Well? What do you nay-sayers have to say now? Nay? I think not! The Rangers overcame a lackluster first period to defeat the Caps 2-0. As my date (woo hoo, lol) said, the Garden was far from capacity but there wasn't a contingent of fans of the other team, which was nice for a change. And what's also nice is that I saw a lot of good things tonight to share:
*I don't care what his nickname is, he is not royalty (yet), but Hank was a wall tonight. As I have said after the last few games, he is truly making his case for Vezina. However, as my friend Hockey John said, its time to get Vally a game or two. We can't be burning out our starter a month into a season that we hope goes all the way into June.
*I gotta say, I really missed Tom Poti tonight. Its just not the same without being able to voice my loathing for him.
*On the same note, I didn't boo Marek Malik again. This is what, the fourth game in a row? That's gotta be a record. Granted, he wasn't great, but he didn't screw up terribly.
*No Dancing Larry or Dancing Grandma this evening, which was fine. In the last minute there appeared to be a scuffle somewhere around 319, if anyone has details, please share.
*I don't know how reliable this is, but a guy in the john after the game was talking about Sean, saying he made another appearance in the upper reaches of the Garden. If that is the case, that's awesome. Someone asked me before the game why would he do that kind of thing as he did during the Tampa game, and I replied that that is because he understands Rangers fans. You can be a fan favourite to the rank-and-file but if you win over the blue seats and you have won a place in Ranger lore forever.
*Even though they were shut out, some acknowledgment has to go to Nylander and Ovie. Ovie was himself, a scoring threat every shift. He was the last guy off on warm-ups, tossed pucks into the crowd and, oh yeah, was electrifying to watch. Nylander played his typical slow puck possession game and showed all of the qualities that makes Jagr miss him so.
*Speaking of El Capitan, he actually played with more umph (a technical term) than he did in most of the games so far this year, following up a better effort against the Bolts. That 'Jaeger guy' may just turn into a good player this year. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, he is still a shadow of his former self.
*Ryan Hollweg deserves an attaboy after not being goaded into a scrum after the back-to-back minors by the Caps in the third period. Hollweg has gotten a bad wrap from the NHL officials but we in the Garden appreciate all he has done (and not done). Granted, an occasional goal would be nice, but he has a role on the team and has done well to fill it.
*I look forward to Marty Straka's and Cally's returns from injury. That way we will be able to rid the lineup of Jason Strudwick and Hossa. Strudwick should be made a player/coach already and Hossa should be dropped like a bad habit. He is trying his hardest but can't do much of anything right in the offensive zone and if we wanted to keep a defensive specialist, we could kept Jed, who was/is a better team guy as well as defensive ace.
*Marc Staal didn't break into my top stars (see below) but he deserves to be recognized for a rock solid performance. He is proving everyone wrong that thought he must have sucked to have been preceded by his little brother into the NHL last year. Staal had a fantastic game and if progress like this continues -- and I admit thats a big 'if' at this stage -- he will enter into the pantheon of great Ranger defensemen populated by guys like Harry Howell, Gresch, 'Shoot the puck' Barry and Leetchie, Feel free to hold me to that.
*PHW Three Stars:
3-Rozy - A nice goal.
2-Drury - A really nice goal and an assist.
1-Hank - Pitched a shutout.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Tyutin and Girardi - They were practically flawless in their own zone, played some hard minutes and shut down Ovie.
2-Dubi - Wow, this kid is all arms and legs and he was everywhere tonight. He is working his ass off to make a case that he belongs here and I would say he has been successful. He backchecks, forechecks, fights through traffic, works the crease and skates every second. I am in the fanclub. I can't wait to see him reunited with Pru and a healthy Cally.
1-Hank - Worth every Kroner that we will re-sign him for and more. Definitely a top 5 goaltender in the world.
Some tough tests coming up in the Devs, Flyers and Isles; I hope I am able to be this happy and complimentary after those games. Let's Go Rangers!