MATT: Hard to not go with the birthday boy, Derek Dorsett, who I thought was engaged from the first drop of the puck Friday night. He was physical, forechecked well and, of course, chipped in with a goal. Sure, he received some luck on the marker due to it going off an Islander and into the net, but sometimes you need a bit of luck and he deserves it. Dorsett also drew two penalties, both which led to Rangers power play goals. The Rangers are struggling to score goals, and if they can continue to get contributions from players like Dorsett, it'll help in a big way and hopefully lead to wins. Dorsett finished the evening with just under 10 minutes of ice time, but made the most of it with two shots — and another two attempts — along with two hits and a blocked shot.
My second star was Benoit Pouliot, who continues to play the best hockey of the season and is getting rewarded. He skated mostly with Brad Richards and J.T. Miller on what could be considered the second line, but contributed mostly on the power play, where he scored in the first period off a pretty feed in front by Chris Kreider. Pouliot is playing with a ton of confidence, and appears to be letting the game come to him without forcing anything. He finished with 16:59 of ice time.
My third star goes to the third goal scorer, Derek Stepan, who had one of his better games in recent time centering a line with Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash. Prior to netting the goal that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead, he kept the puck alive on the power play along the boards, chipped it deep and eventually found the loose puck in the slot and buried it. There appears to be some chemistry between the three, as Nash nearly scored in the opening minutes of the game, and hopefully the threesome can blossom.
JIM: I am with you on the first two stars for the Rangers, Matt. Derek Dorsett only played 9:43 on 17 shifts, but he was energized right from the start. He was physical; he was an agitator; he drew a pair of power plays for the Blueshirts; he was smart by not taking any over-eager penalties; and he scored his first goal in 14 games. That goal was a clutch one, too, as it tied the game 2-2 early in the second period as the Rangers completely erased a 2-0 deficit. He was the Rangers most effective player Friday, for sure.
I'm with you, Matt, on Benoit Pouliot. He is playing his best hockey as a Ranger, and has been pretty consistent offensively as of late. His power play goal 30 seconds after the Islanders had taken a 2-0 lead in the first period was hugely important in bringing his team and the crowd back into the game, but he didn;t stop there. His legs kept moving, he was a willing backchecker, and he created several more scoring chances as the game wore on, including a fairly wicked left wing slap shot that nearly beat Evgeni Nabokov in the third period. Pouliot tied for the team lead with three shots on goal nd logged just 17 minutes worth of ice time, and now has a three-game point streak. He has underachieved all season long. Perhaps Benoit Pouliot is finally putting things together.
My No. 3 Star, in a similar vain to Dorsett, was another grinder, only this one did not score a goal like Dorsett did. Still, I thought Brian Boyle played with energy, emotion, physicality, and feistiness Friday night, and stood out from most of his teammates with his effort. He led the team with four hits, was a plus-one setting the screen in front on Dorsett's goal, and played a very effective 12:14. Of course this team needs him to produce some offense, bot on Friday Boyle at least stood out in all other areas of the game and is a worth Third Star selection for the team.