JIM: There's something about facing the Winnipeg Jets which brings out the best in Ryan Callahan. He now has a six-game point streak against the Jets, recording 11 points in that span, after notching a second-period goal Monday night. Callahan showed great effort and resolve on the goal, diving into the crease to poke a loose puck over the goal line to pull the Rangers even at the time 2-2. Callahan tied for the team lead with seven shots on goal, plus had three other attempts that did not register on goal, and was credited with two hits in his best performance in recent memory. It was Callahan's first goal in nine games, plus he was strong in other areas of the ice, as well, making him my easy choice as the Rangers No. 1 Star on Monday.
I'm going to sound like a broken record, but Ryan McDonagh again was the Rangers best defenseman---and one of their best overall players---Monday night. It was another strong two-way game for McDonagh, who showed excellent effort in coming back to break up a pair of Winnipeg odd-man rushes in the game and played a stout game over 24:22. He read the open area of the ice perfectly and filled it to intercept a pass in the offensive zone early in the first period to set up Mats Zuccarello's game-opening score; and he now has 16 points on the season, well on the road to establishing career-highs soon in goals, assists and points. On Monday he was my No. 2 Star for the Blueshirts.
As for the Rangers Third Star, I am going with Rick Nash, who was held off the scoresheet for the first time in four games, but who was extremely involved offensively all night long and tied with Callahan for the team lead with seven shots on goal. Nash's game has really come together since his return from injury, and you can see that his timing is back to where it needs to be. He is getting his shots attempts consistently on net, and he is using his big body to generate several chances a night. Monday was another example of all these things.
MATT: For me, I have to go with Ryan McDonagh yet again. He's the player I'm noticing each and every shift and it seems like he doesn't go a game without picking up a point. In addition to his normal strong defensive effort, he registered an assist on Mats Zuccarello's first period goal, giving him 16 points on the season, just three shy of his total in 47 games last season. McDonagh is now tied for eighth in scoring among defensemen, ahead of names like Ryan Suter, Drew Doughty and Shea Weber. As you said JIm, he was active in both ends of the ice, breaking up chances for Winnipeg all night.
My second star was Ryan Callahan, who I thought played his best game in the last handful of games. As you said, Jim, bring in the Jets to get Callahan out of any slump, as he always scores when the 'Peg and Rangers face off. The key, I thought, on Callahan's goal was his vision to pass the puck to Brad Richards on the side of the net, who then got the puck back in front and Callahan was able to punch it home on the second opportunity. Callahan was the team's most active forward last night, and for that reason, he's my No. 2 star.
We're in agreement on the final star, Rick Nash, who despite not scoring, had several strong opportunities. I've been so impressed with his ability to explode from the corners and head to the slot for a shot on goal. As I've written here before, he just changes the complexion of the line he's on because he demands so much respect from the opposition.