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New York Rangers Enter Break on a High Note, Slip Past Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3

February 8th, 2014 at 12:46 PM
By Ricky Cibrano

'Crosby chats w/ ref' photo (c) 2008, Jon Dawson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
The Rangers followed up one of their most disappointing losses of the season with one of their most impressive wins, beating the Penguins on the road 4-3 in a shootout. Benoit Pouliot had two, Dan Girardi one plus a litany of blocks, and Brad Richards notched the shootout winner. 

If they played like this Thursday, they'd have beaten Edmonton 5-1.

-The Blueshirts carried the play at even strength, outshooting the Pens 41-29 overall, and 35-20 with even numbers. That being said, the game wasn't quite as lopsided as the shots would suggest. The Rangers took a high percentage of their shots from less than prime scoring areas, and while Marc-Andre Fleury was good, to say he kept his team in it would be a stretch. Conversely, Pittsburgh is a team that often passes up easy shots in favor of cycling and trying to find that one "perfect" play.

-Speaking of perfect, the Rangers played a nearly perfect third period, and were on the verge of winning in regulation…until they left James Neal all alone in the slot with just under three minutes to play. Ryan Callahan and Anton Stralman got caught puck watching, and failed to identify Neal who came into the zone late after changing on the fly, allowing the Pittsburgh winger to send the game into overtime.

-The difference in this game was the Penguins utter lack of depth. Pittsburgh is so decimated by injuries they had a 25-year old undrafted rookie (Brian Gibbons) start on a line with Sidney Crosby, and, outside of Brandon Sutter, currently have no bottom-6 forwards of any merit at all. In fact, the Pens bottom-6 mustered just 5 shots on goal all game. Pittsburgh will eventually get somewhat healthy, and likely add some pieces at the deadline, but for the time being, it's a pretty glaring weakness.

-Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are incredibly dangerous, but at even strength, the Rangers played them about as well as they possibly could, especially the second half of the game. How? They made them defend. 4 on 4 overtime–the Rangers hardly touched the puck–was another story, but that's to be expected.

-The line of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello might technically be a third line, but it's been the Rangers best, and most creative unit, for the better part of the last month. The trio was on the ice for all three of the Blueshirts' goals (two on the power play), and have factored into all of the Rangers' tallies the past two games.

-The stat sheet will say Rick Nash had 6 shots on goal, but he had one of his roughest outings in a while. The Big Smooth took two undisciplined penalties, and missed the net on a golden opportunity in front in the second.

-Nash hasn't had an assist in 18 games. Not sure how that's even possible.

-The Rangers sneakily sit atop the NHL with 18 road wins, but, at 14-14-3, they're one of only 7 teams in the entire league not to be above .500 in their own barn. Guess it's a good thing home ice throughout the playoffs seems out of the question.

The Blueshirts enter the 20-day Olympic vacation on a 16-6-1 stretch–how's that for bad timing? But, questions remain. Mainly: What does the future have in store for their captain? An extension at this point seems unlikely unless he drops his asking price. There's no shortage of Callahan's two greatest qualities–grit and determination–in the Rangers' locker room, but shipping him out of town is still not without risk.

On the ice, the Blueshirts will need more out of players such as Derek Stepan, who has just 35 points, the aforementioned Callahan, and even Chris Kreider, who enters the break in the midst of a 7-game dry spell. The top line of Kreider, Stepan, and Nash may need some tweaking moving forward, with all three slumping of late.

Things that no one would have believed in September: Mats Zuccarello and Brad Richards are the Rangers leading scorers two-thirds of the way through the season. 

Things everyone would have believed in September: John Tortorella's Canucks can't find the back of the net.

Enjoy the Olympics.


 

Just because the Super Bowl left NY/NJ it doesn't mean the NFL action is over. Come see the Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Liberty Science Center see jerseys worn by legends, make the tough call under the hood, try on equipment and get immersed into football like never before.

Tags: Benoit Pouliot, Brad Richards, Chris Kreider, Dan Girardi, Evgeni Malkin, Hockey, James Neal, Mats Zuccarello, New York, New York Rangers, NHL, Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby

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