Well my nerves are shot. The Rangers barely hung on to beat the Devils in a shootout. They still didn't score much. They still relied too heavily on their goaltender. But I think they played one of their best games of the season. Onto more of my thoughts and observations:
*I have to start with the afore-mentioned goaltender. If the season ended right now, Hank would be the Vezina winner. He's played every game and has made ridiculius, gigantic, game-changing saves. If not for his play, the Rangers would have won maybe, maybe two games this season. Maybe. But I doubt it.
*If you had told me, or anyone for that matter, that the line of Hossa-Dubi-Jagr would be considered our first line, you would have been considered for a friendly, white jacket where you are always giving yourself a nice hug. But as insane as it is, that may prove to be a good combination as Jagr played his first impassioned game in a while. It sucks to have to reign in Dubi but, for now at least, it seems to work. Hopefully once the injury bug goes away, Strake can seamlessly fit in there and Dubi can go back between Pru and Cally.
*All of the lines showed good chemistry for the first time all year. They passed well, cycled well and created chances. Nice to see.
*I do want to temper my appreciation for the lines with the fact that they still insist on passing a lot when they should shoot. No shock there but on one shift they had Marty Brodeur, one of the best goaltenders in NHL history, look behind himself into the net to see if he allowed a goal. Rather than smell the blood and hammer him further, they started passing the puck around and eventually got pushed out of the Devils zone.
*Sean Avery came back and played his usual fun game. He jawed with Clarkson during warmups and throughout every shift they shared, but withheld from making a stupid play to beat on the little Devil. It sucked that he missed so many games, but he endeared himself to the Garden faithful even more than before and came back with yet another chip on his shoulder. I told you people we would be ok when he got back.
*Colton Orr fought Mike Rupp for no particular reason other than to justify each other's paycheck. It put on a nice show for the crowd but the center-ice tussle was pointless. Garbage like that gives fighting in hockey a bad name.
*The best defenseman, by far, was Marc Staal. Playing in Malik's spot alongside Rozy, Staal was calm, composed and awesome. I still think Rozy needs a game off to learn not to give up the puck.
*Also on the blueline, Tyutin was great; Girardi not as good as he has been but solid nonetheless. Mara played a really good game and even though Strudwick is slow of skate and has horrible hands, all he does is make the small, smart plays every shift. Yes, he can be beaten in the open ice by one of the junior Rangers, but if the game is spent in the Rangers zone, he is one helluva safety valve.
*The Devils definitely did not look like themselves. They looked to be caught in the middle of their traditional stifling system and Sutter's batter-them-into-submission physical, swarming style.
*Insert my usual comments about Bettsy and Hollweg here (Betts is awesome but can't see anything but the other goalie's logo and Hollweg is a great blue collar guy who is clearly targeted by the refs).
*A security guard was trying to show some fans to their seats and climbed all the way up to stand right in front of me trying to figure out where they actually belonged (and had no clue). He then turned indignant when I started giving him a hard time because he was blocking the view as play was going on. So watch out for Carlos, badge 213 or something like that ... the arrogant little weasel doesn't know how to do his job nor does he know his way around the building. Idiot.
*PHW Three Stars:
3-Gomez - scored the lone regulation goal.
2-Pruuuuuuu - scored the lone shootout goal.
1-Hank - Outplayed a guaranteed Hall-of-Famer.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Staal - A true pleasure to watch work.
2-Sean - Welcome back.
1-Hank - Dude, when you throw your stick up into the crowd next time, can you try to get it to some actual fans rather than the yuppie scum that sits down low? Thanks.
Let's Go Rangers!