JIM: Wednesday night was one of those games where you really need to think and make hard decisions as to which Rangers were the team's top three. After thinking it over for a while, I am going with Henrik Lundqvist as the Rangers No. 1 star last night, though not just because he backstopped his 46th career shutout. Sometimes reporters will see a shutout and automatically make the goalie the No. 1 star. Last night the Rangers played really well in front of Lundqvist, put forth their best group effort of the young season. But when the game was still scoreless and the Caps feared power play was handed 55 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the first period, Lundqvist was at his best--making three difficult saves, then adding a fourth during the ensuing 5-on-4 for Washington. The Rangers built momentum off those kills and went on from that point to play a complete game. Credit Lundqvist for giving his team the opportunity to do just that---and his save on Brooks Laich's breakaway in the second period was huge, as well, as it kept momentum on the visitors' side. My No. 2 star was Ryan Callahan. The Rangers captain was all over the ice making plays last night, and scored a highlight-reel goal, batting the puck out of midair and past Braden Holtby. Callahan led the Rangers with six shots on goal and five hits, and blocked two shots for good measure over 22:06 worth of ice-time, proving yet again how valuable he is to the team. My No. 3 star had a string of contenders including Derick Brassard, who I thought played his best game of the season so far, but I went with Brad Richards. Playing with more confidence by the game, it seems, Richards assisted on both goals, had five more shots on goal, quarterbacked a slick-looking power play, and was a consistent threat during his 20+ minutes of ice time.
MATT: I did this last week so I hope it isn't getting played, but my No. 1 star was the Rangers penalty kill. For the last eight years or so, the Capitals have had a leathal power play and the game plan for any team when playing them has been to stay out of the box. Last night, the Rangers didn't do that, taking four infractions including a lengthy 5-on-3, but luckily the penalty killers were at the top of their game, killing off every chance Washington was given. It's been a bumpy start, but I've liked the PK, led by Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Dominic Moore and others. My second star goes to the man in net, Henrik Lundqvist, who looked like Henrik Lundqvist. He wasn't fighting the puck or giving up rebounds in the crease. He was poised and it looked all night it would take a perfect shot to beat him. As you mentioned, the Brooks Laich stop was huge, as just moments later, John Moore gave the Rangers the 1-0 lead, As the team continues to adapt to a new system, Lundqvist will have to be the anchor in net like he was last night. We're seeing a trend with Brad Richards making this section night after night, and that's no different tonight. He's been the Rangers best skater through six games, and it continued last night in D.C., where he picked up assists on both goals, giving him seven points in six games, good enough to crack the top-20 in the NHL. After the game, Richards said he's loving the power play right now, and its success — even when it doesn't score — falls largely on his shoulders. He really does look like the Brad Richards of old.