All five games this year and seven in a row dating back to last year; that’s the winning streak the Rangers are on against the Flyers. The Blueshirts have outscored Philadelphia 19 – 8 including back-to-back 5 – 2 drubbings in the last seven days.
While it’s nice to so thoroughly dominate a rival as reviled as the Flyers, it won’t mean a thing should we happen to meet in the postseason and not get it done when it matters most. I love getting wins and points during February thus making it likely the club will sew up a postseason berth early and hopefully a top seed in the conference by season’s end. Still, with a postseason spot all but locked up, regular season superiority over the Flyers will matter little; it’ll be all about playoff success.
Of course, our goaltending is just that much better
Every game against Philly is hard-fought and physical. The Flyers have loads of talented offensive players and generate plenty of quality scoring opportunities even against a good defense like that of New York’s. The primary reason the Blueshirts have allowed just 8 goals in five games with Philly and come out on top in each this season is Hank.
Take today’s second period as an example. The Flyers let go of 18 shots at the Ranger goal and Hank stopped all but one. Overall he made 31 saves on 33 shots. The goals, one by Wayne Simmonds and the other by Claude Giroux, were unstoppable. Simmonds executed a perfect deflection of an Andrej Meszaros shot. Giroux scored on a breakaway when he pushed the rebound in after Hank made the initial save with the glove hand.
I don’t think Bobrovsky allowed any bad goals today but there is a substantial difference in the quality of play the Flyers and Rangers have gotten in their head-to-head matchups. The Rangers can count on Hank to make big saves whereas the Flyers can’t with either of their netminders.
While the Rangers can compete with the Flyers physically and their defense is better than Philadelphia’s, what really separates the two teams is the quality of the play in goal.
Is Richards finally getting it together?
When we bestowed a very rich and heavily front-loaded contract on center Brad Richards, it was with the expectation he would produce points both at even strength and in particular on the power play. Through 52 games the Rangers checked in with the 27th best PP in the league clicking at just 13.4%. Richards had just 13 PP points and his struggles coincided with those of the Blueshirts. With three assists today, two coming on the man-advantage, Richards might finally be breaking out and becoming the player we thought we were getting when we signed him this summer.
He certainly looked like a player with some newfound confidence. He carried the puck and made some exceptional passes. His feed to Gaborik for the redirection was perfection. If Richards can keep it going and the Rangers PP suddenly becomes even respectable, the Blueshirts will be that much more dangerous.
Still atop the standings
After the victory today the Rangers sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with 75 points, five better than the second-place Bruins. The reason for this has been the Rangers ability to avoid lengthy losing streaks. Only twice this year have the Rangers lost even two consecutive regular season games. Their longest losing streak has been three games and that includes one shootout and one overtime loss. That streak occurred during the first three games of the season. Conversely the Rangers have reeled off four winning streaks of at least five games; three five-gamers and one seven-game stretch.
Meanwhile, the second-place Bruins on four occasions have dropped consecutive regulation contests. They have two winning streaks of at least seven though; one seven-game and one ten-game.
New York has been able to stay atop the standings by avoiding losing streaks while also stringing together a few winning streaks.
The disallowed goal
A little late yes, but here’s my take on the disallowed goal from Tuesday’s 1 – 0 loss to New Jersey. Without a doubt, Anton Volchenkov’s actions caused Marian Gaborik to collide with Brodeur just ahead of the puck entering the cage. That being said I can’t fault the officials for not seeing it that way.
In case you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend going to TSN.ca and reading former NHL referee Kerry Fraser’s take on the play. He sees Volchenkov’s stick get into Gaboriks feet thus not allowing him the opportunity to avoid contact. The problem was two-fold; fist the official wasn’t in a good position to see Volchenkov and Gabby and the second being the NHL’s policy of focusing on protecting the goaltenders. The referee obviously saw Gaborik contact the Devils goalie and without seeing the interference which preceded it he had no choice but to call it the way he did.
I can’t complain about the on-ice decision made by the official but I think this is a great example of a situation that should be reviewed when it occurs. At full speed we can understand how difficult it is for the officials to see what happens so allow them the opportunity to review the play on video. Don’t you think they’d like to get the call right rather than see a club lose a chance to earn a point? Of course they would.
Speaking of losing a point or more, the Rangers have experienced a swing of perhaps six points in their last two matchups with the Devils. In the first of those two contests, the Rangers were less than a minute from victory when a dump in from a desperate Devils team took a strange hop and landed on the stick of David Clarkson right in front of Marty Biron who converted the gift into the tying marker. The Devils would go on to down the Rangers in the shootout. The Rangers came away with one point instead of the two they would have earned with a regulation win and the Devils got two points when they were staring at a pointless final. That’s a three point swing.
More recently the Devils won in regulation 1 – 0 in the disallowed goal game getting both points. Assume for a moment the goal had been allowed and the Blueshirts managed to win in OT or the shootout. They would have gained two points instead of none and the Devils would only have received a single point for their efforts. That’s another three point swing.
While it’s easy to get frustrated with those results, the fact is that is sometimes what happens in hockey. You get bad bounces and bad calls against. Conversely you will also get good bounces and calls benefitting your club. Chances are those will balance out over the course of a long season.
Of course I doubt we’ll gain any measure of justice this season against the Devils specifically but I distinctly recall a game in which Brad Richards blindly flung the puck towards the Phoenix goal only to have it deflect in off a Coyote defender with 0.1 seconds left in regulation. The end result: Two points for the Blueshirts and zero for the Coyotes. If that puck somehow stays out of the cage the Coyotes would have been guaranteed one point but as it turned out they got none. I’d say that was lucky for the Rangers and not so much for Phoenix.
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