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 hockeyfights.com 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.