I tweeted this last night during the game: if the Rangers team I was watching last night was a dream, then I hope I never wake up.
Everything that could've possibly gone right for the Rangers last night did, and they were led to the win thanks in large part to their three newest acquisitions. Ryane Clowe, who had been previously held without a goal in 28 games with the Sharks this season, recorded his first two goals of the season and also chipped in with an assist. His stat-sheet, though, really doesn't even begin to tell the full story of the impact he had last night. Clowe was an absolute monster, hitting everybody on the ice and getting in on the forecheck during every one of his shifts. Not to be outdone, Derick Brassard added a goal and three assists of his own, while John Moore capped off the scoring with his first goal of the year and finished with 14:09 TOI.
Brassard and Moore arrived at Madison Square Garden about 15 minutes before warmups, so they barely just had enough time to meet their new coach and teammates before getting dressed and being thrown into the fray. They admitted after the game that the fact they were really running on adrenaline and had no time to sit down and let everything sink in likely played a large role in the way they played last night. John Tortorella's quote best summed things up:
“Sometimes you do too much coaching,” Tortorella said.
I believe that quote is spot on, and I don't think it's a coincidence that this team played the best it has in weeks mainly because the newest Rangers simply just went out there and played hockey without having strategies and a new system beat repeatedly into their heads. The team just looked completely re-energized right from the start. Brian Boyle played easily his best game of the season (likely because he was relieved he wasn't traded at the deadline), finishing with a goal and three assists in 16:12 TOI, including 2:14 on the power play. His goal came after he deflected a Brad Richards shot from the point on the power play to put the Rangers up 1-0 in the first period, and they never looked back. Richards also had an outstanding game, recording three assists on the night. He seemed to be skating noticeably better and looked like the elite playmaker the Rangers had last season. Ryan McDonagh also added his third goal of the season.
Interesting to note from last night is that the distribution of ice time amongst all players was spread out relatively evenly. Granted, a large part of that was likely due to the fact that the Rangers had such a large lead that they were able to give their bottom six forwards more ice time once the game was out of reach, but still. It'll be interesting to see how Torts continues to divide ice time now that Marian Gaborik is no longer here and he has a quality defenseman over John Moore, who is obviously a huge upgrade over Matt Gilroy and Roman Hamrlik on the third D-pairing.
Finally, some telling quotes from Marian Gaborik after he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday afternoon:
"I had a lot of fun in New York but the way this kind of played out that actually one team wants me and indicate they are going in the right direction and wanted to trade for me,” Gaborik added. “When I was in New York we didn’t really perform the way we should, myself included. It wasn’t the way anybody expected.”
“You can see this team is going in the right direction. I believe this change will help myself and help (New York) and help Columbus.”
“I didn’t have fun this year. I don’t think the whole team has at all, too, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
As for reports of a bad relationship with Tortorella, Gaborik, like Tortorella, downplayed any rift.
“The media makes a whole lot more than it actually is. There was nothing there for me. It was nothing personal. Sometimes we didn’t see eye-to-eye but that’s it. That’s hockey. Everybody goes through stuff like that with their coaches.”
Also, in a tremendously classy move, Gaborik took to Twitter (his first tweet in nearly two months) to thank the Rangers' organization and fans for their support during his tenure here.
I'm not fully buying all the nice-nice talk that Gaborik and John Tortorella have spoken about each other through the media within the last day, but there's no doubt both men respected each other. I firmly believe that Torts was asking Gaborik to play a style of hockey that just wasn't in his nature and Gaby had a hard time adjusting. I have no doubt Gaborik will rebound playing in Columbus, and I certainly wish him the best. Gaborik got a lot of flack from Rangers fans during his tenure here, most of which I never really understood. Gaborik had two extremely productive seasons on Broadway and gave the team one of their most thrilling wins in recent history with his game-winner in triple overtime last year against the Capitals in the playoffs.
I also thought Gaborik's comments about the team not having fun this year is pretty telling. It's never fun losing, but the team was playing noticeably looser last night for the first time all season and I don't think it's any coincidence they had their most convincing win all year.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are practicing today before heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins again tomorrow night. I don't think there's any doubt the Penguins team that shows up tomorrow night will be a hundred times better than the one that showed up last night, so the Rangers will have to be ready and well-prepared.