Quick Hits – Rangers vs Maple Leafs 1/19/17

Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Here is my Quick Hits recap of the Rangers 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello – What else can I say about this line? The line of the Rangers “vets” has really propelled this team over the last few weeks. Zuccarello and Kreider won the board battle in the corner, and Zucc found a cutting Brady Skjei in the slot who wired a wrister past Frederik Andersen. Zuccarello has 20 points since the start of December, and while hasn’t been scoring a lot of goals, he is now tied for ninth in the NHL in assists (28). This line will be have to play strong for the rest of the season, so come playoff time, they can keep on rolling.
  • Buchnevich-Zibanejad-Nash – If you would have turned this game on and said that #93 had missed two months, I would have never believed you. Mika Zibanejad has jumped right back into the lineup and has not missed a beat. He was flying up and down the ice, his stick always down and in position, and most importantly, he was 67% on faceoffs, an area that the Rangers were severely missing during his absence. He had two shots and three hits in this one, while his wingers Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich, combined to score the Rangers second goal of the game. After a shot from the point by Skjei was stopped, Nash kept the rebound alive for Buchnevich, who kicked it to his stick and tapped it into the empty net. It was the Russian’s 14th point in his 14th NHL game. He has also come back from injury as well as anyone could’ve hoped for. If he can develop his game this season, he can be one of the top scorers in the league.
  • Miller-Hayes-Grabner – This line has been the big surprise for the Blueshirts up front this season. Kevin Hayes and JT Miller, who were both expected to make improvements from last season have done so in a big way. Miller scored his sixth goal in his last nine games, after Hayes set him up for a one-timer from the circle for what would be the game winner. Grabner, who had scored 20 or more goals twice in his 7+ seasons in the NHL. And in this one, he not only scored his 20th, but also his 21st. His first goal of the night came with the Rangers shorthanded. Kevin Hayes sent a beautiful pass through two Leafs players to a streaking Grabner, who rifled a wrist shot past the glove hand of Andersen. Then, with the Maple Leafs net empty, Grabner steals the puck at the blue line and deposits the puck into the empty net. Grabner has been perhaps the biggest surprise for the Rangers forward group this season. His speed has truly killed opposing teams, and is one of the reasons that the Rangers transition game is so good.
  • Brady Skjei – It has been a bit of a rough stretch for Brady Skjei over the last few weeks, who had seemed to hit the rookie wall. But this game looked like the Brady of “old”. He was skating well, in good defensive position and picked up two points for good measure. He scored his second goal of the season after taking a feed from Mats Zuccarello in the corner, and put it past Frederik Andersen. Hopefully this game will get him back to the form we saw early on in the season.
  • Adam Clendening – For all the talk of “we want Clendening”, he showed why he has been an NHL journeyman in this game. He made the breakout pass on the goal by Miller, but defensively, he really screwed the pooch. With the Rangers on the powerplay, Clendening was casually skating with the puck when Zach Hyman took the puck right off his stick and put it past a sprawled out Henrik Lundqvist. Yes, his offensive game is there, but if he doesn’t start improving defensively, he might end up in the press box for long stretches.
  • Special Teams – The Rangers special teams had a both good and not so good night. The powerplay was kept off the board, and gave up a goal with the man advantage. The penalty kill was a perfect 2/2 and scored a shorthanded goal of their own from Michael Grabner. The powerplay is currently 7th in the NHL, while the PK is right in the middle at number 15. As I said before, if the PK can improve just a little bit, it will go a long way come April.
  • Team Play – The Rangers played this game much like they did the third period against the Stars. They made sure to play a full 200ft game, and because of that, were able to outshoot the Maple Leafs 41-25. They dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 56% of the draws and played a full 60 minute game. They were able to keep the Leafs rookie sensation Auston Matthews off the scoresheet and to a plus/minus of -3. Sometimes you just have to simplify your game, and I think the Rangers have seen that over the last four periods.If they play a simpler game, it will allow them to play well defensively. And as we all know, this team can score. So as long as the Rangers can find ways to play solid team defense, they should be able to win a lot of games.
  • Henrik Lundqvist – This was the kind of game that Henrik Lundqvist needed. He’s had a rough go of it the last few weeks, and has seemed a bit down on himself with his play this season. But in this one, he came up big when called upon. His first save of the night came on a deflection in the high slot, and Henrik kicked out the pad to make the save. And the goal from JT Miller came after Henrik stopped Mitch Marner on a breakaway, just seconds earlier. Let’s hope that this game will get Henrik going back in the right direction for the rest of the season.
  • NEXT GAME: The Rangers head off to the Joe for a Sunday matinee against the Red Wings. Puck drops at 1230 on NBC!


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