You know, it really didn't seem fair. Taking five goals from the clawless Panther kittens like that? I felt bad for them, really. Maybe, maybe two or three of the Florida players would be able to play for another NHL franchise but I am not so sure. Those kids were running all over the ice and the Rangers took their lunch money. The Blueshirts played with poise and stayed within their system to take two very necessary points. A fellow season ticket holder said after Straka's goal, "Oh no, the dreaded five goal lead!" But, luckily we were able to hold on, and Hank secured the win and the shutout and everyone left happy. Onto more of my happy reflections:
*Hank was barely challenged all night, and stopped 23 shots. He was a bit jumpy, but he got the W and the "Hen-rik" chants returned. It was nice to see but I still won't upgrade him back above pauper until he beats a real team and limits them to less than two goals.
*The young players on the Panthers were nothing compared to the Ranger youth. Brandon Dubinsky was a force, and all credit in the world to him for pulling off Sean Avery to take on Greg Campbell. It was a sloppy fight with a whole lotta dancing but kudos to the kid for stepping up and answering the bell. Both guys got 10 minute majors because the idiot linesmen jumped into the fray and decided the fight should end for no apparent reason, despite the guys still able to go. On a side note, Nigel Dawes and Ryan Callahan also threw their bodies around all over the ice and skated hard every second of every shift. The future looks good, let's hope Sather doesn't screw it up with some high-priced rental on Tuesday.
*But on the same note - just an observation here - the power play went 0-4.
*At one point I yelled, "Watch out! Olli (Jokinen)'s skates are sharp" and got a whole bunch of shameful looks. What, too soon?
*Girardi and Tyutin both played their best game in weeks. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come, rather than a fluke. Marc Staal had a solid, if unspectacular, game next to the mustache of Jason Strudwick. He plays more comfortably with the veteran than with Rozy, but takes less risks - which runs counter to how he should play as Rozy has been suspect in the Rangers end this year (and takes lazy penalties a la Jagr).
*Ok, I guess I kinda have to talk about it. The big fluke. The six-foot-six fluke. The lumbering, defensively inept fluke. Marek Malik, who played a remarkable game that included a goal AND a hit. To see one of those in a game is astounding, but both? I'm at a loss for words. Several people said that hell froze over, but I think he just saw the trade deadline coming so he saw it as his door out of town and stepped up his play. Then again, he victimized Florida for three assists in the home opener, so maybe they just suck.
*As for fellow Czech Jagr, he won't be traded. I think that the news has helped him find his comfort zone as he has stepped up his play this weekend. Granted, he didn't have to face any big shutdown defensemen in either game, but his second period goal tonight was very pretty and classic Jagr. By the way, if you go to that link and read the article, can you believe how Sather has actually fooled himself to believe that dealing Brian Leetch was a good thing?? Oh my ...
*HO-ssa! returned, and I really didn't have much of a problem with him. He certainly didn't fit on the right wing of the fourth line, but he didn't screw anything up so that is a plus. He will only work for the Rangers in the same capacity as Brad Isbister last year - either as a first line winger across from Jagr, or on the bench. I prefer the latter.
*Florida's Steve Montador tossing pucks to the few Panther fans in the crowd before the game. It is a rarity that visiting teams do that, but it is always appreciated. On the other side of the ice Avery also tossed a puck up and made sure it got to a little girl with a sign. She started jumping up and down and was so, so happy ... that's what its all about folks. I love hockey.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Scott Gomez - goal and two assists.
2-Malik - goal and an assist.
1-Hank - 23 saves for a shutout.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
(I'm warning you, I won't do it. I won't put him in here. Not a chance. No way. If he can play like that against the Panthers, why not against anyone else, where was he the rest of the year?)
3-Straka - had a goal and an assist while playing his usual responsible hockey, always appreciated.
2-Dubi - he likely won't get Calder consideration, but he deserves it.
1-Gomez - played a really quick game. He didn't make any huge highlight lays with blazing speed or stickhandling acumen but his quickness and hockey smarts got him into some good positions that he was able to take advantage of.