Friday, March 28, 2008
40-26-11: To Hell With The Devil(s)
With Chris Simon banished to the Western Conference, there is no single villain in the East bigger than Martin Brodeur. And some may even say that it wasn't a contest even when The Barbarian was still clad in orange and blue.
So it is with much pleasure that I watched Brodeur get utterly embarrassed tonight. Brodeur was atrocious, allowing many long, uncontrolled rebounds and two weak goals. He was awful, and it was wonderful. The Rangers nearly blew it through poor defense, but managed to escape with the victory and two points, while keeping the Devils to none, zip, zero, nada, nothing.
The horrendous play-for-a-point strategy of the last few weeks was thrown out the window and the Blueshirts opened the ice to show off some of their strengths. They skated well, they shot the puck and went to the net to follow it up. It was one of the better games this season and the result was utterly gratifying. So while I am still aglow, some observations:
*I have been very reticent to hand Hank back his crown, but he grabbed it right out of my hands with his performance tonight. Yes he gave up a pair of goals, but he made at least a half dozen stunning saves. His lateral movement was fantastic, his glove quick and positioning perfect. Of course, the one time he went behind the net to play the puck it nearly ended up back in his own net, but he is paid to stop the puck, not handle it. Great job by the King.
*I would praise the power play, which actually accounted for two of the Rangers three goals. It was utterly shocking, but credit can only be given to Maaaaaaaaaarrrrrrty's ineptness on this evening.
*Scott Gomez and Chris Drury played to their strengths and acted as catalysts, with Gomez carrying the puck and Drury making smart plays to get his teammates in scoring positions. To give away the stars a little early, Gomez was the best player on the ice, bar none. He opened the game a little tentative with those sore ribs, but after he was hit a few times by Colin White and crew, he elevated his game.
*Also coming off of the injury bug, I thought that Paul Mara played a better game than he usually did before the injury - taking more risks and making bigger hits with the cage of invincibility protecting his busted face.
*Sean Avery didn't score, but he was huge in this game as a disruptive force, and not in a negative way. He drew penalties and kept Maaaaaarrrrrty distracted. A point of interest/annoyance with him came in the first period when Sheldon Brookbank went after him, With the puck well on its way towards the Rangers end, Brookbank cross checked Avery several times to Maaaarrrrty's right. A referee was standing five feet away with his whistle in his mouth but when Avery (did the smart thing and) didn't retaliate, the ref put his whistle down. It was a clear case of reffing on reputation and the league needs to stop this garbage. There is no question that Avery would have been called for something had he fought back and Brookbank deserved a minor for either cross checking or even interference. What a disgrace.
*And speaking of disgrace ... Christian Backman. Glen's Folly continued his atrocious defensive play, even with a healthy Marek Malik and Jason Strudwick available. Backman's turnover to give Zach Parise a gimme goal was disgraceful and should have earned him a one-way ticket out of town. Of course, he followed it up with a power play goal, but the ledger remains uneven in his case. The goal came on a long shot that Maaaaarrrrrrrty should have stopped, and Backman's job is to play defense, and he is utterly incompetent at it; no wonder he was a healthy scratch on a piss-poor team like St. Louis. John Davidson has to be sitting back chuckling and looking forward to using our fourth round pick.
*Glen's Folly set up the second Devils goal, the first came when the fourth line was pinned deep into the Rangers zone for over a minute. There was no reason whatsoever that Colton Orr should have been in the lineup, especially over Petr Prucha, who played a strong game on Tuesday. The same could be said for Hollweg, who is many things but he is not a center, I am sure Greg Moore's ego took a hit when the Rangers decided to go with Holly rather than call him up. A fourth line of Moore, Prucha and Sjostrom would have outskated and outhustled the Devils and maybe even created a few scoring chances.
*Until he went into the net himself, taking the puck with him for the game winning goal, Nigel Dawes was invisible. He was subbed several times for Sjostrom and rightly so. Dawsie needs to be more involved and energetic. Basically he needs to take a page from Ryan Callahan, who was tremendous. Cally doesn't have the same scoring touch or ice-sight that Dawes does, but he was a Little Ball of Fury (with all due respect to Pat Verbeek).
*Brandon Dubinsky also played with a good chip on his shoulder and he has only gotten stronger and more confident as the season has gone on. And thank goodness for that, as Jagr has had many off-nights. This wasn't one of them - Jagr played alright and got off a few decent shots - but he still was far from his Hall of Fame-worthy self. And why Renney reunited him with Straka is beyond me. Gomez was healthy so the first three lines could have remained the same as in weeks past.
*When Steve Yzerman retired, one of the many accolades that he received was for his two-way play, especially late in his career. His former teammate Brendan Shanahan will be remembered much the same way. Shanny was able to score often as a younger player, and even as a sniper in the middle of his career but he has stepped up his defensive game and was incredible on the penalty kill for the Rangers. It is a shame that he made it to New York so late in his career, as a few more years of service would have earned him a number in the rafters. He is my nominee for the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award ...
*The Garden had Emile Francis out to give an award to a New Yorker who dutifully served local youth hockey. It was just a shame that they put it in between periods, rather than before the game as most fans were running to get food or hit the bathrooms.
*There were actually two, TWO promotions at this game - a nice Hummer poster of the team giving a post-game salute (where you can easily cut off the Hummer logo and have a nice poster), and a pin trading day. The team really should advertise these things a little ahead of time, at least on the website. The pin trading becomes a money grab as fans don't know to bring pins to trade, and thus have to buy new ones (guilty as charged).
*And, lest I forget, condolences go out to Inferno of Rangers Review. He lost his dad and is taking a break from blogging. Best wishes to him and his family as they work through this sad time.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Drury - three assists.
2-Hank - 32 saves.
1-Gomez - two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Avery - after his mistake-laden game on Tuesday, he bounced back with a really good effort. It would have been easy for him to snap and go after Maaaaaaaarrrrrty or David Clarkson but he didn't succumb to stupidity and kept the Devils off of their game.
2-Hank - One of his best efforts in months.
1-Gomez - What upper body injury?