Lundqvist goes into every game expecting to shut his opponent out. His league leading seven shutouts seem to prove that theory.
Last week I said going into this stretch of four games with the Flyers, Capitals, Bruins and Blackhawks that 2-2 would be good, 3-1 would be awesome and 4-0 would be unrealistic. The Blackhawks have lost nine straight heading into Thursday night at MSG. 4-0 does not sound all that unrealistic at this point. That is simply stunning.
To address some speculation from yesterday regarding Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash possibly being dealt to the Rangers before the February 27 trade deadline:
Rick Nash is a premier NHL goal scorer. He is still only 27 years of age, and has a long term contract paying him $7.8 million per season through 2018. It’s been nine seasons for him in Columbus with only one playoff appearance. It appears the Blue Jackets and GM Scott Howson and looking to move their captain for a few young chips to start a long rebuilding process for the struggling franchise.
The names we’ve heard bounced around would be something along the lines of Brandon Dubinsky, top prospect Chris Kreider and a draft pick.
I was asked by countless people yesterday if I would make that trade, as well as break up a small portion of the Rangers’ successful formula. Well, what I would do is irrelevant. To me, this comes down to John Tortorella giving Glen Sather the green light to make a big splash like this.
Nash has scored 277 goals in his career, and not with a ton of help. From someone I spoke to today in Columbus, it’s basically even money that Nash gets moved. It’s believed by some that if were not the captain and was playing with players that made him one of the tops players on a team and not THE top player, his game would be elevated to perhaps elite status.
The fact is a player like Dubinsky, making $4.2 million is expendable for the right piece. Dubinsky is not playing on their top two lines and if you can get a top player for him, you have to do so. Kreider, drafted 19th overall in 2009, is the Rangers best offensive prospect. He is a gifted skater with a goal scorers touch. He has been lights out as an amateur, but is unproven at the NHL level.
Throw in a first round draft pick, and that is a pretty appealing package for any team looking to get better in the future.
They would also have to analyze their cap situation. Moving Dubinsky clears up $4.2 million. They would gain $3.8 million of cap space from Wojtek Wolski at the end of the season, and $1.4 million from Ruslan Fedotenko. They would also clear about $2.1 million in relief of the cost of Chris Drury’s buyout. Throw in a few lose ends (Anton Stralman, John Mitchell, Jeff Woywitka) and it would seem they would be able to fit Nash in under the cap.
As for me, it’s tough to not make a deal for a player of Nash’s caliber. It’s going to be up to the coach. He knows exactly what kind of team and players he wants. If he wants Nash, the Rangers should be able to have the pieces to get it done. If he wants to make his playoff run with his current squad, I think we would all understand that as well.
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