Monday, December 31, 2007
20-15-4: Take That Frenchies!
To start off, I want to give credit to the immense legion of Montreal fans that traveled down to the Garden to watch the Canadiens play the Rangers. The passion and dedication is admirable, but I gotta say that I am positively giddy that the loud bleu, blanc e rouge Habitants got sent back to Canada as losers. And that came courtesy of a fantastic effort by the Rangers, winning 4-3 in overtime on a Brendan Shanahan goal. I don't speak french but au revoir Frenchies! Before bidding them a fond farewell on their trip back over the border, I will pass along a few of my observations from the game:
*For everyone who was ready to jump on Jagr's jock after his recent streak of solid efforts, he really wasn't that great. He scored a nice goal, but was marginalized by the power and reach of Long Island's own Mike Komisarek - a better version of Hal Gill, who Jagr abused on Saturday night. Komisarek is young, good and only getting better, but unless Jagr can rediscover that other gear, he will be in trouble against real shutdown defensemen. It will be interesting to watch him and Dion Phaneuf go at it next week in Calgary.
*Jagr's buddy, Marty Straka, needs to get some confidence back. I don't know where it went; he hasn't played poorly. In fact, Straka continues to set a shining example for how to play a utilitarian game of checking, digging and passing ... its just that he seems to have no confidence in his shot. Twice he hesitated and tried to settle down a pass before shooting the puck - both times would likely have been goals had he one-timed them.
*Even though they were on for a goal against, I think that the HBO line was impressive yet again. Bettsy, Hollweg and Orr have been getting more ice time in recent games and it has paid off in hard, checking shifts. They played about 13 minutes and more often than not you could tell when they were on the ice.
*For all of the booing of Marek Malik, and there still is plenty, I feel obligated to point out that Paul Mara has been pretty bad. Granted, Mara didn't pass the puck right to a Canadien or take a stupid penalty (as Malik did), but he did chase a player literally all the way around the Rangers zone twice in the game without getting the puck or a big hit.
*It was sad to hear that Prucha could not play with a sore wrist. It was sadder to hear that he was replaced by Marcel Hossa, who showed the rust of having been on the bench for so many games.
*Referees need to do a better job defending goaltenders. Both teams ventured deep into the opposing creases and made contact with the goaltenders. Cristobal Huet kept going after people - Hollweg, Avery, etc. - pushing, shoving, punching to try to defend his goalmouth. Goaltenders shouldn't have to take a page from Billy Smith to be able to play their game unmolested.
*Montreal collapsed five guys tight to puck carriers on several occasions and the Rangers couldn't take advantage. The Blueshirts will need to spread and extend the ice if they are to succeed in the long run.
*It was nice to get a visit from Captain Clutch. If only he would stop by more often ...
*Callahan and Dubi played very well but they are going to have to start producing sooner or later if they are to keep their spot in the lineup. C'mon guys, no one wants to see Hossa play every game ...
*The Rangers had one shot in the second period. One. Granted they had six or seven blocked or deflected attempts in the frame, one shot is not enough.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Alex Kovalev - two assists
2-Chris Drury - goal and an assist
1-Shanahan - game-winning goal
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Marc Staal - I really admire everything he has done and he is only getting better. He was solid in his own zone and is starting to get confidence carrying the puck. He very well may pan out to be a future Norris winner ...
2-Tom Renney - he had the team playing good hockey on the second leg of a back-to-back and he kept them calm despite seeing a lead turn into a deficit with two straight second period goals.
1-Kovalev - may have been the best all-around player in the game, but it was certainly nice to see him play like his classic self a few times - stickhandling through and around four players before choking up the puck.