The New York Rangers extended their winning streak to eight on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils. It may not have been the prettiest way to earn two points, but thanks to outstanding efforts from Derek Stepan and Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers were able to take down the Devils – who were debuting their new, unorthodox coaching style – for their eight straight win.
A Night of Rangers Milestones
Saturday’s win for the Rangers was their eighth in a row, but it was also Henrik Lundvqvist’s 600th NHL game. The King made 19 saves to earn the victory, which was number 325 on his career. Lundqvist is now one of just four NHL goaltenders, along with Martin Brodeur, Jacques Plante, and Chris Osgood, to have recorded 325 wins in his first 600 NHL games.
Derek Stepan also scored all three of the Rangers’ goals in Saturday’s 3-1 win. The hat-trick was Stepan’s third of his career, and according to Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first Ranger to record a power play goal, a shorthanded goal, and an even strength goal in a single game since Brendan Shanahan did it on December 3rd, 2006 against the Islanders.
With Stepan’s three goals on Saturday, it also was the second game in a row that a Ranger recorded a hat-trick. On Tuesday against the Capitals, Rick Nash registered a hat-trick of his own, despite the scoring change announcement of his third goal coming the morning after the game. Nash and Stepan’s hat-tricks in consecutive games was the first time that has happened for the Rangers since Mike Gartner and Adam Graves did it in back-to-back games against the Islanders in 1994.
Perhaps a little foreshadowing?
And as if those numbers aren’t interesting enough, this current streak of wins the Rangers are riding is the longest since the 1974-75 season. That means the last time the Rangers had a winning streak this long, Gerald Ford was the President of the United States, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” won Best Picture at the Oscars, “All in the Family” was the most popular show television, and the Flyers were en-route to winning their second Stanley Cup in a row. (Note: They have not won a Stanley Cup since…)
#NYR win streak now at 8 games! This is the first time NYR have had a streak this long since Dec. 27, 1974 vs. BUF to Jan. 11, 1975 at STL.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) December 28, 2014
It’s been a long time since the Rangers have won eight straight, and while not all of the wins have been pretty, 16 points out of a possible 16 is certainly nothing to complain about.
A Questionable Scratch
Since his arrival in New York, Alain Vigneault has been known for keeping his lineup in tact when things are going well. He has coached with the mindset that there’s no reason to shake anything up if things are working.
Well that changed dramatically on Saturday, when he announced that JT Miller, who had been one of the most consistent two-way forwards for the Rangers since his call up from Hartford, was scratched and would be replaced by Lee Stempniak.
Stempniak, who played his first game since returning from the mumps, took Miller’s spot on the line with Hagelin and Hayes. While Stempniak had a fine game, it was a bit difficult to figure why that change was made, when not only was the team winning with the lineup at hand, but Miller was also playing such sound hockey.
It was a questionable decision on the part of Vigneault, which ultimately worked out in the end. We could ask all day why Miller was taken out of the lineup instead of Glass, but when it boils down to it, this has nothing to do with Tanner Glass. AV is a fan of Glass, and wants him on the fourth line. He has said that from day one, and hasn’t wavered in the slightest.
When asked about the decision following the game, Vigneault didn’t have a whole lot to say, simply stating that he felt it was “the best thing for the team.”
It would appear then, that that slot in the lineup will be Stempniak’s and Miller’s to fight over. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess.
A Sky Full of Stars
On Monday, the Rangers will be in Dallas to take on the Stars, and what a star-studded showdown that will be. While the Stars have struggled in the early going of this season, Tyler Seguin has been the undeniable bright spot, as his 25 goals are currently leading the NHL. Trailing just two goals behind Seguin with 23, however, is Rick Nash. On Monday, the top-two goal scorers in the league will go head to head, and the Rangers as a team will also look to extend their winning streak to nine.
Rangers-Stars on Monday at the American Airlines Center should be a fun one. Puck drop is slated for 8:30 p.m.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.