JIM: No question here that Chris Kreider was the best player on the ice Saturday, recording his first career multi-goal game and his first NHL Hat Trick while also leading the team with six shots. He will never admit that he had extra motivation playing against the coach who was convinced he was not ready to be an NHL player and yo-yoed him back and forth to the minors last year, Kreider sure looked like he had extra jump on Saturday. What I liked a lot is that two of his goals came by getting his big body in front of the net and deflecting shots into the cage. That takes a willingness and some heart to take the beating from defensemen just to be in position to score. On his first goal Kreider displayed that wicked release of his. Once again Kreider lived up to his brief resume that states the bigger the game, the bigger his performance is.
My second star is Rick Nash who had his first multi-point game of the season, a three-point effort highlighted by his third goal in three games and a pair of assists. As much as Rangers fans should be thrilled with Kreider's Hat Trick, they should be just as excited---if not more so---that Nash is rounding into form after missing six weeks with that head injury. It can not be overlooked how great a player Nash is, and can be---a true superstar. He scored on a deflection in front---one of three deflections for goals by the Rangers Saturday---and his primary assist on Kreider's first goal was not only a slick pass, but it was a courageous play as he got buried on a hit right as the puck left his stick. Pretty impressive for a guy who suffered mightily after Brad Stuart's elbow to the head earlier this season.
Cam Talbot takes home my third star honors for his career-high 35-save performance as he earned his sixth straight win. When this game was still scoreless in the first period and Vancouver had the better of the scoring chances, Talbot was there making the saves in his Madison Square Garden debut. He proved again that no matter the circumstances surrounding a game---hadn't won in Montreal in years, ending long, difficult road trip in Detroit, facing former coach in his return to The Garden---Talbot can shut everything out nd focus on the task at hand. I would not be shocked to see Alain Vigneault start him again Monday against Winnipeg. Could be wrong, but I would not be surprised.
MATT: I hate to copy, but I can't argue with these three choices. Starting with Kreider, this was arguably the best game of his still young NHL career. He was hard on the puck, physical and got into the dirty areas just outside the crease, which resulted in two of his goals. As you said, Jim, there was no doubt — at least to me — that this game had an extra feeling for Kreider facing off against a coach who may believe may not have given him the opportunity to learn the NHL game on the fly, which thus far, Alain Vigneault has allowed him to do and its proved beneficial. Kreider is a special blend of size and speed, and he used both of them Saturday morning to capture his first hat trick in the NHL, and it was special to see.
No question that Rick Nash and Kreider appear to enjoy playing together, and it showed with the big man picking up a goal and two assists in ihs first game with No. 20. Nash built upon his strong afternoon Friday against the Bruins, and turned in his best performance of his young season. As you stated, Nash is quickly becoming the dominant player we saw last season in his first year on Broadway.
Lastly, you've got to go with Cam Talbot, who played very well against a very good team in his first start at Madison Square Garden. No one would have thought Talbot would be playing the way he has, but that's why we play the game. He was calm as always in turning aside a career-high 35 saves. Sure, he had goal support from the players in front of him, but with the skill the Canucks posses, leads can shrink fast, and he prevented that from happening. Great to see the 26-year-old be able to perform in front of Rangers fans instead of on the road for a change as well, as the fans were able to show their support for the new netminder with chants of "Tal-bot."