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NHL

Patience Is A Virtue

Mika Zibanejad scores
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It was a feisty crowd at Madison Square Garden last night, particularly for a Tuesday game against Anaheim. They loudly booed the governor at the ceremonial opening faceoff (I don’t think it was because of all the money she’s giving the Buffalo Bills), and as the Ducks kept finding ways to respond whenever the Rangers scored a goal, there was an antsiness that filled the building whenever New York had the puck but seemed hesitant to just put it on net. The calls of shoooot became a common, somewhat grouchy refrain on any faked attempt or passed-up lane.

I’m all for shooting, and as long as the crowd isn’t taking it too seriously (some of them do), I like the shoooot as part of the natural soundtrack to any hockey game. But sometimes, the correct path for a team is in fact to show more patience than a section full of drunk guys from Mamaroneck, and the Rangers’ second goal in a 4-3 overtime win was one of these times.

Our story begins with the fairly anonymous Rangers forward Dryden Hunt, who with some excellent stick work and body positioning held off Ducks defenseman Andrej Sustr in the corner and drew a delayed penalty. The Rangers—as they’d show again on Chris Kreider’s goal later in the game—are one of the scariest teams in the league with the man advantage, and they understood the benefits of drawing this one out as long as possible, avoiding the whistle and Sustr’s trip to the box until after they’d had the clearest shot on goal that they could create.

It took about half a minute to manufacture that chance. Hunt passed back to Adam Fox at the blue line. Fox sent it around the perimeter of the attacking zone until it ended up with Mika Zibanejad, the extra man on the ice, down low. Mika and Artemi Panarin bounced the puck between each other, then Panarin passed cross-ice to Ryan Strome, who sent it back to Fox in the quarterback position. Fox passed to Panarin, who faked a one-timer and returned it, then got it back and pushed it down to Zibanejad again, behind the red line. After a back-and-forth between those two, Panarin brought the puck back around to Fox, who lined up a shot.

The fans were frazzled at this point! You might even be a little frustrated just reading that paragraph. You can’t hear it on TV quite like you could in the 200 level, but by the time the Rangers were halfway through the sequence, many in their seats were taking it upon themselves to remind the team that they bought a ticket to see shots, not passes, and they struggled to see how the Rangers were improving their scoring odds by playing around the world.

You can really hear the anxiety in the brief moment when Fox touches the puck and again does not shoot, but before you can blink, that negativity is one-timed straight to hell. Fox has seen Zibanejad creep up from the red line, and even better, he sees a clear pass to the team’s second-leading scorer. Zibanejad winds, receives the puck exactly where he needs it, and fires it past John Gibson before the goalie can even move.

Waiting has never been so fun!