MATT: The Rangers are still searching for consistency, but one player that has been providing consistency over the last handful of games has been Carl Hagelin, who picked up another goal last night — his ninth — to give him four goals in his last six games. I've written in this space several times, but I truly think Hagelin is best suited on the third line, and it appears Alain Vigneault feels the same way, as he's kept that line — and for the most part, all the lines — the same for the last several games. Last night, Hagelin used his speed on a breakaway to score shorthanded, showing he's got more hands than some give him credit for. The goal reminded me a lot of his tally against the the Pittsburgh Penguins from a few weeks back. Hagelin finished his night with a goal and a plus-1 rating in 13:44 of ice time.
My second star goes to Ryan McDonagh, who played nearly half the game in the absence of Anton Stralman. I'm really running out of great things to say about McDonagh, but that hasn't stopped him from being one of the best players on the ice night after night. In the first period, McDonagh used his speed to break up an odd-man rush, and in the third period, made the gorgeous pass to Hagelin that led to the Rangers tying the game, 2-2. McDonagh spent his whole night going up against Washington's top players, including Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. While the puck bounced over his stick that led to Backstrom's goal late in the second period, McDonagh still helped to keep Ovechkin off the scoresheet, something few teams have been able to do this season. McDonagh had five shots, a hit and four blocked shots in 29:53.
My third star goes to Benoit Pouliot, who like Hagelin, has been consistent over the last handful of games, including points in his last six after scoring the Rangers' first goal of the night Friday. Pouliot is finding success right outside the crease for the Rangers, and is being rewarded for it with more ice time on the power play, where his tally came Friday night. With the team's top goal scorers struggling, the Rangers need to rely on their depth, and Pouliot has been there for his teammates.
JIM: For my money Ryan McDonagh was the most valuable Ranger Friday night, the team's No. 1 Star. It seemed like he was on the ice the entire game, though in actuality it was only half the game. Yet again he was the main reason Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet, and he also took on added responsibility of playing even more key minutes when Anton Stralman went down with an injury, limiting the Rangers second defense pairing in important game situations. Yes McDonagh was beat by Nicklas Backstrom, who slipped behind him for a second period goal, but The Mac Truck got it right back with a gorgeous breakout pass that set up Carl Hagelin's game-tying goal in the third. At both ends of the ice McDonagh was the Rangers best player Friday, and the numbers back it up, as do what my eyes showed me.
Of course McDonagh could not do it all by himself, and that's why Dan Girardi is my No. 2 Star from Friday's contest. He logged 27:35, played physically, was sound positionally, and then very nearly gave the Rangers their first lead late in the third period when he rang a hard shot off the post. Girardi and McDonagh seem to relish every chance they get to shut down Alex Ovechkin and company---whether it be regular season or playoffs--and the Capitals just bring out the best in Girardi. It was another solid game for him Friday at the Verizon Center.
Carl Hagelin played only 13:44 and had only shot on goal, but he scored that huge shorthanded goal which tied the game early in the third period on pretty breakaway and was solid on the forecheck all night while also contributing in a big way on the team's penalty kill against the league's best power play unit, so he is my No. 3 Star. Hagelin now has four goals in his last six games, and intriguingly is tied for the team lead with nine on the season. This recent run is beginning to rival his hot start to the season following his return from off-season shoulder surgery.