Monzo: Rangers Clinch Playoff Birth With Win Over Devils
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By Brian Monzo
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For the second year in a row, a Rangers win over the Devils turned out to be the win to get the Rangers into the postseason. Brandon Dubinsky, Mats Zuccarello, Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan all scored last night and the Rangers beat the Devils, leaving Rangers fans happy knowing there will be postseason hockey at the Garden in a few weeks.
It took just three seconds for three sets of fights to break out in the game. Stu Bickel, Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp dropped the gloves with Cam Janssen, Ryan Carter and Eric Boulton to get the game started. This immediately got the crowd into the game and the feet under the Rangers’ legs going.
Whether you hate fighting or love fighting in hockey, this was a moment where it had its place. From that scrap, the Rangers dominated the first period. They were faster, winning battles and forcing turnovers, which has been the key to the Rangers’ success all season.
Carl Hagelin had two assists and Brad Richards had an assist, but for the most part, their top line of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Hagelin was quiet. I found this to be a good thing. They were able to score a few goals without their top line being the main stream of offense. Dubinsky played perhaps his best game of the season, scoring a goal and adding an assist. Ryan Callahan had two assists, drew a penalty and was involved in every post-whistle scrap. Callahan now has 26 goals, and 24 assists this season, good for 50 points.
Despite the recent struggles (4-5-1 in last 10), there’s no arguing the season (now 45-20-7) has been a very successful one, and there’s no pointing to one main reason for their success.
Three keys to me have been the play of Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and Hagelin.
McDonagh has emerged as the Rangers’ best all-around defenseman. He plays on both ends of the ice, is rarely out of position and is still only 22. He plays a ton of minutes, all against the opposing teams top players. Del Zotto was coming off a brutal sophomore season to find his game and add a solid offensive presence from the blue line. Hagelin has 37 points in 54 games and has the looks of a potential 35 goal scorer in the league. With his speed, the sky is really the limit with him.
Still bothering me is the play of Henrik Lundqvist. Statistically, the numbers are there. There’s no arguing with a save percentage of .934 and a goals against of 1.88. But for a good few weeks, watching him game in and game out, you can tell he is fighting the puck a little more than normal. Perhaps that’s the bad thing about being so good for so long. It can become a little more obvious when things aren’t going well. Is it something to worry about? I don’t think so. It’s certainly refreshing knowing that he will likely get better down the road and into the playoffs.
Follow Brian on Twitter @BMonzoWFAN
How far can this Rangers team go in the playoffs? Leave a comment below.