Rangers-Devils Stadium Series Thoughts: Mar-ty! Mar-ty! Mar-ty!

In an 82-game season, you need games like the Stadium Series to break up the monotony of the regular season. You want to have a playoff-like atmosphere at some point between October and early April to remind you of how amazing playoff hockey is and how important it is to be a part of it. You want a game to have the special feel and a seemingly added incentive to win even if the standard two points are on the line.

Sunday was special because it was one of two games on the Rangers’ schedule that stand out from the other 80. The novelty of outdoor NHL hockey isn’t being overexposed as some fans (like John McEnroe) believe with the Stadium Series and the Winter Classic and the Heritage Classic. Each outdoor game has presented it’s own unique element and those who have decided to complain about the increase in the games are likely the type of people who just need something to complain about.

Sunday was a perfect day in the Bronx for Rangers hockey and it might sound ridiculous, but if it were up to me, I would have the Rangers play a month of games at Yankee Stadium. OK, a week of games. OK, I will settle for one more.

– I loved how much the NBC broadcast team talked glowingly about Yankee Stadium. And I especially liked all the Yankees references that Doc Emrick threw into his call of the game including the one to open the game when going over the starting lineups at the opening faceoff:

“Mark Fayne, number 7, you see him at the right of your screen. He is the first home player to wear number 7 in Yankee Stadium since Mickey Mantle had that number retired in 1969.”

– Like the last time the Rangers played an outdoor game (2011-12 Winter Classic), it was the fourth line that kept the Rangers in the game and gave them a chance to win with the team’s first two goals of the game. Sure, the first one was a rebound as a result of Brodeur being interfered with by his own defenseman’s doing and the second one was a lucky bounce that trickled through his five-hole, but who cares? For at least one day, I can commend the fourth line’s work.

– Jaromir Jagr is ridiculous. The man is 41 years old, leads the Devils in scoring (16-28-44), is the active scoring leader in the NHL (697-1035-1732) and played the first period on Sunday as if it were 1993-94 and he were 21 years old. Jagr was the best player on the ice in the first period and looked like he might lead the Devils to a blowout win before the Devils defense and Brodeur fell apart. I wish Jagr would have had a second go-around with the Rangers.

– The Devils should think about changing back to the red and green color scheme over the red and black one. Or at least wear the red and green jerseys more often during the season. (Yes, this is my attempt to bring back the early-90s hockey that I grew up on.)

– What has happened to the Carcillo Effect? Carcillo was having a great shift forechecking in the first period, but when the Devils gained possession and broke it out, you could clearly see that he was tired and instead of changing, he coasted out of the Devils’ zone and then curled back toward the puck right before Ryan Clowe gave Patrik Elias a breakaway pass that led to the first goal of the game. It wasn’t “Car Bomb’s” finest moment, but his line did make up for it by scoring the Rangers’ first two goals. I never believed there was a Carcillo Effect and rather that he happened to join the team as they got hot (which coincides with Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist playing like Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist), but it would be nice if he did have some effect that was noticeable.

– The Devils’ second goal was a combination of Dan Girardi letting Jaromir Jagr continue toward the net with the puck without doing anything to slow him down, Dan Girardi not caring to look for someone to pick up (in this case it was Patrik Elias) after letting Jagr past him, Ryan McDonagh give a half-assed effort with a stick check on Jagr thinking that would be enough to take the puck from a man three goals away from 700 who is the best at protecting the puck in the world and then Henrik Lundqvist looking like a video game goalie when you accidentally switch to manual control. I think that sums up that disaster of a defensive breakdown.

– I didn’t tally how many junior hockey and college hockey references Pierre McGuire gave us on Sunday, but I did happen to notice this gem of a question for Peter DeBoer when Pierre went on the Devils bench in the first period: “I was really impressed with your practice yesterday. It looked like there was a rhyme and reason to it. What was the rhyme and reason?” If Pierre noticed there was a “rhyme and reason” to the Devils practiced (when I saw the Devils practice on MSG Network they were doing a shootout) then why would he need to ask DeBoer what it was?

– I’m not sure what Derick Brassard was doing when he decided to trip up Stephen Gionta at the Devils’ blue, which gave the Devils a power play, their third goal of the first and a 3-1 lead. Gionta entered the game with eight goals and 14 assists in 100 career games and wasn’t threatening to do anything during the play in which Brassard interfered with him. It was a brain fart and a dumb penalty to take and I can only hope that Brassard’s excuse was that he thought it was Brian Gionta.

– I was asked on Twitter why I went with “Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Girardi!” instead of “Ladies and gentlemen, Henrik Lundqvist!” when the Devils took a 3-1 lead. Is that a real question? It’s going to take a lot more than allowing three first-period goals, two of which Dan Girardi was on the ice for, for me to take shots at Hank. Lundqvist admitted in his postgame interview that he was in the middle of taking a nap because the Rangers had been told they had a long time until the delay would be over and that he wasn’t prepared and on his game in the first, but settled down after that. (He allowed no goals after the first). It was also reported that Marc Staal was eating pasta leading up to warmups since he was also under the impression the delay would last longer than expected. So if someone is eating pasta which isn’t highly recommended immediately before a game, then how can I get on Lundqvist for a sloppy 20 minutes? I can’t.

– The over/under in the game was 5. That total was matched in the first 16:59 of the game. With 10 total goals in the game, it was the most goals in a Rangers-Devils game since Dec. 12, 2008 when the Devils beat the Rangers 8-5. The Devils led 5-1 in that game, but blew their four-goal lead before winning. The Rangers’ goal scorers in that game were Markas Naslund, Nikolay Zherdev, Scott Gomez, Paul Mara and Ryan Callahan.

– I wish Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes played “I Don’t Want To Go Home.”

– On the Rangers’ fourth goal, which was produced by a 2-on-1 and a pass from Derick Brassard to Mats Zuccarello, it all started thanks to an awful pinch by Eric Gelinas, in which he accomplished nothing. Gelinas’ pinch looked like something that Girardi or Michael Del Zotto (has anyone missed him?) would do and I’m happy it happened, not only because the Rangers scored, but because it let me know that there are other teams that have defensemen that make equally as bad decisions as the Rangers defense does.

– The Rangers scored seven goals for the second time this year and the first line was only responsible for one of the goals as a unit (Rick Nash’s second-period goal) with Derek Stepan scoring on a penalty shot. It’s good to know that even if Nash, Stepan and Chris Kreider aren’t carrying the offensive load that the other lines will step up and serve as reliable secondary scoring options. Let’s just hope it wasn’t a one-time thing and the Rangers didn’t use up all their Stadium Series goals in the first of the two games.

– It’s only fitting that since Cory Schneider told the Devils coaching staff he would make their decision easier on who to start in the game by telling them that Martin Brodeur should start and have a chance to play in an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium. And it’s only fitting that Brodeur, being the class act he is, would return the favor and tell the coaching staff to let Schneider play the third period so he would have a chance to play in an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium. The decision to pull Brodeur had nothing to do with him allowing six goals on 21 shots in the first two periods with the Devils fighting to get into the playoff picture. Nothing at all.

The Devils’ season was over when they started 0-4-3 and won just once (beating the Rangers) in their first 10 games. Since then, they have battled back to within one point of the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers helped the Devils save their season, but on Sunday, they ruined the Devils’ chance to really get back in it. A perfect day in the Bronx.

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