Rangers Thoughts: Most Entertaining Game of Season

Rangers beat Flames 5-4 in overtime in what was best game of year

I’m glad the Rangers just ended a 10-day layoff and aren’t starting one because after Monday night’s exciting 5-4 overtime win over the Flames, Wednesday night feels like 10 days away, which is when the Rangers will play next.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Rangers.

1. I don’t have a hard time falling asleep. Just ask my wife. I could lie down on a hardwood floor with two children two years and younger playing around me with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse blaring on TV and “The Wheels on the Bus” playing on volume 10 on Alexa and be asleep within seconds. But on Monday night after the Rangers’ 5-4 overtime win over the Flames, I couldn’t fall asleep, which is why I’m writing this with a fatigue headache sitting over my left eye feeling like I was on the other end of a Jacob Trouba open-ice hit.

Between the three blown leads, the five Ranges goals, the nine total goals, the big hits, the fights, the play of Mika Zibanejad and the Kid Line, the kicking motion review (that of course didn’t go the Rangers’ way) and the big saves from Jaroslav Halak, the game had everything. I couldn’t fall asleep because I couldn’t stop watching Trouba lay out Nazem Kadri.

2. It’s rare that a player of Kadri’s ability is on the other end of a hit like that because a player of Kadri’s ability is usually smart enough to not put themselves in a situation like that. Henrik Lundqvist discussed the play after the second intermission on MSG, and broke down how Trouba sets up attacking opponents by making them think for a fraction of a second that there is enough time and space in the middle of the ice for them to cut across before taking away that time and space before they can realize it.

3. It was a clean hit, just like Trouba’s hit in the first period. Just like nearly all of Trouba’s hits are. But every time Trouba makes a hit like the ones he made on Monday night, he immediately has to defend himself in the form of a fight. I get the opposition wanting to stand up for their teammates, but maybe instead of fighting for their teammates they could just tell their teammates to keep their head up when skating with the puck.

4. After Trouba laid out Kadri, the nearest Flame to Trouba was Dillon Dube, so he took it upon himself to fight Trouba. Dube had zero career fights before taking on Trouba and had exactly 20 penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons. Trouba made quick work of him and as Stephen Valiquette said on MSG, “That’s somebody that shouldn’t want that smoke.” So in the span of seconds, Trouba destroyed the Flames’ third-leading scoring, beat the crap out of someone who has no business fighting and got his team a power play thanks to the instigator penalty. There’s nothing more demoralizing than a player jumping another player to stick up for his teammate who got leveled, only to also get his ass kicked.

Trouba takes a lot of shit from Rangers fans (including me) about his play and especially his play relative to his salary cap hit. But his performance in the win over the Flames made him worth every penny.

The Dube instigator led to a Zibenejad power-play goal to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead, so so much for Dube standing up for his teammate and making a statement. Within the next nine minutes of play, however, that lead was gone and the Rangers trailed by a goal.

5. It would have been hard to stomach if the Rangers had lost the game, and they nearly did. They blew a 1-0 lead, a 2-1 lead and a 3-2 lead. They had to overcome a 4-3 deficit with 7:05 left in the game to avoid losing what was a dominating performance. They had to overcome the deficit because the officials and Toronto upheld Andrew Mangiapane’s third-period goal. (I’m glad Mangiapane isn’t a Ranger. It’s hard enough to say and write Leschyshyn.)

I understand why the call was upheld because Mangiapane’s right foot was moving forward after he made contact with the puck. When you see a slowed-down replay it looks like he’s making a kicking motion even though I don’t think he is. But I have seen that same type of goal called back countless times and thought it would be in this instance as well. It wasn’t. That’s the way it goes for the Rangers and goal reviews.

6. Since Artemi Panarin became a Ranger I have called for him to play on a line with Zibanejad. Play the team’s top playmaker with the team’s top goal scorer. (What a concept.) David Quinn would only pair the two when the team was trailing and in full-blown urgency mode in the final minutes of the third period. I have enough problems with Gerard Gallant and his unfortunate similarities to Quinn, but the one thing Gallant can do to separate himself from Quinn to avoid the same fate as Quinn is to keep the two together.

7. Gallant was asked about keeping them together moving forward after the game.

“You’ve gotta give it some time, and I don’t know if I’m going to give it time or not,” Gallant said. “We’ll see.”

I think Gallant made part of that comment in jest, but I’m not 100 percent sure he did. He knows his penchant for changing lines daily is out of control, though I don’t know how he could think of breaking the two of them up. I guess when you’re the guy who healthy scratches Kaapo Kakko in the playoffs and Alexis Lafreniere in the regular season and plays Sammy Blais over Vitali Kravtsov, you could think of breaking up Panarin and Zibanejad.

8. The Kid Line was more than noticeable, driving play and creating chances as Filip Chytill scored a pair of goals and Lafreniere scored the overtime winner. If Gallant could just change out Vesey with Panarin and Zibanejad, and continue to allow the Kid Line to play without the nerves of making a mistake and being benched (or scratched), the Rangers would have a very dangerous top six. They could have a dangerous bottom six as well, but that would entail rebuilding the entire fourth line, which they seem unwilling to do. But to keep the theme of these Thoughts positive after the memorable win and the most entertaining game of the season, I will refrain from writing about the fourth line disaster. (And I won’t mention how Blais hasn’t scored a goal in 53 games with the Rangers.)

9. Lafreniere desperately needed that goal, (as he desperately needs every point he can get), which was just his second since December 7. Chytil looks like he will be a consistent goal-scoring threat and Kakko is starting get his name on the stat sheet with regularity. Now Lafreniere needs to do the same. The trio is never gong to be given PP1 time as long as Gallant is the head coach, so they are going to need to find a way to get their points in the limited final-seconds-of-the-power-play time they do get and at even strength. They are starting to do just that.

10. Coming off a 10-day layoff and at home and given the performance, the Rangers had to have two points from that game. The same goes for their next game on Wednesday night against a Canucks team that isn’t good and an organization that is lost. It’s not often that I expect the Rangers to win, but I expect them to win on Wednesday.