Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rangers Sweep Weekend Series Versus Flyers, Caps

The Rangers capped off a successful weekend this afternoon with a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals, one day after a dominating 5-2 victory in Philadelphia against the Flyers. Ryan Callahan scored a goal and now has four goals in his last two games, while Ryan McDonagh and Brandon Prust scored the other two goals. Prust's goal was his first since October 20.

The Rangers looked very strong and came out with a ton of energy in today's game to the point that you wouldn't even have known they played in such a physical game against the Flyers yesterday afternoon. It certainly helped that the Rangers got an early goal in the first period from Ryan Callahan, who made an unbelievable play when he backhanded the puck in the net while falling over. Ryan McDonagh added a beautiful goal off a sick toe drag from the left circle, while Brandon Prust batted home a short-handed goal, and eventual game-winner, off a perfect feed from Brandon Dubinsky - who had two assists in today's game.

Speaking of McDonagh, every Ranger fan held their breath when McDonagh fell to the ice and needed to be helped off following his goal in the second period. McDonagh appeared to get his skate caught in a rut in the ice while attempting his toe drag. It looked really, really bad at first from McDonagh's reaction and my initial thought was immediately a torn ACL or something that would knock McDonagh out for the rest of the season. Thankfully, though, he not only returned to the game, but he didn't even miss his next shift. I was just shocked when I heard Doc Emerick say that McDonagh was back out there on the ice.

Henrik Lundqvist was, of course, spectacular once again continues to stop nearly everything opposing teams throw at him. Lundqvist is having, easily, the best season of his career and could be well on his way to capturing his first career Vezina trophy. I also think Lundqvist has to get MVP consideration because when you consider what the award stands for, I truly don't think there's anyone in the league who's more valuable to their team than Lundqvist is for the Rangers.

Always nice to see Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle get on the scoreboard. Those guys work so hard and do so many little things that don't show up in the boxscore. Prust, in particular, has been a non-factor on offense for a majority of this season after enjoying a career year last season. You could see the relief on his face when he scored his goal, and his goal was a one-timer that Prust put every ounce of energy into when he dropped to one knee and hammered home Dubi's pass. If Prust can continue to chip in with a goal here and there down the stretch it'll certainly make the Rangers' third and fourth lines much more balanced.

After recording a goal and three assists yesterday against the Flyers, Marian Gaborik didn't record a point in today's game, but man, oh man is the guy noticeable on every single shift. Gaborik is making things happen every time he's on the ice and is a completely different player than he was last year. In fact, I thought Gaborik was way more noticeable in today's game than Alexander Ovechkin was.

In addition to Gaborik, I thought both Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov have played their best games in a while since being reunited on a line with Marian Gaborik. Stepan's playmaking abilities and his ability to pass the puck are really unbelievable, and it's going to be fun watching this kid continue to get better and better in Rangers blue for many years to come. Anisimov has also made some great plays with and without the puck and looks more confident since he's been bumped back up to the first line.

I really liked what I saw from Stu Bickel playing on the fourth line the last two games while filling in for Ruslan Fedotenko. Bickel has really impressed me since he was called up and I think he plays a great game with a ton of grit and toughness that the Rangers could use. In fact, he even drew a penalty today along the boards in the offensive zone battling for a loose puck. Bickel kind of reminds me of Jason Strudwick when he was a Ranger. He's not flashy and his play won't "wow" you, but he adds a ton of toughness and can fill in nicely as an extra forward/defenseman who can give you a hard-nosed style in limited minutes.

Some other notes from the game: Ryan Callahan now has four goals in his last two games and has 22 goals on the season. He's one goal shy of tying his career high, which he set last year...Henrik Lundqvist started both games of back-to-backs for the first time this season and stopped a total of 55 out of 59 shots overall this weekend...The Rangers now have three power play goals and one short-handed goal in their last two games...Brad Richards now has one goal and four assists in his last three games...Marc Staal registered an assist on Brandon Prust's short-handed goal, which was his first point of the season...The Rangers blocked 25 shots in today's game...The Rangers never trailed at any point this weekend.

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