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The New York Rangers clinch the President’s Trophy with 4-2 win in New Jersey

Bobby Bevilacqua

cam talbot and kevin haayes 4-7

Kevin Hayes and Cam Talbot celebrate after the Rangers win in New Jersey, clinching the President’s Trophy for the first time in 21 years. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Tonight’s win confirmed something that the Rangers and their fans have known for quite some time; the New York Rangers are the best team in the National Hockey League.

Despite playing last night, the Rangers (52-21-7) came out strong, outdueling the New Jersey Devils (32-35-13) early and holding onto their lead despite some late scares, securing their fifth straight win, first place in the Eastern Conference, and the President’s Trophy awarded to the team with the best record in the NHL.

The win was the Rangers’ 52nd of the season, tying the franchise record for most wins in a season, previously set in the 1993-94 season. With 111 points, the Rangers are just one point shy of the franchise record for points in a season, also set in the 1993-94 season. This is the first time the Rangers have won the President’s Trophy since, you guessed it, that magical 1993-94 season in which they won the Stanley Cup.

The Rangers also won all four games in the season series against the New Jersey Devils. The last time that they swept the season series against the Devils was coincidentally, the 1993-94 season.

Alain Vigneault became just the second coach to win the President’s Trophy three times as a head coach, and is one of only four coaches in NHL history to win it with two different teams. Vigneault truly deserves recognition in the Jack Adams Award for the Coach of the year, and in my opinion, he deserves to win it. All three Presidents’ Trophies wins have come since the 2010-11 season.

The Rangers earned their 27th road win and 56th road point of the season, which extends their single-season and franchise in both of those categories as well. New York leads the league in road wins, road points, and road point percentage (.700) this season.

rangers celebrate President's Trophy 4-7

The Rangers have been an excellent road team, part of the reason why they have the best record in the NHL. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The consistency this team has shown is absolutely incredible. Despite injuries to key players, Vigneault has found a way to get past all of that and keep picking up wins with the team. Derek Stepan missed the first 12 games. Dan Boyle missed 17 games. Kevin Klein missed 15 games. Ryan McDonagh missed 11 games. Henrik Lundqvist missed 25 games. And the Rangers STILL have the best record in the NHL, a testament to this team’s ability, and the leadership and coaching ability of Alain Vigneault.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Vigneault said following the win over New Jersey. “It’s a challenging thing; but I think for our group it’s one step in the direction we’re trying to get. I am very proud of our group, but we all know we’re going to be judged by what we do in the playoffs. So this is the first step and we’re going to get ready for the next one.”

The game against the Devils was very chippy and aggressive, but the Rangers totally dominated the first 40 minutes of the game. The Devils were clearly angry about the 6-1 shellacking on Saturday, and were looking for revenge. But they were over aggressive and downright stupid at times, giving the Rangers a total of seven power play opportunities.

Cam Talbot was in net for the Rangers, giving Henrik Lundqvist the night off in the second half of a back-to-back. Talbot did not get a ton of work, but was sharp, making some nice saves throughout the night for his 21st win of the season. Cory Scheider opposed him, and was the only reason that the score was not 11-2. He had a spectacular game, continuing his very strong season on an otherwise mediocre Devils team.

cam talbot glove save 4-7

Cam Talbot had another solid performance tonight, making 19 saves en route to his 21st win of the season. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The game started with both sides playing a tight-checking style of hockey. The Rangers absolutely dominated this period, giving New Jersey nothing at even strength. It was one of their best periods of the season, scoring twice and outshooting the Devils 19-4.

Kevin Hayes continued his spectacular rookie season with his 16th goal of the season 13:45 mark of the first period. After losing the faceoff, Carl Hagelin was hard on the forecheck behind the net, poking it away from the Devils’ Eric Gelinas and over to Martin St. Louis. St. Louis passed it in front for Hayes, and his quick snap shot beat Schneider for the first goal of the game.

The assist extended St. Louis’ point streak to three games (1-2-3), and put him at 50 points (21-29-50) for the season, a pretty successful year.

Less than a minute later, Ryan McDonagh scored his eighth goal of the season on the power play to double the Rangers lead. Derick Brassard won the faceoff, and Hayes picked up the loose puck, passing it to Yandle at the point. Yandle slid the puck over to McDonagh, and his wrist shot went through a perfect screen from Rick Nash, giving New York a 2-0 lead.

ryan mcdonagh goal celebration 4-7

Ryan McDonagh blasted home his eighth goal of the season on the power play, continuing his recent success, bringing him up to 32 points this season. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Ryan McDonagh set a new career high with his third power play goal of the season, and he now has a point in five of the last six games. Keith Yandle picked up a power play assist, his third with the Rangers, and has 10 points (1-9-10) in the last 10 games. Yandle leads all NHL defenseman in assists (46) and power play assists (27).

Unfortunately, the Devils managed to break through on one of their few shots on goal in the period. After Tanner Glass was sent to the box for holding, Patrik Elias on a gorgeous passing play. One-touch passing from Steve Bernier and Scott Gomez gave Elias a chance to snap one past Talbot for the Devils first goal of the game, cutting the lead to 2-1 with just 2:16 remaining in the period. That would be the score at the first intermission.

The Devils continued their reckless and undisciplined play in the second period, with four separate power play opportunities. They were high sticking, elbowing, and crosschecking in an attempt to injure or get New York to take a penalty. It really was an embarrassing showing from the Devils. However, the Rangers could not convert on any opportunities, due to Cory Schneider performing very well, and reluctance to shoot the puck. They had some good chances, but could not convert.

One of the power plays carried over to the third period, and Rick Nash rang a wrist shot off the iron, and the score remained at 2-1 for the time being.

But around the halfway mark of the period, the Rangers fourth line chipped in a goal to bring the Rangers lead to 3-1.

Prior to the game, the Rangers announced that Mats Zuccarello would take the night off due to general body soreness. James Sheppard was reinserted into the lineup on the fourth line, with Jesper Fast bumped up to the top line.

james sheppard goal celebration 4-7

James Sheppard made a big impact in his first game back in the lineup, scoring the game winning goal in the third period. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

On a rebound opportunity, Dominic Moore sent a wrist shot just wide of the goal, but never gave up on the play. Marc Staal sent it behind the net, where it was retrieved by Moore, before he carried it to the side of the net, spinning and sending a quick shot on net. James Sheppard was charging towards Schneider, and deflected in through his legs for a 3-1 Rangers lead, and his second goal as a Ranger.

It’s a good thing that Sheppard scored, because the Devils scored less than a minute later. Steve Bernier had the puck at the side of the net, and Talbot overcommitted, leaving room for Bernier to maneuver around him. He tried to pass it through the crease but it stayed there. Talbot and Brassard both tried to clear the crease, but wound up knocking into their own net, giving New York a bit of a scare.

Thankfully, the Rangers would hold on for a win, and Carl Hagelin sealed the win with an empty netter, his 17th goal of the season. Kevin Hayes picked up the puck that was mishandled by Devils’ defenseman Jon Merrill, and passed it to Hagelin for the goal. That goal tied his career high that he set last season.

This was a really solid game for the Rangers. They completely dominated the first 40 minutes, jumping out to a 33-10 shot advantage. The defensive effort was solid, and they really gave the Devils next to nothing at even strength.

The one weak spot was the power play. Although they scored once on the man advantage in the first period, the Rangers missed a lot of opportunities to put away the Devils in the second period. They were just 1-7 on the power play, partially due to Schneider’s spectacular performance, but also due to a slow trigger finger. They move the puck very well, but don’t shoot enough.

The third line, with Martin St. Louis on the wing, is really starting to mesh well now, and they were one of the best lines for the Rangers tonight. Kevin Hayes was spectacular, and he was all over the ice tonight, picking up a goal and two assists. Although he will likely not win the Calder Trophy, Kevin Hayes has been absolutely fantastic for the Rangers, and has 43 points (16-27-43) this season.

kevin hayes goal celebration 4-7

Kevin Hayes’ line is starting to mesh well together, with St. Louis fitting in nicely on the right wing. They performed very well tonight, with Hayes standing out tonight. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

 

I thought the fourth line was strong again tonight. They continue to play well with each passing game, getting better at the right time. Dominic Moore has four points (1-3-4) in the last four games, Tanner Glass was physical, and had a few chances of his own. James Sheppard had a pretty solid game, scoring a huge goal, the game winner, late in the third period. It’s unfortunate that when everyone is healthy, it’s hard to find a spot for Sheppard, because he really doesn’t deserve to be a healthy scratch.

Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh are the two of the hottest Rangers, and they’re beginning to provide the production from the blue line. McDonagh scored his third power play goal of the season, and Yandle had the primary assist. McDonagh has seven points (1-6-7) in the last six games, and Yandle has 10 points (1-9-10) in the last 10 games. Yandle looks increasingly more comfortable in Vigneault’s system, and is playing very well.

keith yandle and ryan mcdonagh hi five 4-7

Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh have been awesome lately, providing offense as well as strong defense from the back end. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Now that they have clinched home ice throughout the playoffs, the Rangers will have tomorrow night off before taking on the Ottawa Senators for their last regular season game at Madison Square Garden.

THREE STARS

1) Kevin Hayes – 1 G, 2 A, 2 SOG, +2, 14:42 TOT

2) James Sheppard – 1 G, 2 SOG, 12:05 TOT

3) Ryan McDonagh – 1 G, 5 SOG, 24:17 TOT

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Posted on April 8, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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