Wednesday, December 19, 2007
17-13-3: We Needed That
The New York Rangers defeated a Pittsburgh Penguins squad that had two days off and played like they were still on holiday. Hank came back from injury and played well, the stars did their jobs and scored and the Blueshirts won 4-0. With three huge, tough games ahead (Minnesota, Colorado and Ottawa), the boys needed a good effort and got one. So after a night of celebrating and with a full day of work ahead in a few hours, I will get right to the observations:
*First off, and most importantly, I have to vent about the lowlight of the evening. Hank blocks a puck that goes high into the air, steps about a foot out of the crease to make the catch, does so, and gets popped by Gary Roberts. The Rangers converge on Roberts and push and shove. Roberts gets two for goaltender interference. Of course, the Rangers didn't score a power play goal but for once, they also didn't give up a single shorthanded chance so I'll call that a wash. Whatever; my point is that when Roberts came out and was back on the ice. Colton Orr harassed him and tried to pick a fight. It didn't work. I won't re-ignite the instigator conversation, but in this case - penalty or not - it shouldn't have mattered. A Ranger, preferably Orr since Mitch Fritz is still on the fritz in Hartford, should have skated over and beaten the hell out of Roberts. The game was in hand and this surly old geezer has the nerve to hit your goaltender, the cornerstone of the franchise, the biggest reason that you have won any games this season, and you don't go over and pummel the bastard? What? There is no excuse; the AARP member should have been sent back to the home with at least, *at least* a black eye. I am not saying he should go Simon the Barbarian on the guy, but getting in his face and knocking his jaw askew should have been the goal. And no one did that ... for shame.
*Ok, onto a happier note: the pregame announcement that Marek Malik and Marcel Hossa were scratched were a sure sign of a good night and it proved to be so. Malik's slow, defensive incompetence could not disrupt the defensive chemistry and Hossa's uselessness could not force the more capable Nigel Dawes out of the lineup. Fantastic.
*So those were moves 1 and 1a by Tom Renney to regain some form of job security. Move 2 was the placement of Gomez, rather than Chris Drury with Jaromir Jagr and Marty Straka. While I still won't decry Brandon Dubinsky and his solid work on that top line, picking Gomez for the center slot worked out as the line played a smoother game.
*That is not to say that Jagr played well. He got on the scoresheet with a second assist that was more coincidence than relevance - being the last Ranger to tough the puck before it went to Straka, who got it to Gomez for the first goal of the game. Jagr was more involved than in last game but its still so many billions of miles from where he was even two years ago that its pathetic.
*And I still call Jagr's captaincy into question. From what I saw, Ryan Hollweg got a misconduct in the third period for standing up for himself after being hit from behind into the boards by Tyler Kennedy. He didn't swing his stick at the guy, didn't slew foot him, didn't do anything but get back in the guy's face and shove him and for that he was handed a 10 minute penalty for his efforts. From my vantage point, Jagr looked unwilling to go talk to the refs, then when he finally went over to hear the explanation for the call, didn't stand up for his teammate and just accepted the wrong call but an officiating crew who had made several dubious calls (for both teams).
*Speaking of Hollweg, I think he played a solid game (no matter what some would say ... Eric). He hit, he drew penalties and was responsible defensively. He even got a shot on net - granted it was right into the penguin on Dany Sabourin's chest, but it was on net, something several other Rangers can't say.
*Fedor Tuytin rebounded from Phoenix with a solid effort. He and Danny G remain the Rangers top defensive pair.
*Rozy, who had been the team's top D the last two seasons, was utterly atrocious yet again. Unfortunately, as the alternative is the return of Malik, Rozy has to stay in the lineup rather than be a healthy scratch and feel shame. But the biggest shame is his apparent loss of confidence and defensive acumen. He has been passing up shots, fumbling the puck and losing his assignments. As ridiculous as it sounds, I think his need to find his game is more important than that of Jagr. This team can find other offensive weapons, it cannot have a weak link on the blueline if it is to succeed.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Chris Drury - goal and an assist
2-Scott Gomez - two goals
1-Hank - 18 save shutout
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Gomez - he went to the net and shot the puck. What a concept.
2-Rangers defense, other than Rozy - aside from one superhuman effort from Evgeni Malkin in the second period, they were able to keep rebounds away from the Pens and marginalized Cindy Crosby.
1-Hank - shaking off an injury, he didn't have to face a lot of action but his effort was huge and hugely important.