What a difference a week makes. Last week, the Rangers dropped a crucial overtime loss to the Red Wings at Madison Square Garden and the Blueshirts looked to be in “Groundhog Day” mode repeating the same losses over and over again. Until Thursday night, the Rangers have been tied at the end of the second period in seven of their last nine games before losing either in regulation time over overtime. Then, the firepower show started and when it was all over, the Rangers looked like a team on a mission to get their season back on track.
Whether it was the demotion of alternate captain Chris Kreider that sent a message to the rest of the team, a motivational speech by head coach Gerard Gallant, maybe hints of boos from the crowd or just a bunch of professional hockey players tired of losing games they should have/could have won, Thursday’s night result was a clear break from the Rangers’ early season woes at the Blueshirts walked out of Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit with a solid 8-2 win.
The Rangers discovered again that a hockey game is 60 minutes and not 40.
The Rangers have been pretty solid early on this season during the first and second periods but as previously mentioned, they have dropped seven out of nine losses either in the third period or overtime. There’s a common term in sports and that’s finishing games – a lesson the Rangers forgot about until Thursday night.
With the score 2-2 at the end of the second period, the Rangers were in a proverbial dogfight with the much-improved Red Wings. Centerman Mika Zibanejad, playing in his 700th NHL game, got his first goal and then a second which seemed to wake up the Blueshirts in the third period. Actually, saying that the Rangers woke up is a gross understatement; many of the Rangers started playing offense like their hair was on fire.
Zibanejad finished off his night on a newly-minted first line with Jimmy Vesey and promoted Chris Kreider to add two goals to the Rangers win. In the third period, something rather magical happened: every Ranger out on the ice wanted to score a goal. As sports writers, we enjoy listing names who normally don’t get that much press time but Barclay Goodrow, Julien Gauthier, Libor Hajek and Jimmy Vesey, along with a rejunvenated Chris Kreider, all deserve some of the limelight as they added goals to this offensive onslaught. Not to be left out, Adam Fox also added to the goal tally on Thursday night and added a beutiful assist to Mika Zibanejad as well.
Winger Jimmy Vesey, a player who started the preseason on an professional tryout (PTO) contract, has moved from the fourth, third, second and now the first line and adding a goal and an assist in the Red Wings win has solidified Vesey’s career rebirth with the Rangers, a team he started his NHL career with. Vesey has found a home on the Rangers’ penalty kill units as well and putting him back on the Blueshirt bench this season is turning out to be one of the pleasant surprises of this early season so far.
The name of this game is how well you can finish after 60 minutes and not how great you look after 40 minutes on the ice. The Rangers forgot about that the past few weeks and hopefully their offensive rejuvenation. The Rangers sit at 7-5-3 and have a chance to steer a new course and finish out their upcoming games the right way – play for 60 minutes and just keep shooting.