When the Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday I was cautiously optimistic and pleased to earn the points. Tonight, after rallying from behind twice to force overtime (and a shootout, which we lost) to Philadelphia, I have pretty much the same reaction. The resiliency to bounce back is very reassuring and getting a point at all after losing the team's top scorer early in the game is a nice bonus. But at the same time, the Flyers aren't a very good team right now and we lost to them - the same Flyers who lost the Pens Sunday 7-1 and needed a desperation last-second save to hold off the woeful Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday. Tonight should have been a two point game but at least the Rangers got one on the road so let's learn and move on - there are two big games at home next week to concentrate on. But before then:
*If there ever was a bell-ringing to signal Jaromir Jagr to wake up, seeing Scott Gomez slam shoulder first into the boards in the first period was it. Jagr did seem to skate a bit more in the second period, but to no avail. He tried to skate through everyone once, only to lose the puck just over the Philly blue line. He did finally score, thanks to a diving Jason Smith so maybe it can be the spark that ignites a scoring spree. But I don't think so, especially after thinking the same when he scored in Buffalo five games ago. The once-stellar offensive stud has lost his scoring touch and, thus far, it hasn't cost the team but that won't last, especially if Gomez is out for a length of time. The way he went off looked an awful like a busted collarbone or separated shoulder but he looked ok in postgame interviews so who knows? They are saying it isn't broken ribs, thank goodness ...
*It really is amazing how one penalty begets another and another and another. Luckily the penalty kill was able to survive the absence of Bettsy and weathered the Philly attack in the second period, including a 5-on-3. Of course, the power play went 0-3, but we won't discuss that. We will just focus on the six kills ...
*And, as they say, the best penalty killer is the goaltender and Valley was quite good, even though he gave up three goals in regulation. His lanky frame allows him to kick out those big pads and stop shots throughout the game. HOWEVER, it would not have been out of the question for Renney to pull him for the shootout and put Hank in. I remember at least one occasion when a coach did that, and this would have been a justifiable case. I don't know if I would have done it myself, but I certainly would have given it consideration considering how hot Hank has been in shootouts of late. Valley opened himself up in the shootout and gave the Flyers shooters a lot of room to shoot at, winning them the game.
*Everyone laughed at Brian Burke when he pitched the idea that overtime penalties should be a minute long but it really does seem like the power play lasts for an eternity. Staal went in and luckily the PK came through yet again.
*As they mentioned on the broadcast, Hartford played Philly at the Scrotum. It was a perfect chance for MSG to pay a few extra hundred bucks to get rights to air live peeks at the game, or even highlights. And if it wasn't being broadcast at all, then they should have paid for a cameraman to go over there, shoot a period and run the tape back so they could air something. One of the big catchwords in broadcasting is 360 coverage. That means coverage of a topic from all angles. Shooting the Rangers minor league team while they are in spitting distance is part of that and it would serve them well, to serve us fans well.
*The respect that I held for Girardi has been eroding for a little while as he succumbs to the grind of a long season. He played poorly for much of the game and it cost them on the second goal when he was too far behind the play and tried for a weak stick check and had the puck bang off of it into the net. Granted, his check from behind on Scott Hartnell probably saved a goal (as the puck hit the post) but he needs to step his game up and be as rock solid as he was early in the season. Girardi and Toots have been the defensive stalwarts on the team and we are about to head into the playoffs so they have to be at the top of their game.
*As for the other defensemen ... Malik nearly scored on Valley early in the third period and then actually scored a goal on a nice wrister to put the Rangers on the board. Much like with Backman, who tallied three assists, Malik contributed offensively while remaining piss poor in his own zone. The idiot let Briere walk into the zone, then lost positioning as babyface banged in the rebound from Hartnell's shot for the Flyers third goal. How a 6'6 man gets beaten physically by a guy whose body is permanently stuck in puberty is beyond me. And Backman's offensive contributions were needed and appreciated, but his play wasn't nearly as wonderful as Micheletti made it out to be.
*Credit goes to Tom Renney, who smartly used his time out for the second time in three games. On this night, he used it to set up the Rangers overtime power play (of which nothing came, but that isn't the point). I said it earlier this season, if you have it, use it.
*After ranting on about reputation and how it could cost the Rangers, Renney helped head that off by keeping Hollweg and Orr on a short leash, giving each four minutes or so of ice time. I think Holly should have gotten more of a look, but Renney was too nervous to give it.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Jeff Carter - the shootout goal to seal the win (not even the game-winner).
2-Backman - three assists.
1-Briere - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Dubi - the kid battled down low, was physical and drew defenders to him, giving more room to his linemates for them to take advantage of. He also blocked three shots to show off his ability to be defensively responsible.
2-Vinny Prospal - a pair of assists and a constant threat on offense that the Rangers had to battle.
1-Briere - he finally used his quickness to get to good spots and force the action. Unfortunately the Blueshirts blueliners let him do it and it got Philly two goals.