Rangers Recall: What a win to start February
Coming into Monday’s night’s post All-Star break contest against fellow Cup contenders the Colorado Avalanche, the New York Rangers talked about having a good start.
Things weren’t clicking for them in the first period, as they (and the refs) looked rusty. Three penalties were called against the Blueshirts, with a trip on Alexis Lafreniere that was caused by an Avalanche player on one of his own after replays aired on the Jumbotron.
Despite the highly efficient Avs not being able to convert on any of those power play opportunities, they built up enough momentum to grab a 1-0 lead when Nathan MacKinnon found a rare hole on Jonathan Quick.
At the opposite end, Alexandar Georgiev was standing on his head, and it looked like a long night at the Garden. However, the Rangers never deviated from their system which eventually paid off when Artemi Panarin knotted the game in the third period.
New York dominated much of the final frame and all of overtime resulting in a 2-1 comeback win on a goal scored by Lafreniere, who must of smiled after his phantom call in the first period.
Let’s look at some key takeaways from that victory.
Rangers Recall: What a win!
When discussing last night’s win, it starts in goal with Jonathan Quick. The veteran was absolutely stellar, and even recorded an assist on Lafreniere’s OT tally which earned him First Star honors.
“I shouldn’t wander out that far,” Quick laughed about his assist. “I realized I was in a little bit of trouble. Luckily I got it into the neutral zone and the boys were able to take care of it from there.”
While the helper is fun to talk about, Quick made a point-blank save against Mikko Rantanen in the final minute of the match. It was just one of his 32 saves, but if that puck beats him, this is a whole different article.
In 18 games this season, Quick has an outstanding record of 11-4-2 with GAA of 2.35, and an .918 save percentage. He’s on a two-game winning streak, as are the Rangers, and acting as a 1A instead of a backup.
“Every day he comes to the rink preparing to start and play,” coach Peter Laviolette said of Quick. “He’s been unbelievable in the room with the guys as a teammate.”
It’s been an excellent season for Lafreniere, who has been a mainstay on the second line. What shouldn’t be lost is that he’s playing his off-wing and still making adjustments. Regardless, the Rangers need him to produce, but he’s been snakebitten for most of the year unable to convert on a multitude of chances.
However, in a tight game, Lafreniere has a clutch gene that shows itself. In overtime, he made a power move to the net that eventually sent the Garden Faithful jumping out of their seats. It was his fourth game-winner of the season, and the 14th of his career. Matter of fact, 23% of his 60 career goals are of the game-winning variety.
“Being down in the third and [Artemi Panarin] scoring the goal got us some energy,” Lafreniere explained. “That was a big one for us coming out of the break.”
Lafreniere, 22, now has 13 goals and 30 points in 50 games this season.
Playing without his regular defense partner Jacob Trouba, who finished serving a two-game suspension for elbowing last night, K’Andre Miller was a force. The young defender has struggled in his own zone for most of this season, but he was their best blue-liner in all three zones against the Avs.
Miller notched an assist on Panarin’s tying goal in the third, and now has 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in 48 games on the year. While picking up the helper is nice, it was his play in the defensive zone that caught my eye repeatedly.
Against some of the Avs’ toughest players, he was a physical presence in front of the net allowing Quick to get clear sight of many shots. Miller also got into it with Rantanen in front of his own net, drawing the only power play the Rangers received all night.
The 24-year-old has been pretty hard on himself about his play for most of this season. Hopefully last night’s performance and win over the Avs catapults him the rest of the way to a strong finish.