Sunday, March 2, 2008
34-24-8: I Bet NBC Is Happy ...
The peacock got an entertaining game that featured eight goals, a fight and a shootout. So good for them! For us ... well, we gave a charity point to a suddenly-surging rival. The Flyers had won three straight games after losing 10 in a row to fall behind us in playoff positioning. We blew 3-2 and 4-3 leads but through two of the prettiest shootout goals scored by Rangers since the lockout, got the win. That is definitely something to be happy about.
I have been accused of being too negative of late but this team shows such great flashes that seem to blind people to the major flaws. Unfortunately those flaws are the ones that will cost us in the playoffs. Our starting goaltender has been a shadow of himself and the defensemen aren't punishing opposing forwards - defense wins championships folks, it is a cliche but its true. Before you get on me for being a downer, there are good signs. Much like in Carolina, the boys were able to put the puck in the net and this time we even got a power play goal. The older players are playing with a fresh jump and the young players are playing like veterans. And let's face it, at the end of the day they are walking away with a win to keep their streak alive of nine games without a regulation loss and that is huge this time of year. Some other stuff, both good and bad:
*Valley had a fantastic outing after coming in to start the second period. He has had Philly's number and should have gotten the start in the first place, but he came through when called. The other goaltender ... well that crown is looking rusty and dented. He gave up three goals on six shots. Someone call the Swedish Bikini Team or something. Hank doesn't have his dad or some mysterious migraine problem he never told anyone about until after he choked to blame for this. If this team is going to be great, he needs to become the King again.
*It doesn't help that the Rangers defense allows the other teams to crash the crease, seemingly at will. At one point in overtime the Rangers got a long shot off at Biron and instantly there was a white and orange wall in front of him of three Flyers. It was awesome to see and sent a message. Now if only the Blueshirts could do the same ... maybe a 'safer working environment' will do the trick to get Hank back to form. Vinny Prospal camped out in the corner of the crease and scored the first goal a minute into the game and that was it for Hank, he was gone ...
*Christian Backman/Marek Malik. Wally and the Beave. The Swedish softie and the Sasquatch. They really are horrible defensemen and yet came through with three points in the game. Wally can't stay out of the penalty box and his goal has made up for one of the three he has cost the team so far. I want payment. I won't even ask for interest, but I want payment. Malik ... what can you say? He actually skated hard twice in the game, which is two more than usual. He grabbed two assists, one was actually earned on a smart play. He was also blown by on the boards and in the middle of the ice, passed the puck to Flyers twice and took a bad penalty. Sather traded for one of these guys and wouldn't/couldn't trade the other so we will have to make due folks. Dammit.
*As for the other deadline acquisition, Fredrik Sjostrom showed some really good flashes in the game. He made a few good plays on the boards and scored his first goal as a Ranger. I said that he will have to work hard to match the legacy of #20 and through two games he has done Jan Erixon well. I have to say that I am impressed.
*Side note: The Islanders had their salute to the "Core of the Four" today before their game against the Panthers. I admit that its ridiculous that the Rangers are retiring the numbers of their Cup winners but the Isles did that already. How much mileage can they get out of four Cups 25 years ago? When are their fans going to realize that they are being lured into a decrepit building to watch a disappointing team play?
*Much like beating that dead horse, Colton Orr beat on Jesse Boulerice in a long bout but I don't care. It was a fight for fighting's sake and as much as I love the fisticuffs - and you guys know I do - two goons going at it for no apparent reason gives hockey a bad name. Was Orr trying to get back at Boulerice for his first period slash? That's what Straka's power play goal did. There is no reason to lower yourself to fight some minor league thug.
*Speaking of thugs - the referees were horrendous for the second straight game. While there were a number of dubious calls, my biggest issue was (and has been in the past) the idiotic desire for the official to call a diving along with the initial penalty. If there was hooking on the play, then there was hooking. The guy went down because he was hooked, not because he has a bad reputation for diving. Either call the dive or the hook, not both.
*Another questionable call, in my opinion, was that by Tom Renney. Why didn't he use his time-out when the Rangers had an offensive zone face off with 30-something seconds left in overtime? As near as I can tell, the rules say its ok, so why not? Does he not have any set plays to detail? Did he not want to get his top guys a break? I don't get it.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Jeff Carter - two goals.
2-Valley - 17 saves in two periods.
1-Shanny - a pretty shootout goal (but not the winner as they announced in the Garden) and an assist.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - He was as much of a pest as Avery, scored a good goal and went hard to the net all game long. Dubi made some strong plays but also stickhandled himself out of scoring positions a number of times.
2-Valley - As I said, he should have started. Great performance.
1-Chris Drury - Dru was a force on both sides of the ice blocking shots, getting into passing lanes, getting room for his teammates, pressuring Philly ... he was the best all-around player throughout the game, bar none.