Sunday, March 9, 2008

36-24-9: Attack Of The Killer G's

For all of those kids out there who want to play goaltender, watching a tape of today's Rangers Bruins game could prove pretty education. True, most of the big saves were a tad unorthodox, but both goaltenders kept their composure and kept their teams in a game neither really had a right to be in. Alex Auld, a career backup, played just as good as Hank, New York's anointed royalty. One guy will be living on per diem in the minor leagues in a few weeks, and the other recently made sure his future children will never have to work a day in their lives. But on this day both were equally spectacular and a 0-0 tie would have been well earned. Unfortunately in "My NHL" a skills competition decides the game, but at least Nigel Dawes won it and we skated away with two points. Before you skate away, some more thoughts:

*Chris Drury, 2008-09 New York Rangers Captain. The ultimate team guy, the ultimate clutch performer ... I think it is a given when Jagr leaves. Dru's tussle with former Islanders first round draft pick Petteri Nokelainen won't rank high on but it did send a message: you stand up for your teammate, whoever you are.

*Jaromir Jagr didn't do that and had a chance later in the game. But in this game he had tons of chances and blew them. I mean scoring chances, rather than opportunities to actually live up to the C on his jersey. Yes Auld played well and made some good stops, but for the first time in weeks Jagr didn't have to go up against a shutdown defenseman and he did nothing. With Chara out the Bruins had no one - there was no Brendan Witt, Mike Komisarek, Hal Gill, whomever. Jagr finally had some freedom and did not take advantage of it. He blew a sure goal on a breakaway by slowing down and he didn't participate in the shootout. I know he still has his proponents out there but y'all are wrong; I think that ship has sailed.

*The Bruins were almost as bad as the Sound Tigers were this week but I won't regulate them to Providence (the AHL); they are too well coached. Claude Julien has really instilled Devils hockey in them and they execute it well. They just don't have the talent that Jersey does.

*After two horrible periods (actually more if you include every game this season), Rozy remembered how to play defence in the third. He showed the skill he had last season when he stepped into the role of our number one defenseman. Now if he can only keep it going ...

*And going forward the Christian "Wally" Backman experiment needs to end. Wally did have two decent defensive plays, but he also took a dumb penalty and was flighty. Worse than all, his mere presence has led to Marc Staal playing his worse hockey of the season so he needs to sit. Staal has been all over the place, taking more chances and playing like a rookie for the first time all year. Bringing back the slower but steadier Jason Strudwick should calm him down in time for the playoffs. Wally doesn't add anything to the team that will be missed when he rides the pine.

*People were screaming around me when the fourth line took the ice with less than two minutes left in regulation but I wasn't one of them. Renney wanted the guaranteed point on home ice than to take the risk of losing. If the game is on the road - and earlier in the season - then he should go for the goal but every point is needed at this point.

*Speaking of the fourth line, and I know I will run into some opposition here, but I think that Renney should try a game with Colton sitting and Ryan Hollweg back in his place. Hollweg has the speed to keep up with Sjostrom and Bettsy and can throw down if need be. Granted, Hollweg gets the same penalties as Sean Avery: two minutes for a bad reputation. But it might be something interesting to try ...

*Avery really needs a foil to be at his best. He needs someone to antagonize to be at his best and Julien's squad is pretty faceless; the same thing happened in Buffalo during the playoffs and he was just as ineffective. He needs to overcome that and just be a pain in the ass to everyone, while avoiding the aforementioned two minutes for a bad reputation penalties.

*Marty Straka, where have you gone? Back in November he had one of my moments of the year against the B's (blocking back-to-back shots with a broken hand) but in this game he was going all over the place and yet not in the right direction. If he could bring some discipline back, and any scoring touch at all, then that line will be unstoppable.

*Our power play on the other hand ... 0-3. That has to change, but I think it was as much a symptom of Jagr and Straka's play as anything else in this game. If they get it going again ... man ...

*PHW Three Stars
3-Nigel Dawes - shootout-winning goal.
2-Alex Auld - 35 saves.
1-Hank - 29 saves.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Drury - he fought. Wow. Aside from a preseason bout with Derian Hatcher, he hasn't thrown down the gloves since before the lockout. Just goes to show the lengths he will go to defend the red, white and blue.
2-Dennis Wideman - he played 34:34 and did a good enough job that Chara's presence was not missed in the Boston zone. He played smart, aside from a dubious hooking call and was always involved for the B's.
1-The goaltenders: Hank and Alex Auld - I can get away with putting both of them. They were good, both were beaten several times but both played with poise and walked away with shutouts.


Anonymous said...

methinks you're just a wee bit too jaded to call this one correctly. first off, jagr has 11 points in the past 11 games, has been absolutely dominant during that span, is downright essential to the dynamic of our new best line, and is more responsible for the recent play of dubes and avery than numbers could ever suggest. he misfired a few times tonight but was absolutely frightening with the puck and was unquestionably the best skater on either team until gomez went nuts in the 3rd. you won't realize how integral he is to our present success until he's gone.

also, enough of this "pauper" stuff. sure lunny (yes, me and my friends have our own monikers) has been inconsistent as of late, but his play in the last two games has been just about perfect. you didn't mention the offending word in this post, but your casual treatment of his SENSATIONAL performance smacks of a reluctance to admit how brilliant he was.

and i couldn't disagree more about staal. i'll begrudge you that his first few games with backman were sloppy at best, but he played one of his better as a ranger this afternoon - the critical poke check on kessel is evidence enough. dan girardi was simply DEMONIC with the puck this afternoon. finally, backman FINALLY played a decent game, and if his play and comfort level continue to improve at this exponential pace it will be sad to see him depart the line-up when mara returns.

anyhoo, scotty - give credit where credit is due. disagreements notwithstanding, enjoyed the post as always.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anonymous poster. I was sure you'd devote one of your *notes paragraphs to Lundqvist after such a world-class performance, and you didn't do so because you just seem to have it in for Hank.

Jagr is the reason that the first line is buzzing on every shift. And stop criticizing him as a captain. Everyone has different styles of leadership. He is EXTREMELY well-respected in the Rangers locker room. He's constantly giving advice to younger players. He's never dropped the gloves, but I saw him peeling guys off teammates in several post-whistle scrums. That, to me, counts as standing up for your mates.

I agree with you on Drury. He has been unbelievable and his scrap today was one of my favorite moments of the season. He will certainly get the "C" when Jagr leaves...which may not necessarily be 08-09.

I just want to remind you that this team has earned points in 12 straight games, shootouts and such notwithstanding. It's a dogfight down the stretch here and the Rangers are winning it. Give these men some credit, please, they're busting their asses (yes, all 20 players in uniform, I believe) every night for the sweater, the city and the fans. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

Peter said...

I think the only frightening thing about Jagr this evening was how often he missed the net, or shot the puck square into Auld chest. The B doesn't nearly resemble a target, so I don't get the penchant to hit it with the puck. He did make me proud before the last game when he asked Shanny how to pull off his patented wrist shot, and actually attempted it during the game. It showed that even Jagr realizes his game needs to step up (confirmed by the insipid commentary of Joe Micheletti) and that he is willing to try something new. Tonight though, he continued to try to do that one handed, shovel shot, after driving to the net. While I love seeing him skate like that, I think every coach in the league has told their goalies to cover the net low when Jagr charges the net, because that puck isn't going up and over with just one hand on the stick (more to the point, Avery moved in on Auld in a similar fashion, put it up high and got nothing but open net...and unfortunately the crossbar).

As much as it pains me to say, Hank was playing like crap, and his GAA and save% speak to that fact...a fact, not an opinion. However, he seems to be back on track and I hope this is a sign of things to come; with Malik, a sub-par Rozy, and now Backman playing defense, we're going to need him back in top form (see the first 16 games of this season if you don't understand what I'm talking about).

On the lighter note, I love what Dubi and Dawes are doing out there, Gomez has lost a step from last month but is still proving to be an asset; ditto for Drury, and if Sjostrom is going to continue to play in this lineup, I think he deserves a cool nickname. I vote for "Sjo-bacca." If/when he scores another goal, the organist can play the Chewbacca song, a la "Clerks." And we can call him "Sjowy" for short. Or, maybe just Freddy. We'll see.

Scotty Hockey said...

Coupla things here ...

1 - Sjo-bacca? Jesus.

2 - Jagr doesn't have a goal in five games, and had no reason not to score against the Bruins. HOWEVER, he did start to get some credit back from me by actually speaking like a leader when he told Larry Brooks that "I know it's almost impossible for me to get to the number I need to get my option year, and I'm OK with that. I'm OK with becoming a free agent if that's what happens. My focus isn't on how many goals or points I get, it's on doing whatever I can to help this team win."

3 - Anonymous is no fun, at least make up a moniker for yourselves.

4 - As for Hank, he did make a few astounding saves but I am not ready to go kneel back at the alter that is the "King" because he put together two decent performances. The Sound Tigers are terrible and the Bruins have just one 20 goal scorer, who was awful (Marco Sturm) ... not to mention that they also hit the iron twice. Will this give Hank confidence? I hope so, but you guys have to look at the big picture and see that with a goaltender you just can't jump on the bandwagon after a game or two. The playoffs, at their best, are 16 games long. There are 13 more games left in the regular season. Hank will likely play 12 of them. Let's see if he can keep this run going, because the next one is much harder and much, much more important.